November 8, 2010

GOP Victories Could Doom Net Neutrality Legislation

The results of last week's election could well spell the end of Congress's chances of passing a 'net neutrality' bill that would have ensured equal treatment for all types of Internet traffic.

On November 2, the Republican Party gained control of the House of Representatives from their Democratic rivals, and while leadership in the Senate did not change hands, the GOP did pick up several new seats there as well. That, according to Richard Bennett of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), dooms proposed legislation that would have required Internet service providers to eliminate discrimination of different types of Web traffic.

"All, or virtually all of 95 of the candidates who signed on to the PCCC's [the Progressive Change Campaign Committee] Net Neutrality pledge were defeated"¦ so there's essentially no prospect of a net neutrality bill passing anytime soon, although we may see some legislation clarifying the FCC's authority if the Commission makes a move to reclassify under Title II," Bennett wrote in a November 3 blog entry at the Hightechforum.org.

"This election puts net neutrality on the back burner, and raises the importance of spectrum, intellectual property protection, and Internet privacy," he added. "Or so it would appear; these things never turn out exactly as one expects, of course. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisles are deeply concerned about the economy, the debt, and employment, and a focus on the positives of technology over such negatives as net neutrality ought to help with all these things."

Among those who lost their bid for re-election this past week was Virginia Representative Rick Boucher, a net neutrality advocate who served as the chairman for the House subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Boucher served 14 terms before losing his seat to Republican opponent Morgan Griffith, who had served as Virginia's House Majority Leader.

However, according to Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the Congressional shift in power does not spell the end of IT-related legislation. As Black told Chris Lefkow of AFP on Sunday, "Many tech issues are bipartisan," including those centering around cyber security and privacy protection.


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