A renewed battle over network neutrality could be on the horizon, as a senior U.S. lawmaker plans to introduce a bill in January that would bar Internet providers from blocking Web content.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. lawmaker plans to introduce a bill
in January that would bar Internet providers like AT&T Inc. from
blocking Web content, setting up a renewed battle over so-called
Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, believes a law is essential
to prevent telephone and cable companies from discriminating against
Internet content, even though regulators have taken actions to enforce
free Web principles, a top Dorgan aide said on Thursday.
"We feel that legislation is definitely necessary," said Frannie
Wellings, telecom counsel to Dorgan, speaking at a University of
Nebraska law school event on changes in telecom law after the election
of Democrat Barack Obama
Dorgan has been influential on the issue, and will be among the highest
ranking Democrats on the Senate's Commerce Committee when it reconvenes
The net neutrality fight pits Internet service providers (ISPs) like
AT&T against content companies like Google Inc and Microsoft Corp.
The ISPs, which also include Verizon Communications Inc. and cable
company Comcast Corp, say they need to manage the ever-growing traffic
on their networks without government interference.
Content companies say the ISPs hold too power much to block or slow
down traffic requiring more bandwidth, such as movie downloads, or
certain content altogether.
President-elect Barack Obama
supports net neutrality legislation. The
election of Obama and more Democrats who back the concept adds momentum
to the cause, Wellings said.
A recent Federal Communications Commission decision ordering Comcast to
stop impeding the sharing of certain content between users proves
regulators already have the authority, an AT&T official said.
"The current (FCC) principles already deal with unreasonable
discrimination," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T executive vice president
for regulatory affairs, pointing to the Comcast case.
The public would not pay for its Internet services if AT&T
discriminated against content, he added. "We'd be shooting ourselves in
Comcast is suing the FCC over the issue, and much depends on the
outcome of that case, experts said. If the court sides with Comcast,
legislation will become much more likely.
"The telephone and cable companies say trust them," said Markham
Erickson, director of the Open Internet Coalition, a trade group that
lobbies for net neutrality, with members such as Google and eBay Inc.
"We will trust but verify."
(Reporting by Kim Dixon, editing by Richard Chang)
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