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US lawmaker injects ISP throttle into Obama rescue package

'Network management' meets child porn

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US Senator Dianne Feinstein hopes to update President Barack Obama's $838bn economic stimulus package so that American ISPs can deter child pornography, copyright infringement, and other unlawful activity by way of "reasonable network management."

Clearly, a lobbyist whispering in Feinstein's ear has taken Comcast's now famous euphemism even further into the realm of nonsense.

According to Public Knowledge, Feinstein's network management amendment did not find a home in the stimulus bill that landed on the Senate floor. But lobbyists speaking with the Washington DC-based internet watchdog said that California's senior Senator is now hoping to insert this language via conference committee - a House-Senate pow-wow were bill disputes are resolved.

"This is the most backdoor of all the backdoor ways of doing things," Public Knowledge's Art Brodsky told The Reg. "Conference committees are notorious for being the most opaque of all legislative processes."

Obama's stimulus bill sets aside between $6bn and $9bn for expanding American broadband into rural areas, and Senator Feinstein hopes to (PDF) augment this Broadband Technology Opportunities Program so that it "allows for reasonable network management practices such as deterring unlawful activity, including child pornography and copyright infringement."

On one level, Obama's bill is an effort to boost the American economy. On another, it's an opportunity for lobbyists to make a mockery American government.

According to Public Knowledge, the Motion Picture Association of America is behind Feinstein's language. The MPAA doesn't like copyright infringement. And you can bet the child pornography bit was tossed in for added effect.

But the "network management" bit sounds like ISP speak.

As Art Brodsky and his colleagues pointed out, network management is used to manage networks - not filter content. Content filters are used to filter content. But American ISPs - particularly cable ISPs - will take any excuse they can find to throttle certain traffic.

And if they're using copyright infringement and child porn as excuses, they'll have to start sniffing packets. So, Feinstein's amendment would also destroy net privacy - if there's any out there.

Word from Public Knowledge is that Congressman Henry Waxman will back Feinstein's amendment when it turns up in conference committee. Representing a district near Hollywood, Waxman has long backed the MPAA and the Recording Ass. of America in their efforts to crack down on P2P file sharing. ®

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