Sen. Mark Dayton on Wednesday announced that he will support a bill designed to prohibit telecommunications companies from charging Web sites and Internet service providers a premium for faster connections. The so-called “Net neutrality” measure, introduced by senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), would counter a piece of the massive telecommunications reform bill authored by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).
Dayton, who returned to Minnesota from a United States-Mexico border tour in Arizona in order to meet with 20 supporters of a local “Save the Internet” coalition, said the Stevens bill would result in the sort of economic control of information that he likened to government censorship. He said he would return to Washington on Tuesday next week to check on the status of the bill and would work with Dorgan and Snowe to help push it through a Senate that already has scheduled floor debate on the Stevens bill.
“Liberals and libertarians have a stake in this,” Dayton said. “It doesn’t need to be a partisan issue.”
If passed, the Stevens bill would strip municipalities of the power to control cable TV franchise fees as well as open the Internet to more control by powerful telecommunications companies who own the fiber optic lines through which Internet data travels. He said this would result in regional or local Internet Service Providers and the Web sites they serve having slower connection and download speeds unless they were willing to pay for “premium” service.
Becca Vargo Daggett of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance delivered 13,000 signatures on a petition supporting the Dorgan-Snowe bill. “Senators have a choice to make—continue to turn the Internet over to giant corporations or side with constituents by supporting Net neutrality,” she said.
The broad-based coalition that collected the signatures since May includes more than 750 organizations, including MoveOn.org, the Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America, Common Cause, U.S. PIRG, and others.
Daggett said the Dorgan-Snowe bill has 25 “solid” supporters in the Senate and dozens of others remain undecided as members return to Washington next week. Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman is not supporting the bill at this time, she said.