May 18, 2006, 12:00 AM

Online retailers applaud new House bill on “network neutrality”

Amazon, IAC/Interactive, eBay and others applauded today’s introduction of a bill designed to protect “network neutrality” and prevent telecommunications companies from creating Internet usage policies that could favor some companies over others.

Amazon.com Inc., IAC/Interactive Corp., eBay.com Inc. and other members of the Online Retailing Alliance applauded the introduction today by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R, WI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, of H.R. 5417, a bill designed to protect “network neutrality” and prevent telecommunications companies from creating Internet usage policies that could favor some companies over others.

“We would like to thank Chairman Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member Conyers and the Members of the House Judiciary Committee for standing up today to protect the Internet and its future,” said the members of the ORA, which is a subgroup of the retail trade organization Electronic Retailing Association. “The committee wisely recognizes that recent court decisions and Federal Communications Commission actions allow a handful of companies to control consumer broadband access to the Internet and engage in discriminatory behavior without consequence or accountability to consumers.”

Telecommunications companies, including AT&T; Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., have said suggested that a fee-based system of tiered access to premium, high-bandwidth Internet services could help them raise the capital needed to continue improving the Internet’s infrastructure. (See “Tug of War,” Internet Retailer, May, 2006).

“The chairman`s legislation today will prevent broadband providers from using their position in the market to engage in discriminatory behavior on the Internet,” the ORA continued. “The bill is particularly important and timely as another piece of legislation is making its way through the House that would achieve the opposite effect, deliberately impeding enforcement of discriminatory practices and preventing the establishment of consumer safeguards against them.

“It is clear that such competitive issues fall squarely within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, which has played a critical role over the past half century in ensuring that federal communications policies preserve the competitive telecommunications landscape and protect American consumers against discriminatory practices. Congress is wise to act in a way that takes into consideration the best interests of millions of Internet consumers and protects the innovative global market economy that thrives under the current open Internet model. We hope that future actions taken by Congress in the coming weeks will continue to keep these principles in mind, and we congratulate Chairman Sensenbrenner and the Committee for their action today.”

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