Sensenbrenner Intros Net Neutrality Bill

James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced a network neutrality bill that he calls an effort to "preserve Internet freedom and competition."

He first tried to assert dual jurisdiction over the Senate telecom reform bill that also deals with network neutrality, but getting pushback from judiciary, which crafted the bill with an eye toward avoiding split jurisdiction, Sensenbrenner said it was necessary to introduce a separate bill to "protect consumers and other Internet users from possible anti-competitive and discriminatory conduct by broadband providers."

Echoing the phrasing of Senator Byron Dorgan (R-N.D.) at a Senate hearing on the telecom bill earlier in the day, "Internet freedom" may be taking over from "network neutrality" as the label of choice for backers of specific prohibitions on network discrimination in the provision of Internet service.

Sensenbrenner said he did not oppose broadband providers "responsibly managing their networks and providing increased bandwidth to those consumers who wish to pay for it," he was opposed to them "giving faster, more efficient access to certain service providers at the expense of others."

The bill would require that network providers:

"1) interconnect with the facilities of other network providers on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis;

2) operate their network in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner such that non-affiliated providers of content, services and applications have an equal opportunity to reach consumers; and

3) refrain from interfering with users' ability to choose the lawful content, services and applications they want to use."

Those are the basic principles endorsed by the FCC, but it has not written any rules enforcing them, and neither Senate nor House version of the telecom bill rewrite gives them the power to do so.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.