(Adds comments from telecom industry, consumer groups)
By Peter Kaplan
WASHINGTON Feb 13 Legislation designed to
prevent broadband Internet providers from unreasonable
interference with subscribers' access to content was introduced
on Wednesday by a senior U.S. lawmaker.
The bill offered by U.S. Rep. Edward Markey is the latest
to raise concerns about "net neutrality," an issue that pits
open-Internet advocates against some service providers such as
Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), who say they need to take reasonable
steps to manage traffic on their networks.
Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said his bill was aimed
at preserving the "open architecture" of the Internet and
preventing content providers from being subjected to
"unreasonably discriminatory practices by broadband network
"Our goal is to ensure that the next generation of Internet
innovators will have the same opportunity, the same unfettered
access to Internet content, services and applications that
fostered the developers of Yahoo (YHOO.O), Netscape and Google
(GOOG.O)," Markey said in a statement.
The bill also would require regulators at the Federal
Communications Commission to study the issue and hold public
Markey dismissed fears that his initiative was an attempt
to "regulate" the Internet. "The bill contains no requirements
for regulations on the Internet whatsoever," he said in another
The net neutrality issue has been spotlighted by a series
of incidents in which network operators were accused of
hindering certain online data moving over their networks, such
as file-sharing or text-messaging.
In the most recent example, the FCC has been looking into
complaints by consumer groups that Comcast favors or blocks
certain types of content.
In comments filed with the FCC late on Tuesday, Comcast
responded by telling regulators that it uses reasonable
measures to manage traffic moving over its network, as some of
its customers overwhelm the network by using file-sharing
applications like BitTorrent.
In its written comments, Comcast gave its most detailed
explanation of how it manages Internet traffic, naming
BitTorrent as prime culprit, but again denied it blocks
content, applications or discriminates among providers.
Comcast, which is the second-largest U.S. Internet service
provider with more than 13 million subscribers, said the use of
network management was essential to avoid congestion and
impairment of some applications.
The Comcast complaints were the most recent of several
Internet service providers are looking at different ways of
managing the increasing amount of traffic moving across their
networks both for cost management and for quality of service
Last month Time Warner Cable Inc TWC.N, which has more
than 7.5 million Internet customers, said it is planning a
trial to bill high-speed Internet subscribers based on their
amount of usage rather than a flat fee, the standard industry
Markey's proposal was greeted with skepticism by some
telecommunications companies. An advocacy group that represents
some of the companies, called Hands Off the Internet, said it
had no objection to studying the issue but opposed any further
Such regulations "will create uncertainty for investors and
Internet service providers that must build the infrastructure
to meet consumer demands," said Hands Off the Internet.
However, Markey drew applause from some consumer groups and
Internet companies, who say it is justified by past instances
in which cable and telephone companies have interfered with
The bill "will require the FCC to protect Internet freedom
from the predatory efforts of the telco and cable gatekeepers,"
an advocacy group called the Open Internet Coalition said in a
(Editing by Tim Dobbyn)