Net Neutrality

The phrase “net neutrality” refers to a common Internet business practice where Internet service costs or speeds are unaffected by content. Internet service providers have considered and experimented with “shaping” Internet data speeds in order to provide better and faster service to customers. Content providers are against this practice, because of concerns that they will either have to pay ISPs to ensure fast data transfer rates, or that ISPs might unfairly throttle down their data transfer speeds. As a result, some have sought to codify net neutrality as law.

AAF Position
Because our membership contains groups on both sides of the net neutrality debate, the AAF does not hold a position on this issue. Generally, we support the rights of advertisers and media companies to convey their messages in an open and free market.

Those who seek to codify net neutrality as law do so because of an interest in protecting consumer access to information and services. On the other hand, some believe that restricting a company’s business practices would limit innovation and growth.

H.R. 5353: Internet Freedom Preservation Act. Introduced February 12, 2008, by Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Charles Pickering, R-Miss. This bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission to assess competition, consumer protection and consumer choice issues relating to broadband Internet access services. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a hearing was held in May 2008, but no further action has resulted.

H.R. 5994: The Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.., The bill would mandate net neutrality as an antitrust issue by amending the Clayton Act, which addresses broad anticompetitive pricing and services discrimination, to include Internet services.

S. 215: Internet Freedom Preservation Act. Introduced January 9, 2007, by Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. This bill would ban the blocking or degradation of lawful Internet content but would allow prioritizing content originating from the provider’s own network. The bill was referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, but no hearings have been held or scheduled.

Five different net neutrality bills were introduced in the previous Congress; however, none passed.

Other Action

In a February 2008 committee hearing on net neutrality, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said that lawmakers should not impose net neutrality mandates unless there were proof that telecommunications companies were engaging in anticompetitive behavior.

The Federal Communications Commission held two public hearings on network neutrality practices in 2008, hearing testimony from Internet entrepreneurs, legal scholars and other experts. Despite calls for further government involvement, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that his agency already has the regulatory oversight it needs to enforce existing policy rules.

Last updated: Ocotber 2008

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