Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.Dak.) plans to reintroduce his "Internet Freedom Preservation Act" (S. 2917 from the 109th Congress) to complement the House version (H. R. 3458 from the current Congress), introduced by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) on July 31st of this year. These bills are intended to work in concert with recent FCC rules, recently under discussion at the FCC. See the following:
- "Commissioner Clyburn Applauds Chairman Genachowski's Statement on Net Neutrality."
- "Joint Statement of Commissioners McDowell and Baker on Chairman Genachowski's Speech on Net Neutrality."[news item hinting at the need for new principles of access]
- "Statement of Commissioner Copps on the Announcement by Chairman Genachowski of his Intent to Launch an Internet."[news item about 2 new principles of access]
- "Chairman Genachowski Outlines Actions to Preserve the Free and Open Internet." [news item about 2 new principles of access]
- "Broadband Adoption: Traveling the Consumer's Last Mile. [chiefly concerned with access to broadband Internet services in hard-to-reach places]
At the moment, these rules and principles appear to be aimed at economic issues, namely, that Internet service providers may not discriminate in favor of any service (for example, by elevating traffic priority) to the detriment of others, nor discriminate against a given service (for example, by "throttling" its traffic) to the advantage of others. This relates to the case of an FCC ruling against Comcast for "throttling" Bit Torrent traffic. See "FCC formally rules Comcast's throttling of BitTorrent was illegal."
As the Congressional Quarterly brief (see "Senators Move To Backstop FCC on Net Neutrality") on this topic indicates, when wireless broadband (such as 3G cellphone service) is included in these rules, would cellphone service providers be permitted to block VoIP (e.g., Skype) traffic over the broadband cell network?
What makes this issue of special interest to Constitution watchers is whether the FCC or Democrats will muddy the waters by somehow shoehorning in privileged access for "alternative" or "local" providers, a kind of "fairness doctrine" for the Internet. Thus far, the "principle of neutrality" or "the principle of non-discrimination" means not altering the traffic access, e.g. through manipulating priorities, throttling, squelching, etc. If this principle is defined by other than content-independent technical criteria, however, the FCC could be empowered to favor come content over others.