Toll booths on the Net

From Good Morning Silicon Valley

Believers in the Internet as a free flowing, end-to-end service were talking about the end of it all today, after a Net neutrality amendment to telecom legislation was voted down in a Senate committee yesterday on an 11-11 tie. We’ve been over this ground before (see “That’s a mighty fine looking stream of data you’ve got there … shame if anything happened to it.”), so this time we’ll let ZDNet’s Mitch Ratcliffe say it: “The Senate Commerce Committee, splitting 11 to 11 and therefore rejecting compromise language, set the stage for a carrier-controlled Internet. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by the President, you can kiss the Net you know ‘goodbye.’ Farewell, open networks and open standards. Soon every packet will be subject to inspection and surcharges based on what it carries and who sent it or where it is going. The compromise language would have guaranteed that all traffic sent over carrier backbones would be treated equally, regardless of its source or destination. Carriers will be free to target especially profitable traffic for surcharges.” Those who frame this as a fight to keep the government’s sticky fingers out of the “natural” workings of the market were pleased. “For those of you who think this is a bad thing — recall the FCC’s actions after the Super Bowl ‘wardrobe malfunction.’ If you think the U.S. government is going to lay down neutrality rules and then keep a hands off attitude beyond that, you probably also think you’ll find a pony under every large pile of manure,” writes James Robertson. Both sides agree, however, that there is fighting that remains to be done, with Net neutralists taking heart from managing the tie in committee and momentum for a Senate floor fight growing.