March 02, 2006

Wyden Moves to Ensure Fairness of Internet Usage with New Net Neutrality Bill

Network operators would be required to treat all content on the Internet equallyfor consumers, small businesses and innovators;Wyden legislation is first comprehensive legislation in Congress on net neutrality

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today unveiled ground-breaking new legislation that would ensure "net neutrality," or equal delivery of content on the internet, for consumers and business interests. Under Wyden's bill, the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006, network operators would be prohibited from charging companies for faster delivery of their content to consumers over the internet or favoring certain content over others. "Creating a two-tiered system could have a chilling effect on small mom and pop businesses that can't afford the priority lane, leaving these smaller businesses no hope of competing against the Wal-Marts of the world," said Wyden. "Neutrality in technology enables small businesses to thrive on the Internet, and allows folks to start small and dream big, and that's what I want to protect with this legislation." Specifically, the Wyden bill would ensure the network operators treat internet content equally by: • Not interfering with, blocking, degrading, altering, modifying or changing traffic on the Internet; • Not being allowed to create a priority lane where content providers can buy quicker access to customers, while those who do not pay the fee are left in the slow lane; • Allowing consumers to choose which devices they use to connect to the Internet while they are on the net; • Ensuring that consumers have non-discriminatory access and service; and • Having a transparent system in which consumers, Internet content, and applications companies have access to the rates, terms, and conditions for Internet service. The Wyden legislation also ensures that network operators can continue to protect subscribers against unwanted spam, spyware, viruses, pornography and other programs. It also ensures that network operators can respond to emergencies and court-ordered law enforcement needs. The legislation additionally provides for a complaint-filing process before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in which an aggrieved party can file a written complaint. If the FCC accepts the complaint, the burden of proof is on the network operator to show it did not violate the law. The FCC must reach a decision in 90 days. The penalties are the same as those in the Communications Act, and the potential fines are stiff enough to encourage compliance. "It's wrong to create an information superhighway that's strewn with discriminatory hurdles," said Wyden. "Today, I have introduced legislation to stop the powerful interests who control access to the Internet from picking winners and losers on the Internet. This bill is for consumers, innovators and small businesses - it's all about equal access for everyone: the same access, the same content, for the same price." Wyden is one of Congress' leading advocates of fairness and pro-consumer policies governing Internet usage. He is the original co-author of the Internet Tax Nondiscrimination law as well as numerous other laws protecting against spyware and spam.