Senate Puts Off Neutrality Vote

The Senate Commerce Committee Thursday adjourned without making any decisions about whether to pass a so-called "Net neutrality" law that would prohibit Internet service providers from discriminating against some Web publishers, either by refusing to transmit their content or charging them higher prices for faster transmission.

The committee will take up proposals again Tuesday, when it resumes consideration of a telecom overhaul passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month. When the bill was in the House, neutrality advocates unsuccessfully attempted to pass an amendment prohibiting Internet service providers from discriminating against Web publishers.

Instead, the House version gives the Federal Communications Commission authority to enforce net neutrality principles and to fine companies up to $500,000 for offenses.

After the neutrality amendment failed, pro-neutrality camps vowed to press for legislation in the Senate, where a variety of proposals now float.

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But Senate Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, is on record as opposing new laws enshrining neutrality; instead, he has said the FCC should be able to fine companies that violate neutrality principles.

This week, the advocacy group Center for Democracy and Technology weighed in, stating it supported laws banning Internet access providers from discriminating against Web publishers.

Additionally, World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee this week came out in favor of neutrality legislation. "When I invented the Web, I didn't have to ask anyone's permission," he stated in a post on his blog. "Freedom of connection, with any application, to any party, is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it."

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