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Net Neutrality Bill a Step in Telecom Reform

Broadcasting & Cable reports that the U.S. House Judiciary Committee marked up and passed its chairman's "network neutrality" bill 20-13, but it took all the Democrats to do it, with a majority of Republicans voting against it.

That chairman is James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and the bill would use antitrust law to enforce nondiscrimination in the provision of Internet service by networks like phone companies and cable operators. Republicans on the committee warned that it was unnecessarily regulating the Internet.

The bill plants the Judiciary Committee's flag squarely in the network neutrality debate, and adds yet one more obstacle to passage of telecom reform legislation this session. The House Commerce Committee had hoped to keep Judiciary out of the the bill, fearing it would impede its progress. But it turned into a jurisdictional fight, with more than one committee member saying net neutrality fell clearly within Judiciary's antitrust purview and praising Sensenbrenner for defending their turf.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) has all but guaranteed some kind of telecom reform by session's end, though that could include a lame duck period after the November elections.

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