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Groups endorse judiciary committee bill for free and open Internet

May 24, 2006

Consumer Groups: Network Neutrality Is an Antitrust Issue
Consumer Federation, Consumers Union, Free Press and Public Knowledge Endorse Judiciary Committee Bill; New Report Supports Ban on Network Discrimination

WASHINGTON – In a letter today to the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Free Press and Public Knowledge urged adoption of the “Internet Freedom and Non-Discrimination Act” (H.R. 5417) to protect the free and open Internet.
“The phone and cable companies fighting Network Neutrality have cloaked the issue in anti-regulatory rhetoric,” said Mark Cooper, Director of Research for the Consumer Federation of America. “But the Internet has become the engine of innovation, economic growth and free speech precisely because nondiscrimination rules have applied to communications networks and have prevented network owners from abusing their market power to undercut the competition.”
The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.); Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.); and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.). The bill is scheduled to be marked up at a hearing on Thursday.
“The bill squarely addresses the issue of the enormous market power of the telephone and cable companies as the providers of 98 percent of the broadband service in the country,” said Gigi Sohn, President of Public Knowledge. “The bill restores the principle of non-discrimination that allowed the Internet to flourish since its inception, making certain that the same freedom and innovation will flourish in the future.”
The groups also issued an extensive analysis on the historic, legal and economic underpinnings for an antitrust-based ban on network discrimination. They simultaneously sent a letter and the report to the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging its leaders to explore the antitrust implications of major telecommunications legislation now moving through that chamber.
“The increasing market power and anti-competitive record of the big phone and cable companies should be the central focus of policies favoring Network Neutrality,” said Gene Kimmelman, Consumer Union’s Vice President of Federal and International Affairs. “Any major telecom bills must ensure that the Internet remains an open highway free from toll booths that discourage competition and innovation.”
“In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens have contacted Congress, urging their elected officials to protect Network Neutrality,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. “Despite the intense lobbying and misleading advertising of the cable and telecommunications industry, the tide has started to turn. Members of both parties are taking a closer look at this fundamental issue, and Congress is beginning to heed the public outcry.”
Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation, 301-807-1623
Jeannine Kenney, Consumers Union, 202-462-6262
Art Brodsky, Public Knowledge, 202-518-0020
Craig Aaron, Free Press, 202-265-1490, x 25