Lawmakers Urge FCC: Open Networks

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Two House members circulated a letter last week that urged the Federal Communications Commission to prevent broadband network owners from discriminating against Internet merchants.

The FCC is expected this fall to decide whether cable and phone companies that offer high-speed data have to share space with unaffiliated Internet service providers, or abide by nondiscrimination rules for the protection of Web-based retailers which may not have financial relationships with network owners.

Rep. Rich Boucher (D-Va.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) last week urged House colleagues to sign with them a letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell calling on the agency to embrace rules that ensure that Internet users "have unfettered access to the content of their choice."

For many months, the issue has been pressed hard by a group called the Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators (CBUI), which is led by Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com, The Walt Disney Co., Yahoo! Inc. and various trade associations.

In the past, cable-industry officials have described CBUI as a regulatory cure in search of problem, because cable operators do not use their broadband networks to deny consumers the right to roam the Internet freely.

In the letter, Boucher and Kind urged Powell not to postpone adoption of regulatory safeguards until after competitive harms have occurred.

"As a regulatory body, the FCC has greater responsibility of implementing rules and policies to ensure that those harms never occur in the first place. The time for the FCC to act by appropriate regulation to prevent that harm is now," the letter said.

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