“The Federal Communications Commission has authority under current law to ensure that broadband access providers, today mainly cable and phone companies, do not discriminate against Web-based providers of content, search services, and applications, FCC commissioner Michael Copps said last Tuesday,” Ted Hearn reports for Multichannel News. “Speaking to reporters, Copps stressed that the agency needed to go beyond hortatory policy principles and adopt enforceable rules that guarantee network neutrality and shield Internet companies without wires into millions of homes from potential misconduct by companies that do.”

“FCC chairman Kevin Martin, in contrast, has favored a deregulatory approach. Last August, he won agency adoption of nonbinding principles related to net neutrality, but he has not endorsed the need for specific agency rules that Copps wants. The FCC has classified both cable-modem and digital subscriber line service as information services not subject to common-carrier rules that come with nondiscrimination requirements,” Hearn reports. “Although some have questioned FCC authority to impose network neutrality on information service providers under Title I of the Communications Act, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a majority opinion last June indicating otherwise. ‘The [FCC] remains free to impose special regulatory duties on facilities-based [Internet Service Providers] under its Title I ancillary jurisdiction,’ Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in National Cable & Telecommunications Association v. Brand X Internet Services.”

“The House Judiciary Committee was to vote last Thursday on a bill sponsored by its chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), that would punish network neutrality violations under federal antitrust laws. On June 20, the Senate Commerce Committee is likely to vote on bill sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) that would, among other things, ban broadband providers from demanding fees from Web players in exchange for priority treatment of their traffic,” Hearn reports.

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