A senior U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday he had introduced legislation designed to prevent broadband Internet providers from unreasonable interference with subscribers' access to content.
The bill offered by Rep. Edward Markey is the latest to raise concerns about net neutrality, an issue that pits open-Internet advocates against some service providers such as Comcast Corp, who say they need to take reasonable steps to manage traffic on their networks.
Markey, chairman of a House subcommittee on the Internet, said his bill was aimed at preserving the open architecture of the Internet and preventing content providers from being subjected to unreasonably discriminatory practices by broadband network providers.
Our goal is to ensure that the next generation of Internet innovators will have the same opportunity, the same unfettered access to Internet content, services and applications that fostered the developers of Yahoo, Netscape and Google, Markey said in a statement.
The bill also would require communications regulators to study the issue and hold public hearings.
Markey dismissed fears that his initiative was an attempt to regulate the Internet. The bill contains no requirements for regulations on the Internet whatsoever, he said in another statement.
The Federal Communications Commission has been looking into complaints by consumer groups that Comcast favors or blocks certain types of content moving over its network.
In comments filed with the FCC on Tuesday night, Comcast responded by telling regulators that it uses reasonable measures to manage traffic moving over its network, as some of its customers overwhelm the network by using file-sharing applications like BitTorrent.
In its written comments, Comcast gave its most detailed explanation of how it manages Internet traffic, naming BitTorrent as prime culprit, but again denied it blocks content, applications or discriminates among providers.
Comcast, which is the second-largest U.S. Internet service provider with more than 13 million subscribers, said the use of network management was essential to avoid congestion and impairment of some applications.
Comcast said its network management practices manage traffic in a method similar to a traffic ramp control light on a freeway during rush hour.
ISPs are looking at different ways of managing the increasing amount of traffic moving across their networks both for cost management and for quality of service reasons.
Last month Time Warner Cable Inc, which has more than 7.5 million Internet customers, said it is planning a trial to bill high-speed Internet subscribers based on their amount of usage rather than a flat fee, the standard industry practice.