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New Net neutrality proposal planned for January

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) had hoped to introduce a new bill this month, but staffers say hectic events forced him to push back those plans until early next year.

The pro-Net neutrality lobby hasn't seen much action on legislation billed as necessary to "save the Internet" this year. But a key congressional Democrat says to expect a new push in 2008.

Rep. Edward Markey U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who leads a key House of Representatives Internet and telecommunications law panel, had previously said he planned to revive his anti-discrimination bill from last year this December.

But a spokeswoman told CNET on Wednesday that life for her boss has been hectic in recent weeks with pressing other issues, such as the Federal Communications Commission's recent move to relax media ownership rules.

The plan now is to introduce a new bill in January. The language is likely to be similar, although not identical, to an effort that was twice defeated by a Republican-dominated Congress in the last session.

Net neutrality, of course, is the idea that broadband operators shouldn't be allowed to charge content providers extra fees for premium placement or delivery, nor should they be permitted to prioritize or discriminate against content.

Markey's previous bill, which drew backing from consumer groups and prominent Internet companies like Google and, would have required, among other things, that a network operator "not discriminate in favor of itself in the allocation, use, or quality of broadband services or interconnection with other broadband networks." "Interference and surcharges" on outside content and applications would be prohibited, as would installation of "network features, functions, or capabilities that thwart or frustrate compliance with the requirements or objectives" of the law. Violations would have resulted in fines or other punishments.

The jury's still out, however, on whether a bill like Markey's would prevent behavior that landed Comcast infamy in the blogosphere in recent weeks--the prominent cable operator's reportedly aggressive management of BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic.