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Net Neutrality Finds Bipartisan Support

Network neutrality proponents have found bipartisan support, now that House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner has introduced the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006.

The bill, HR 5417, is co-sponsored by Ranking Member John Conyers of Michigan, and Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California, and Rich Boucher of Virginia, both Democrats. Until Friday afternoon, it was the only one of several net neutrality bills to gain Republican sponsorship.

"A growing alliance in Congress recognizes that network neutrality is not a partisan issue, but one of grave importance to anyone who wishes to see the Internet remain an unrivaled environment for innovation, civic participation and free speech," Craig Aaron, communications director of Free Press, said in a prepared statement.

Telecommunications companies have formed an alliance with 24 partners to oppose net neutrality legislation in a Hands Off The Internet campaign. They want the Federal Communications Commission to regulate Internet service providers and some have argued for the ability to provide tiered access, which would allow high-density users to pay extra for premium services. They argue that the revenue is needed to improve broadband networks and that government should not legislate the growth of the Internet.

Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said his bill would prevent broadband network operators from using their market power to give faster and more efficient access to some content providers at the expense of others. It amends the Clayton Act to preserve the ability of content, applications and service providers to reach consumers with the same speed and quality of service. The bill requires providers to connect with other providers in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner and to offer enhanced quality of service free for all content in a particular category, instead of offering it to a single content provider for a fee.

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