Justice Department Opposes Net Neutrality

Tells FCC in Filing Not to Listen to Consumer Groups, Google

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- After a year-and-a-half of a publicly waged battle, the Justice Department is going on record to oppose network neutrality limits on internet providers. The department is urging the Federal Communications Commission to not listen to consumer groups and companies such as Google, which are asking the agency to regulate the industry to ensure all content is delivered equally on the internet.
The Justice Department has weighed in on net neutrality in a filing that has, predictably, rankled consumer groups and Democrats.
The Justice Department has weighed in on net neutrality in a filing that has, predictably, rankled consumer groups and Democrats.

In a filing yesterday, the Justice Department called on the FCC to be "highly skeptical" of those requests.

Department's position
"Marketplace restrictions proposed by some proponents of 'net neutrality' could in fact prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the internet with significant effects for the economy and consumers," the filing said.

Proponents of net neutrality are telling the FCC that without action on its part, the phone and cable companies that manage most of the internet pipelines could start imposing toll charges to content providers for the privilege of distributing content via phone and cable company networks. Favored providers could get faster access to consumers' doorsteps and less favored ones could having difficulty competing.

Nearly 28,000 comments have been filed at the FCC, most from net neutrality proponents.

However, phone and cable companies oppose the measure on the grounds that additional governmental regulation is not necessary and could slow technological innovation.

Phone companies balked
Congress last year moved toward imposing some network neutrality as part of legislation easing the way for phone companies to get local cable franchises, but the phone companies abandoned the bill after those provisions were added. Proponents of the limits have continued to push for the FCC or Congress to act.

In today's filing the Justice Department said that "free-market competition, unfettered by unnecessary government regulatory restraints, is the best way to foster innovation and development of the internet." Restrictions would "skew investment, delay innovation and diminish consumer welfare."

Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, one of the groups urging the FCC to act, today ripped the Justice Department filing.

Dismissive of claim
"It is at odds with reality for a Justice Department that approved the largest telecommunications merger in history with a mere press release to now claim that market forces and antitrust enforcement will be able to protect the free and open internet," she said.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-MA, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, also spoke out against the Justice Department's filing.

"The Bush administration's decision to oppose internet freedom flies in the face of the open nature of the internet. ... [N]etwork neutrality safeguards would preserve the open architecture of the internet and prevent companies from downgrading and discriminating against competitive internet services and applications," he said in a statement.
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