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Policy

Sensenbrenner Offers Net-Neutrality Bill

5/18/2006 9:38 AM Eastern

House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced a bill Thursday that would apply antitrust sanctions against cable and other broadband-access providers that discriminate against Web-based providers of content, services and applications.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is a co-sponsor of the bill.
"This legislation is a necessary step to protect consumers and other Internet users from possible anti-competitive and discriminatory conduct by broadband providers,” Sensenbrenner said in a prepared statement unveiling his version of network-neutrality regulation.

A bill passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee in late April addressed the net-neutrality issue, but proponents of regulation considered the bill’s approach a tepid response to potential anticompetitive conduct by network owners.

Sensenbrenner’s statement said he came forward with his bill because the Energy and Commerce bill (H.R. 5252) fell "well short of ensuring that broadband-network providers do not abuse their market power.”

Amazon.com Inc. (www.amazon.com), eBay Inc. (www.ebay.com), Google Inc. (www.google.com), InterActiveCorp, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. (www.yahoo.com) issued a statement in support of the Judiciary bill (H.R. 5417).

“Congress is wise to act in a way that takes into consideration the best interests of millions of Internet consumers and protects the innovative global market economy that thrives under the current open Internet model,” the Internet giants said.

Sensenbrenner offered the bill with bipartisan support from his panel's ranking Democrat, John Conyers (Mich.), and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.).

“The FCC [Federal Communications Commission] recently reported that 98% of American consumers get their high-speed broadband from either a cable company or a DSL [digital-subscriber-line] provider. This virtual duopoly creates an environment that is ripe for anti-competitive abuses and for which a clear antitrust remedy is urgently needed,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

The bill would amend the Clayton Act to require broadband-access providers to interconnect their facilities on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; to operate their networks in a nondiscriminatory manner so that unaffiliated content, service and applications have an equal opportunity to reach consumers; and to refrain from interfering with consumer access to lawful content, services and applications.

Under the Clayton Act, passed in 1914, injured parties may sue in federal court to obtain an injunction, recover treble damages and collect attorneys’ fees.

 

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