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The final attempt this session to give the United States regulator more discretion over the deployment, and potential abuse of broadband, has failed.

A "net neutrality" amendment to the telecommunications reform bill failed to pass the House Energy and Commerce committee by 34 votes to 22 yesterday.

The move comes against the backdrop of consolidation in the telecommunications business, with the former monopoly AT&T coalescing back into two giants: Verizon and AT&T. Both want to take on the entrenched cable industry by offering high speed video download services, and net-based TV, IPTV over fiber.

It's given rise to much paranoia, some of it justified. But the response, framed under the unpromising moniker "net neutrality", was never likely to succeed. Rather than ensuring the scope of regulation is appropriate to reflect the recent consolidation, and ensuring that the FTC actually does the job, the amendments were full of pettyfogging detail.

For example, where a simple FTC guideline would have been adequate, amendments specified minimum bandwidth requirements right down to the Kilobit/s. That's the FTC's job to judge, and would have led to a course of action that would have required the committees to return to the subject in detail each year.

And the home-brew attempt to manufacture a grass roots consensus behind the amendments only succeeded in embarrassing everyone concerned. A small gun lobby signed up at the last minute to the SaveTheInternet.com website, having been tricked into the idea they'd lose their right to free speech.

There are important principles at stake here, so here's hoping the campaign regroups in more coherent and professional fashion next time. And with better branding. The only people who went to the barricades for the cause of "neutrality" were the Swiss. ®

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