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Eshoo promises legislation if FCC loses net neutrality court case

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Two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission adopted enforceable, high-level rules designed to preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet. However, facing a legal challenge from Verizon and MetroPCS in the U.S. Court of Appeals, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology warns that if the FCC loses the two-year-old court case, Congress will take up the fight over net neutrality.    

"Should the court overturn the FCC's rules, I'll be prepared to introduce legislation clarifying the Commission's authority to ensure a free and open Internet, while preventing the use of Internet fast lanes or other discriminatory rules," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) in a Jan. 24 keynote speech before the annual State of the Net conference sponsored by the bipartisan Congressional Internet Caucus.

"Consumer protection should be one of the basic tenets of any telecommunications policy or regulation," argued Eshoo. "First and foremost, this means preserving the basic rules of the road that the FCC adopted to ensure a free and open Internet." 

The FCC's 2010 "Open Internet" order states that broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their broadband services. Under the FCC rules, providers are also prohibited from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices that compete with their voice or video telephony services. In addition, fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic. 

"We need to be very clear about our nation's policy in this key area" added Eshoo, especially "as we instruct other countries that are not as open as our democracy."

Another issue that Eshoo hopes the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will give serious consideration to in the 113th Congress is the future of video. She noted that in June 2012 monthly viewing for Netflix, the Los Gatos, Calif.-based Internet television and movie network, exceeded one billion hours for the first time ever and that the company has grown from just 600,000 subscribers in 2002 to more than 30 million subscribers in 40 countries today.

"The Internet has revolutionized the way in which we consume video content on our televisions, computers and mobile devices," said Eshoo, whose congressional district includes Silicon Valley. "I want to ensure that constituent companies like Netflix continue to grow and that they are not hindered by discriminatory caps or other tactics that deny consumers the freedom and flexibility to stream video content wherever and whenever they want."

Nevertheless, she cites the fact that 119 million Americans are without a fixed broadband connection today and 19 million Americans live in areas of the country where no such service is available.

"Our world is moving so rapidly to wireless, but without more spectrum for mobile broadband we risk stunting this exciting growth," concluded Eshoo. "It's essential for Congress and the FCC to ensure a legislative and regulatory environment that promotes competition, faster broadband, and the rollout of new technologies in key sectors of the economy." 

For more:
- view Rep. Eshoo's speech

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