Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said their Internet Freedom Preservation Act is vital to retain the internet's function. Discrimination between content providers would "fundamentally change the way the internet has operated and threatens to derail the democratic nature of the Internet," Mr. Dorgan said.
"The internet became a robust engine of economic development by enabling anyone with a good idea to connect to consumers and compete on a level playing field. The marketplace picked winners and losers, not some central gatekeeper. That freedom -- the very core of what makes the Internet what it is today -- must be preserved."
Ms. Snowe said the internet's fate "lies in the hands of its users and not the hands of a few gatekeepers," noting that the "tide has turned in the debate between those who seek to maintain equality and those who would benefit from the creation of a toll road on the internet super highway."
Co-sponsors of the legislation include Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; and Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Net neutrality has been the standard practice since the advent of the web. Consumer groups and internet companies have been pushing for "net neutrality" legislation out of fear that phone and cable companies providing new, higher internet speeds will reserve them for either their own content or paying partners' content, effectively creating a two-lane road, one for preferred content providers and one for everyone else looking to put content on the net.