July 17, 2006, 12:00 AM

After defeats, e-retail group still pushing Senate on net neutrality

Despite failed attempts in the House and Senate to pass bills that would protect network neutrality, or an Internet free of control by telecommunications companies, a group of e-retailers is still pressing for new legislation favoring net neutrality.

Despite failed recent attempts in the House and Senate to pass bills that would protect network neutrality, or an Internet free of control by telecommunications companies, a group of e-retailers is still pressing for new legislation favoring net neutrality.

“There is still a chance of seeing Senate legislation on network neutrality,” a spokesman for the It’s Our Net Coalition says. The coalition’s members include Amazon.com Inc., eBay.com Inc., IAC/InteractiveCorp and Yahoo Inc.

A successful Senate bill on network neutrality would still have to coincide with support in the House of Representatives, creating an uphill battle, the spokesman says. But net neutrality promoters say they’re encouraged that more legislators are showing support for network neutrality, he adds.

Following is a letter sent by the It’s Our Net Coalition to each U.S. senator:

“We write to express our deep concern with the Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunity Reform Act, S. 2686. We ask you to insist that this legislation include meaningful and enforceable network neutrality provisions before it is considered by the full Senate.

“The Internet has been an engine of economic growth and a vibrant platform for innovation and competition because of its open architecture. However, this open structure did not happen by accident; in fact, it is the product of non-discrimination rules that had long been in place to prevent network operators from limiting consumer choice.

“Last summer, the Federal Communications Commission removed these protections. It is critical that Congress reinstate them in this bill and preserve consumer choice. The strong network neutrality amendment introduced by Senators Snowe and Dorgan would have done just that, but it was narrowly defeated in Committee on a bi-partisan 11 to 11 vote.

“We fully support the goal of advancing competition in video services through franchise reform. But, as the telecommunications carriers increasingly use the broadband infrastructure to deliver their own video products, the only way to ensure that consumers will have real choice for video services is for Congress to re-establish meaningful network neutrality rules.

“Without network neutrality, consumers will be restricted to online offerings limited by cable and telephone companies. For the first time, those companies - rather than consumers - will effectively become the gatekeepers to the Internet. Absent strong network neutrality provisions, consumers will no longer have the freedom to choose content from thousands of sources on an open Internet. Instead, the Internet will move backwards significantly with fewer options and limited choices. We ask that you protect their freedom.

“We stand ready to work with you and your Senate colleagues to include meaningful network neutrality provisions in any national video franchising reform legislation considered in the 109th session.”

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