100 degrees, a Balky Modem and a Meditation Agenda

I'm out here in the desert, where it's 100 degrees before lunchtime. Perhaps there's a connection, perhaps not, but the cable modem here frequently expires of exhaustion long before you'd think it should and demands a nap. And, yet, he still demands to be paid! I guess the work ethic is different out here than back in busy Los Angeles.

So, for the next few days, posting might or might not be on the light side. (And, reader comments might remain in limbo for longer than usual. Don't blame me, blame Cable USA!)

Just as well… since I have a lot to think about… some quiet meditation seems called for… so, unless the modem and I get an unexpected burst of energy…talk to you this weekend sometime.

P.S. Some characteristically ambiguous news on the Net Neutrality front.

A bill that seeks to prevent broadband providers from offering an exclusive high-speed lane for video and other services has taken a step closer to becoming law.

By a 20-13 vote Thursday that partially followed party lines, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require broadband providers to abide by strict Net neutrality principles, meaning that their networks must be operated in a "nondiscriminatory" manner.

All 14 Democrats on the committee (joined by 6 Republicans) supported the measure, while 13 Republicans opposed it.

That vote is a surprise victory for Internet companies such as Amazon.com, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that had lobbied fiercely in the last few months for stricter laws to ensure that Verizon, AT&T and other broadband providers could not create a "fast lane" reserved for video or other high-priority content of their choice.

"The lack of competition in the broadband marketplace presents a clear incentive for providers to leverage dominant market power over the broadband bottleneck, to preselect, favor or prioritize Internet content," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican who heads the committee.

In an unusual twist, many members of the committee said they were voting for the legislation not because of strong concerns over Net neutrality–but instead because of a turf battle. They said they were worried that a competing proposal already approved by a different committee last month would diminish their own influence in the future.

That other bill, called the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement, or COPE, Act, says the Federal Communications Commission "shall have exclusive authority" to investigate violations of Net neutrality principles. It's backed by Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and does not include strict Net neutrality mandates.

Because the FCC is overseen by Barton's committee, that proposal would effectively cut off Judiciary Committee members from being able to hold hearings on Net neutrality antitrust violations, give speeches about corporate malfeasance and solicit campaign cash from affected companies–the lifeblood of modern Washington politics.

That resulted in an unusual situation in which politicians who weren't enthusiastic about the Judiciary bill nevertheless voted for it on Wednesday. "I think the bill is a blunt instrument, and yet I think it does send a message that it's important to attain jurisdiction for the Justice Department and for antitrust issues," said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat.

Good news for neutrality advocates, or just an arcane, boodling procedural pas de deux in dark labyrinth? Who knows? My desert rat modem voted with his feet. Must be time to go swimming.

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