Martin Tells Senate: FCC Will Enforce Net Neutrality

headshotFederal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin told the Senate Tuesday that no new laws are needed to protect consumers' ability to access the Web because the agency already has the authority to enforce net neutrality principles.

"I believe that the Commission must remain vigilant in protecting consumers' access to content on the internet," he testified at a hearing convened by the Senate Commerce Committee. "It is critically important that the Commission take seriously and respond to complaints that are filed about arbitrary limits on broadband access and potential violations of our principles."

The hearing, "The Future of the Internet," took place as the FCC is considering whether to take action against Comcast for interfering with traffic to peer-to-peer sites. Comcast argues that it was only trying to manage its network, but net neutrality advocates say the company had no good reason to single out peer-to-peer sites for special treatment.

Comcast last month said it will stop throttling traffic to peer-to-peer sites by the end of the year, and will instead deploy "protocol agnostic" measures. "Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any websites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services," the company reiterated Tuesday.

Martin also testified that any attempts to regulate traffic should be subject to government scrutiny. "In a manner similar to the way in which restrictions on speech are analyzed, network management solutions would need to further a compelling or at least an important/legitimate interest and would need to be tailored to fit the exact interest," he said. "If the concern is about stopping illegal content, a network provider should not block a particular application to all users if that application transmits both legal and illegal content."

A pending Senate bill, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, would prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or degrading efforts to reach any lawful Web sites. Similar legislation has been proposed in the past, but failed to pass.

In Congress, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) recently introduced a bill that would create a national broadband policy. The aim of that bill is to enshrine net neutrality protections in law, but that measure in its current form does not specifically prohibit Internet service providers from blocking access to sites.

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