Six Senators Support ISPs In Net Neutrality Battle

While it's no surprise that the big three carriers -- AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- oppose government oversight of broadband policies, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas ), ranking member on the Senate Commerce Science, and Transportation Committee, also voiced concerns.

Following Net neutrality proposals made by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowsk Monday, Sen. Hutchison introduced an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would prohibit the FCC from expending funds to develop and implement new regulatory mandates. The amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

"I am deeply concerned by the direction the FCC appears to be heading," Hutchison said in a statement. "We must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations. The case has simply not been made for what amounts to a significant regulatory intervention into a vibrant marketplace. These new regulatory mandates and restrictions could stifle investment incentives."

Genachowski Monday called for an end to the practice by the ISP giants that prevent consumers from accessing Internet content that they consider competitive, such as music and video content downloads.

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"Broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications," Genachowski said. "Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed."

As expected, AT&T and the other ISPs came out swinging after Genachowski made his remarks.

"AT&T has long supported the principle of an open Internet and has conducted its business accordingly," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in a statement. "We are concerned, however, that the FCC appears ready to extend the entire array of Net neutrality requirements to what is perhaps the most competitive consumer market in America, wireless services," he said.

Comcast echoed those thoughts. A blog post by David Cohen, executive vice president, broadband, said that "before we rush into a new regulatory environment for the Internet, let's remember there can be no doubt that the Internet has enjoyed immense growth even as these debates have gone on. It's still fair to ask whether increased regulation of the Internet is a solution in search of a problem."

Genachowski does have support from several broadband consumer advocates.

"Having rules in place will bring a degree of certainty that will help both carriers and consumers alike," said Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, a public interest advocacy organization, in a statement. "Carriers will know what is allowed and what is not -- consumers will be relieved to know they will be able to have access to any content and service on a nondiscriminatory basis."