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Net Neutrality Bill Introduced in House

May 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the committee’s ranking minority member, introduced legislation Thursday that would bar telephone and cable TV companies from using their power over their broadband networks to discriminate against Internet content providers.

Telephone and cable companies have strongly opposed such so-called “network neutrality” legislation. Their critics say that’s because they want to be able to offer favorable terms to Web content providers in which they have interests.

The legislation, for which judiciary committee hearings are expected next week, essentially says that phone and cable TV companies must offer similar Internet site services the same terms.

“This legislation is a necessary step to protect consumers and other Internet users from possible anti-competitive and discriminatory conduct by broadband providers,” Rep. Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “While I am not opposed to providers responsibly managing their networks and providing increased bandwidth to those consumers who wish to pay for it, I am opposed to providers giving faster, more efficient access to certain service providers at the expense of others.”

Added Rep. Conyers in the statement, “The measure which we are introducing today will ensure that the Internet continues to exist as an open and accessible medium where startups and businesses of all sizes can provide content and services reachable by all consumers.”

Said Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, “Network neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. This unnecessary regulation will stifle future investment and innovation in broadband networks and will result in higher consumer costs for broadband services, which could halt the remarkable growth and consumer adoption of broadband in the U.S.”

Gigi Sohn, president of communications policy watchdog Public Knowledge, said in a statement that the legislation “restores the principle of non-discrimination that allowed the Internet to flourish in the dial-up era, making certain that the same freedom and innovation will flourish in the broadband era without burdensome regulation.”