May 8, 2008 / 10:00 PM / 11 years ago

House panel chair offers network neutrality bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday introduced legislation that would bar network providers from discriminating against some Internet content.

Committee chairman John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, said the bill he and California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren had introduced would require U.S. broadband providers to operate their networks “in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner so that all content, applications and services are treated the same and have an equal opportunity to reach consumers.”

“If we allow companies with monopoly or duopoly power to control how the Internet operates, network providers could have the power to choose what content is available,” Conyers said in a statement.

Verizon spokesman David Fish responded in a statement, saying such a bill would be “tough sell” in Congress.

“Broadband deployment is a bright spot in the U.S. economy that provides high paying jobs, unprecedented infrastructure investment, and innovation. Why would Congress want to jeopardize all that with this bill?” Fish said.

At issue is the so-called “network neutrality” controversy that pits open-Internet advocates against some service providers, who say they need to take reasonable steps to manage ever-growing traffic on their networks.

Some of network neutrality complaints have centered on charges that broadband companies were engaged in anti-competitive conduct, while others involved charges of political censorship.

The net neutrality issue has been spotlighted by a series of incidents in which network operators, such as Comcast Corp and Verizon Wireless were accused of hindering certain online data moving over their networks, such as file-sharing or text-messaging.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc.

In February the chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee introduced separate legislation that would require regulators at the Federal Communications Commission to study the network neutrality issue and hold public hearings.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said that his agency was ready, if necessary, to step in and stop broadband providers from interfering with users’ access.

Editing by Carol Bishopric

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