House introduces another Net Neutrality Bill (H.R.5994)

May 12, 2008

In the midst of all the talk about the so-called PRO-IP Act at the end of last week, it looks like I missed an odd development:

Lawmakers Introduce New Net Neutrality Bill” (NYT)

Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI) – yes, the same John Conyers who is so enamored of the PRO-IP Act – are the sponsors. They’re calling this thing “The Internet Freedom and Non-Discrimination Act.”

If the name sounds familiar that’s because…it is.

Compare the title of Lofgren and Conyers’ new bill with that of H.R.5353, sponsored by Edward Markey (D-MA): “The Internet Freedom Preservation Act.

How do the two bills differ? I’m not sure yet. It seems like Markey’s bill is not as detailed in its regulatory language and also includes a provision that would require the FCC to hold nation-wide hearings to discuss Internet governance. This democratized approach has induced the RIAA and the MPAA to throw  a public relations tantrum complaining that “the fight against piracy” could be threatened. Heaven forbid.

I think the more important question is why are Lofgren and Conyers introducing legislation that overlaps so closely with Markey’s?

From the soundbites included in the NYT article, it sounds like the big telecommunications and content industry folks don’t like Lofgren and Conyers’ proposal either. The story also includes a quote from the president of the digital rights advocacy group Public Knowledge, Gigi Sohn, who appears to approve of the bill (note: Public Knowledge reps are also on record supporting Markey’s bill).

Maybe the Democrats are lining up to score big points for digital democracy in the wake of the Comcast throttling debacle? Maybe there’s a more fine-grained legal distinction to be made between the two proposals? Time (and the analysis of a few good lawyers) will tell.

In the meantime, what we really need is a bill to prohibit jingoistic hyperbole in the titles of laws…

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