Senate Committee Rejects Net Neutrality, and Why News Orgs Should Care

Yesterday, news organizations and other publishers who’d like to control long-term costs for delivering content online were dealt a blow in Congress.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, in approving a major telecom reform bill (press release), rejected an amendment that would guarantee “net neutrality.”

The newly re-christened “Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunity Reform Act” (S. 2686), which now closely mirrors a bill passed by the House, will proceed to the full Senate.

However, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced yesterday that he has placed a “hold” on the legislation “until clear language is included in the legislation that prevents discrimination in Internet access.” MediaCitizen speculates more on the politics of this maneuver.

This issue is one to watch, and I’m very surprised that most news organizations seem to be ignoring their own stakes in this matter.

It boils down to this: without net neutrality, news organizations could be shaken down by telcos for additional fees to guarantee “preferential delivery” of their content via the telco’s “pipes.” That is, even though you’re already paying for access and bandwidth (and so is your audience), the telcos would charge you more to guarantee that your content is not placed at a competitive disadvantage.

The consequences: If you don’t pay up, people might experience various kinds of problems accessing or downloading your online content — especially higher-bandwidth content such as audio or video. Unfortunately, your would-be audience probably wouldn’t realize that the telco was responsible for the slowdown. They’d probably just think your site has problems, and click away to a better-performing (from their perspective) site.

The advocacy group Save the Internet is a good resource for learning more about this issue, including how to explain it to your audiences — and to your managers and owners, too.

Also, on June 22 the Online News Association announced that it is backing net neutrality. I think it would be nice to see more journalism groups get on board with this effort.

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