In the wake of AT&T’s big merger, Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have introduced a Net Neutrality bill into the Senate. Called the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act,” the bill is designed to prevent service providers from creating a two-tiered Internet or forcing subscribers to bundle broadband with other services.
What does this really mean for Net Neutrality? Not much—yet. On the one hand, it’s a positive since it’s clearly on the minds of senators (or they think it’s on our minds).
However, there’s a lot to go through before this can really make any headway.
Crash course in US federal lawmaking for those of us who can’t remember the School House Rock song:
- The bill is introduced. This one was read twice on the Senate floor and then:
- The bill is referred to the appropriate committee. Here it is discussed in depth and refined. If the committee “reports on” (approves) the bill, it is put on the Senate calendar.
- On the appointed day, the bill and any changes and amendments from committee are presented for votes. This bill will be voted on in the Senate, since it was introduced there. If the Senate doesn’t like the committee’s changes, they can vote the changes out.
- If the bill passes, the bill goes to House.
- Repeat steps 1-3 in the House.
- If the bill passes in the House but was changed by the House, House and Senate versions of the bill must be compared in a conference committee. Both houses have to agree on the conference committee’s version of the bill for it to pass.
- The president signs the bill into law or vetoes it. A bill presented to the President has 10 days before it automatically becomes law whether he signs it or not unless the Congress session adjourns during those 10 days (a “pocket veto”).
For a more jaded (or accurate) version, see Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, specifically the scene where Saunders explains legislative procedure. (Transcript here if you scroll down past the picture of Jimmy Stewart (Mr. Smith) and Jean Arthur (Saunders).)
Bottom line: The bill is a nice start, but it’ll be a while before we see any benefit.