2008 CABLE SHOW: Hill Staff: Net Neutrality Law Unlikely In 2008


NEW ORLEANS—Passage of net neutrality legislation is unlikely this year partly because Capitol Hill lawmakers have not reached a consensus on the need for government intervention into the Internet market, congressional aides said Monday.

"I don't think the record has been made to legislate this area as of yet," said Seth Bloom, senior council to Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

Amy Levin, senior counsel to House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich,), said activity in the House was unlikely unless some event in the market drove lawmakers to act. She mentioned another dispute involving Comcast's management of peer-to-peer applications as a potential flashpoint.

"That will increase the impetus for Hill action," Levine said. "What happens from here depends on what happens in the marketplace."

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has introduced legislation (HR 5353) that would establish non-discriminatory Internet access as national policy, but his GOP colleagues fear it would set the stage for the Federal Communications Commission to overregulate broadband access providers.

Neil Fried, senior counsel to Republicans on the Energy and Commerce panel, said "bipartisan opposition to legislation" exists in the House because of the possibility that telling network owners how to manager their networks could backfire. He indicated that a new law might allow bandwidth hogs to degrade service for the vast majority of users.

"Use by one neighbor could slow it down for everybody else," Fried said. "That's what I think net neutrality legislation could harm."

Levin and Fried agreed that access providers could help their cause in the public policy arena by keeping consumers informed about their network management practices.

"I think transparency is a very good guiding principle," Levin said.

Added Fried, "The big issue is disclosure, so consumers can express their frustrations."