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Net Neutrality Opposed By State Legislators

The American Legislative Exchange Council asserts that regulating wireless and wired carriers in the same manner is "likely unconstitutional."

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an influential group of state legislators promoting conservative causes, has stepped out with the sharpest public criticism to date of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's Internet neutrality proposal, labeling it the "FCC Power Grab of Internet Traffic"

In a statement, ALEC expressed "serious doubts about troubling new plans" represented by the proposed net neutrality regulations.

"ALEC believes that a free and open Internet is best guaranteed by marketplace competition, not by government regulation," said Connecticut State Rep. William Hamzy, co-chairman of ALEC's Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force, in a statement. "Consumers should have access to their choice of legal Internet content, but there is simply no evidence of any problem requiring such far-reaching government intrusion."

Genachowski's proposal on net neutrality, although widely expected, has touched of an avalanche of praise and criticism as the proposal is expected to go through a series of hearings, starting with October's open FCC meeting with complete rules expected to be hammered out by spring. Genachowski envisions the FCC as becoming the "smart cop on the beat" insuring that carriers and ISPs don't block or slow traffic flowing over the Internet.

ALEC, like most critics of the Genachowski plan, maintains that the Internet has thrived to date in an open and competitive environment; more regulation isn't needed, ALEC states. Rapidly emerging wireless networks are a major sticking point, because they haven't largely been subjected to regulations governing traditional wired networks and because more robust wireless networks are rapidly being deployed. Genachowski has called for all platforms -- wired and wireless alike -- to be treated similarly.

In its release, ALEC questioned the constitutionality of the proposed FCC net neutrality changes. "Any network neutrality regulations imposed on broadband service providers are likely behind the statutory authority of the FCC, since Congress has not given the FCC authority to meticulously regulate traffic on information services like the Internet," said Seth Cooper, ALEC's Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force director. "Such regulations are also likely unconstitutional."

ALEC is represented by state lawmakers and officials in all 50 U.S. states and the group notes that it is the nation's largest nonpartisan, individual membership organization of state legislators. It is funded by some large corporations and by conservative think tanks.

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