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'Net neutrality' bill introduced

A Democratic lawmaker on Wednesday proposed legislation to stop network providers from playing traffic cop on the Internet.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Democratic lawmaker on Wednesday proposed legislation to stop network providers from playing traffic cop on the Internet.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, introduced the bill to promote the principle, known as "Net neutrality," of treating all Internet traffic equally.

Markey, who introduced similar legislation in 2006, says his bill doesn't regulate the Internet, only makes sure the rules of online engagement remain fair. A Markey spokeswoman said he wanted to defuse critics' arguments that the bill amounts to regulation, which she called inaccurate.

"It does, however, suggest that the principles which have guided the Internet's development and expansion are highly worthy of retention, and it seeks to enshrine such principles in the law as guide stars for U.S. broadband policy," he said.

The Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., requires the Federal Communications Commission to assess whether broadband providers are "blocking, thwarting or unreasonably interfering" with consumers' rights to access, send, receive or offer content, applications and services over networks.

The FCC would also be required to determine whether providers charge extra for certain services and if it's lawful.

The bill also requires the agency to hold at least eight summits around the country to get input from various groups about Internet service competition and services.

The bill was drafted in response to reports that some companies, including Comcast Corp., are unfairly stifling communications over the Internet.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia-based company, the country's second-largest Internet provider, told the FCC in formal comments that hampering some file-sharing by its subscribers was a justifiable way to keep Web traffic flowing for everyone.

Consumer groups, lawmakers and other critics have complained that Comcast violated Net neutrality.

An Associated Press report on Oct. 19 detailed how Comcast Corp. was interfering with file sharing by some of its Internet subscribers. The AP found instances in some areas of the United States where traffic was blocked or delayed significantly.