The US Senate’s Commerce Committee yesterday fell one vote short of passing an amendment to ensure network neutrality—treating all internet traffic the same regardless of its source or destination. The amendment to Senator Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) telecommunications bill, offered by Senators Olympia Snow (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) would have prevented the telecommunications and cable companies from turning the internet into a tollway with a tiered pricing model. The US House of Representatives soundly rejected the concept in a 321-101 vote earlier in the month.
The vote broke down along party lines—11 Democrats voted for the amendment; 11 Republicans voted against it. The Republicans parroted the telecommunications companies’ party line, claiming that such legislation was premature and unnecessary. Committee chair Ted Stevens’ comment was typical, accusing his Democrat associates of “imposing a heavy-handed regulation before there’s a demonstrated need.”
Immediately following the committee’s vote against the amendment, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) placed a hold on the entire legislation until language is included that prevents internet access discrimination:
“The bill makes a number of major changes in the country’s telecommunications law but there is one provision that is nothing more than a license to discriminate. Without a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet and without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate, the Internet will be forever changed for the worse.”
A hold is little more than an informal notice that the dissenting member plans to filibuster the proposed legislation. What’s interesting is that it’s unknown whether or not the Republicans have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.
Update: Friday 30 June 2006 11:30AM: Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) made these comments explaining why he voted against the network neutrality amendment to his proposed legislation. The depth of his misunderstanding of how the internet works boggles the mind.