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5/9/2008
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Lawmakers Eye Net Neutrality As Anti-Trust Issue

The Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act would require carriers to promote competition and allow people to use any device they want to on the carriers' networks.

Federal lawmakers have introduced yet another network neutrality bill, but this time with a focus on fair trade issues.

This week, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation that addresses the issue by labeling it an antitrust matter. Conyers' H.R. 5994 would ban discriminatory network management practices by amending the Clayton Act.

The bill, labeled the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act, would require carriers to promote competition and allow people to use any device they want to on the carriers' networks. The bill makes exceptions for emergencies, criminal investigations, parental controls, marketing, and improvements to quality of service.

Under the Detroit Democrat's proposed legislation, ISPs could give preference to certain types of data, but they must give the preference regardless of the data source. It would ban ISPs from discriminating based on content, applications, or services.

"Americans have come to expect the Internet to be open to everyone," Conyers said in a statement. "The Internet was designed without centralized control, without gatekeepers for content and services. If we allow companies with monopoly or duopoly power to control how the Internet operates, network providers could have the power to choose what content is available. Many of the innovations and products we use every day, such as search engines, music download services and online video, likely would never have developed in such a restricted environment."

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., has co-sponsored the legislation.

"Recent events have shown that net neutrality is more than a hypothetical concern. We need a meaningful remedy to prevent those who control the infrastructure of the Internet from controlling the content on the Internet," Lofgren said. "This legislation will help guarantee that the innovative spirit of the Internet is not trampled."

Network neutrality proposals, backed by Internet content companies like Google and eBay, would bar Internet providers from charging extra fees to guarantee access to the Internet or give priority to some content.

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