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Groups Tout Backing for Net Neutrality

Consumer groups say they have a study showing "broad public support" for a law requiring networks to provide open and nondiscriminatory access to independent Internet service providers (ISPs).

The FCC in August agreed to classify telco's Internet access service over digital subscriber lines (DSL) as an information service, granting them the same freedom from access regulations the cable industry got in June when the Supreme Court upheld the FCC's decision (in the Brand X case) finding that cable was not subject to the same nondiscriminatory access requirements as telecom services like phone.

The FCC essentially freed both cable and telcos, in the latter's capacity as an Internet provider, from obligations to carry unaffiliated internet service providers. The FCC did add a general statement of principles favoring network neutrality.

Groups including the Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America have countered that statement of principles is not suffience, and that Congress needs to step in and mandate network neutrality to prevent discriminatory practices, i.e. excluding independent internet service providers who could provide better services or lower prices in competition to the cable or telco's own ISP service.

Democrat FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who somewhat reluctantly joined the decision to grant telcos freedom from access requirement--citing the directive of the court in Brand X toward a like cable service--will join the consumer groups at a press conference in Washington Wednesday to release the study.

"The handwriting is on the wall. DSL will be reclassified, either now or sometime soon, whether I agree or don't agree," Copps said back in August. "It is not a situation of my preference, or making," he said, "nor does it benefit this institution or consumers."

Congress is preparing to rewrite telecommunications regulations to reflect the rise of broadband and the government's interest in spurring the rollout.