The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has taken up the long-simmering question of net neutrality, or the idea that ISPs should give all Internet traffic equal priority.The hearing is taking place even as the FCC continues its investigation of Comcast's practice of restricting peer-to-peer file transfer and amid suspicion that other ISPs are doing the same. Titled "The Future of the Internet," the hearing will cover "developing applications, consumer expectations, and network operation." Of concern to small businesses is that a non-neutral Net could favor traffic from larger, wealthier businesses at the expense of smaller companies.
Legislation to mandate net neutrality has been introduced in both houses of Congress over the past few years but has never gained enough support for passage. In a blog post on Firedoglake.com last Friday, Senator John Kerry wrote, "Look, this doesn't mean we're going to apply a prescriptive, heavy-handed bureaucratic approach to how network providers are permitted to serve subscribers. But we need to insist on basic fairness and an open, content-neutral approach to how users can access the backbone of our telecommunications system." Opposition to any legislation comes, as usual, from the cable industry and other ISPs, Republican senators, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who has said there's no demonstrated need for new rules.CNET News, InfoWorld