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Chairman Markey's Net Neutrality Wolf in Broadband Sheep's Clothing Act

The long-awaited new Net Neutrality bill is finally coming out from House Telecom Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey and Rep. Chip Pickering -- it's now called "The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008."

After reviewing the draft version circulating among the media this evening, here are my initial takeaways on the new proposed legislation.

First, the proposed legislation attempts to rebrand the controversial "net neutrality" issue as "Internet Freedom" and "broadband policy."  

  • While most all of the net neutrality buzzwords still pepper the legislation (open, discrimination, blocking, degrading, etc.) conspicuously absent from the legislation is the well-known and never fully defined "net neutrality" brand. 
  • This is odd given all the effort Markey's supporters have put into branding this issue over the last two years. 
  • It is doubtful that most people on the Hill, in industry, and in the press will stop calling it Markey's new Net Neutrality bill. 

Second, the bill's primary purpose is a bold attempt to reverse longstanding United States broadband policy by amending Title I of the 1934 Communications Act. This Markey bill would:

  • Reverse the successful bipartisan purpose of the 1996 Telecom Act to: "promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American...consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies."; and
  • Reverse the successful bipartisan Internet policy of the Congress: " preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet...unfettered by Federal or State regulation..." 
  • This Markey bill would effectively redirect the FCC to favor regulation over competition by codifying a new framework for how the FCC should "assess" broadband and the Internet -- that makes crystal clear what the FCC is intended to conclude.

    • There is little question that the wording of this section goes about as far as possible in mandating how the FCC should "assess" the market while still being able to claim that it is not law.
    • In other words the "letter" of this bill does not mandate new FCC more regulatory conclusions but the "spirit" of the bill sure does.
    • I will be surprised, if many who actually read the text of this bill are fooled by the drafting.

    Third, the mandate of "Public Broadband Summits Required" appears to be a de facto earmark of Federal Government assistance for to orchestrate activist rallies a la the Media Ownership public hearings.

    • The FCC already can, and in fact does, have public field hearings; it is inappropriate to mandate in law a process that would effectively subsidize's advocacy plan on this issue.  

    Bottom line:  I doubt this legislation attracts much enthusiasm beyond Net Neutrality... I mean "Internet Freedom" proponents.

    • They can try and mask the net neutrality wolf with Internet Freedom sheep's clothing, but I doubt people will be fooled... the costume doesn't mask the long teeth and the wolf's breath...