Ron Wyden, the Democratic US Senator from Oregon, has introduced his Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006 which promises to stop companies from establishing two-tiered pricing for email and other traffic. Coming hot on the heels of recent opposition to AOL’s Goodmail system, which guarantees email to be received in return for a small fee, Wyden’s bill would prohibit companies from establishing a “priority” lane to guarantee or speed traffic through.
The bill states that communications companies must treat all Internet content equally and will be prohibited from blocking, degrading or altering traffic. It also will prohibit companies from charging for preferential access. In a press release, Wyden says, “Creating a two-tiered system could have a chilling effect on small mom and pop businesses that can’t afford the priority lane, leaving these smaller businesses no hope of competing against the Wal-Marts of the world,”
The details are sparse on how this will implemented and communications companies routinely filter out traffic today to block spam, malware and hacking attempts. AOL and other Internet Service Providers block billions of SPAM emails every day and face an almost never ending stream of hacking attempts. Internet backbones must often divert or completely drop traffic to a section of their network to slow and prevent denial of service attacks.
A complaint system will be established in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission. Parties can file complaints against communications companies and then the burden of proof is on the company to show that did not violate the law.
On February 28th, we reported that the EFF and other organizations held a conference call detailing their opposition to AOL’s “email tax”, which effectively charges senders to guarantee email delivery. Free speech proponents and non-profit groups have said the new system may block legitimate email and be an unnecessary financial burden.
Several organizations are already backing the bill; among those are eBay/Skype, FreePress and Consumers Union.