Support Net Neutrality

I am a strong supporter of small government. I believe in as little government regulation in our lives as possible, and these beliefs carry over into my feelings on software, patents, and copyrights. I also tend to believe that fewer laws are better, but there are circumstances in which more laws can help protect certain freedoms we take for granted. One of these freedoms is that of “Net Neutrality.”

In short, Net Neutrality is the principle that “the network’s only job is to move data – not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.” This allows for a free and open Internet, a privilege we’ve experienced since the creation of TCP/IP. Read more about Net Neutrality at Save the Internet.

Now, Net Neutrality is under attack. The House Energy and Commerce Committee drafted and approved a reform bill to update the 1996 Telecommunications Act, but it contained no provision limiting what telecommunications company’s can charge Web site owners or companies utilizing their network (i.e. transporting data across their lines).

I am fortunate to have as my district representative one who supports an open Internet, but there are other representatives who are either not aware of this problem or don’t care. I urge you to contact your representative and senators and ask them to support an open and unregulated Internet.

My district representative, John Linder (R-GA), also always writes back with a response when I contact his office. Here is the letter in full he wrote concerning Net Neutrality:

May 23, 2006

Dear Mr. Ramsey:

Thank you for contacting me with your support for an open and unregulated Internet. I appreciate hearing from you.

The issue of “network neutrality” centers around the right of broadband providers to charge companies such as Yahoo, Google, and Amazon when they utilize phone and cable lines to communicate with consumers. In the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee has drafted a comprehensive telecommunications reform bill to update Public Law 104-104 (the 1996 Telecommunications Act). Ultimately, the Committee-approved version of H.R. 5252, the “Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006,” which was reported to the full House, had no provision limiting what telecommunications companies can charge website owners or companies when they utilize broadband-width Internet lines.

For your information, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill, H.R. 5273, the “Network Neutrality Act of 2006,” on May 2, 2006, which mandates that Internet service providers cannot charge Internet sites or companies discriminatory rates to send information across broadband networks. This bill is currently pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it awaits further consideration.

As a strong supporter of the landmark telecommunications reform legislation in 1996, I believe the direction in which we are headed is a positive one – many customers are finding a much wider range of telecommunications service options than ever before. We want this trend to continue, not dissapate I believe, however, that Congress must be cautious in its actions. Legislation passed now will have consequences for the telecommunications industry for years to come. As the House continues to work toward floor debate of H.R. 5252, I will keep your concerns in mind and will support legislation that ensures open and unregulated Internet access.

Again, thank you for contacting me. If I can be of any assistance in the future, please feel free to call on me.

John Linder
Member of Congress