Internet neutrality will be at the heart of a full U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing Tuesday morning. With the expansive title "the future of the Internet," lawmakers will debate "developing applications, consumer expectations, and network operation" in light of new evidence by a Silicon Valley startup company that ISPs are widely throttling legal peer-to-peer (p-to-p) file sharing.
The unexpected Senate committee hearing may signal that lawmakers are ready to debate Internet bills long languishing in Congress. The Senate hearing comes on the heels of last Thursday's Internet neutrality hearing before the FCC at Stanford University.
While there was scant "hard evidence" of Internet service providers mismanaging networks introduced at last week's FCC hearing, Vuze, a peer-to-peer video distributor based in Palo Alto, Calif., on Monday released the first findings of its own analysis of how major ISPs are throttling Internet traffic of 8,000 users participating in Vuze's study during 1 million hours of Internet time. ISPs use the nonstandard and potentially harmful practice of sending false reset packets to artificially interrupt and abort network connections when people are sending legal digital files.
Vuze created a software plug-in that could be installed in the Vuze Platform application to monitor all potential network interruptions that a user experiences due to reset messages, not interruptions specifically related to use of the Vuze platform. The data released Monday covers Jan. 1 through April 13.
Last fall, the Associated Press exposed dominate ISP Comcast for cutting off access to legal file-sharing programs. In response to petitions filed by Free Press and Vuze, the FCC launched its ongoing investigation.
"At a minimum, more investigation is required to determine whether these resets are happening in the ordinary course of business or whether they represent the kind of throttling practices which target specific applications and/or protocols, harming the consumer experience and stifling innovation," said Vuze's attorney Jay Monahan in a statement
"Vuze's report suggests what many have feared all along: In addition to Comcast, other phone and cable companies may be censoring legal Web traffic over their networks," said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, which in the past two years has collected 1.5 million signatures on its Save the Internet petition. "Many industry practices remain unknown and are increasingly difficult to detect. Consumers and innovators cannot be expected to police for abuse, nor should they have to accept interference until their network provider is exposed. Until the FCC makes it clear that it will not tolerate Internet blocking,phone and cable companies will continue to engage in this harmful practice."
Testifying Tuesday before the Senate committee will be Kevin J.Martin, FCC chairman; Michele Combs, vice president of communications for Christian Coalition of America; Robert Hahn, executive director of the Center for Regulatory and Market Studies for the American Enterprise Institute; Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West; actress and producer Justine Bateman, who serves on the board of the Screen Actors Guild; Kyle McSlarrow, president and chief executive officer of the National Cable &Telecommunications Association; and Lawrence Lessig, a professor of Stanford University's Law School and a member of the board of Free Press. Combs and Lessig also testified last Thursday before the FCC at Stanford in favor of Internet neutrality.