Justice Dept. Opposes Network Neutrality

Associated Press
Friday, September 7, 2007

The Justice Department said yesterday that Internet service providers should be allowed to charge extra for priority Web traffic.

The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to network neutrality, the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user.

Several phone and cable companies, including AT&T, Verizon Communications and Comcast, want the option to charge some users more money for loading certain content or Web sites faster than other content. Supporters of neutrality laws, including Google and Yahoo, argue that network operators should treat all Web services equally.

The Justice Department said imposing network neutrality could hamper development of the Internet and prevent service providers from upgrading or expanding their networks.

Providing different levels of service is common, the department said. As an example, it noted that the U.S. Postal Service charges customers different guarantees and speeds for package delivery. "Whether or not the same type of differentiated products and services will develop on the Internet should be determined by market forces, not regulatory intervention," the department said in its filing.

The agency's stance comes more than two months after Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras said that policymakers should not require network neutrality.

The public-advocacy group Public Knowledge criticized the Justice Department filing. "It is at odds with reality for a Justice Department that approved the largest telecommunications merger in history . . . to now claim that market forces and antitrust enforcement will be able to protect the free and open Internet," the group's president and co-founder Gigi Sohn said in a written statement.

"Perhaps the Department has forgotten that many consumers have little or no choice at all for their high-speed broadband services."

The department said it would continue to monitor and enforce any anticompetitive conduct to ensure a competitive broadband marketplace.

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