Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Will the Change in Congress help Copyright, Net Neutrality Interests?

It depends on what interests you mean. Laurence Lessig Dec. 24 entry on his blog offers little cheer for folks who want to guard public access rights and net neutrality. Lessig considers the new chair of the House IP Committee, Howard Berman to be

among the most extreme of the IP warriors. It is this committee that largely determines what reform Congress considers. It is the Chairman who picks what voices get heard. ...
This is like making a congressman from Detroit head of a Automobile Safety sub-committee, or a senator from Texas head of a Global Warming sub-committee. Are you kidding, Dems? The choice signals clearly the party’s view about the issues, and its view of the “solution”: more of the same.

C/Net reports that Senators Olympia Snowe and Byron Dorgan have already revived their bill on Net Neutrality. Called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act (link), it is the same as they previously introduced last May.

The New York Times, in a Jan. 3 article, is distinctly hopeful. They mention Congressman Ed Markey and Senator Ron Wyden as strong advocates for Net Neutrality and other programs to keep information available to the public. Markey is the new Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Use the link above to read his statement issued on Net Neutrality yesterday. Wyden states his strong support and intention to push legislation for Net Neutrality.

Internet users now get access to any Web site on an equal basis. Foreign and domestic sites, big corporate home pages and little-guy blogs all show up on a user’s screen in the same way when their addresses are typed into a browser. Anyone who puts up a Web page can broadcast it to the world.

Cable and telephone companies are talking, however, about creating a two-tiered Internet with a fast lane and a slow lane. Companies that pay hefty fees would have their Web pages delivered to Internet users in the current speedy fashion. Companies and individuals that do not would be relegated to the slow lane.

Creating these sorts of tiers would destroy the democratic quality of the Internet. Big, wealthy voices would start to overpower the smaller, poorer ones. Innovation would be threatened if start-ups and small companies could not afford the new fees. The next eBay or Google might never be born.

A net neutrality law would require cable and telephone companies to continue to provide Web sites to Internet users on an equal basis.
(from NY Times article, a nice thumbnail of the Net Neutrality issues)
See Google statement in support of Net Neutrality.

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