Consumers Union Advocates for Net Neutrality Rules

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 14, 2010 — Consumers Union (CU), the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, joined a coalition of groups today in filing comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as it considers adopting formal rules on net neutrality.

CU has long advocated for net neutrality standards. The organization strongly believes the networks that deliver the Internet should treat all web sites and applications equally (see below for more information on “What is Net Neutrality?”).

CU filed joint comments at the FCC in partnership with Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, Center for Media Justice, New America Foundation, and Media Action Grassroots Network.

“We need neutrality rules to ensure consumers can access the Internet content they choose,” said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union. “Internet service providers should not be able to play favorites among web sites by slowing or blocking subscribers’ ability to access certain sites.”

The groups urged the FCC to set strict rules for Internet service providers regarding discrimination and disclosure. The rules, they said, should define discrimination as any incident in which a provider blocks or slows lawful Internet traffic, and the providers should be required to disclose all such incidents.

If providers are forced to slow or prioritize traffic during peak Internet usage, the groups said the FCC should impose a “reasonable network management” test to determine whether a provider is seeking to have a minimal impact on consumers when it slows or blocks traffic.

The debate over net neutrality has prompted questions about the FCC’s jurisdiction over the Internet. The groups state the FCC has clear authority to establish net neutrality rules. Kelsey said, “There must be a cop on the beat if an Internet service provider’s actions negatively impact consumers, competition, innovation, and the economy.”

As more consumers access the Internet on smartphones and other mobile devices, the groups are endorsing the FCC’s effort to extend net neutrality rules to the wireless market. Kelsey said, “It’s a wise move by the Commission. It’s time to bring the mobile Internet and the wired Internet under the same national regulatory framework.”

What is Network Neutrality?

The basic idea of network neutrality, or net neutrality, is the Internet should be open so consumers have unrestricted access to lawful Web sites and online businesses can compete freely.
Some Internet service providers want to give preferential treatment to certain sites, such as their own content or that of those willing to pay extra fees. Without network neutrality Internet service providers could block or slow down traffic to any Web sites or services they choose. Services such as streaming video or making free or cheap phone calls over the Internet could be blocked. So could the sharing of lawful media content or access to certain political content.

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Consumers Union of United States, Inc., publisher of Consumer Reports®, is a nonprofit membership organization chartered in 1936 to provide consumers with information, education, and counsel about goods, services, health and personal finance. Consumers Union’s publications and services have a combined paid circulation of approximately 8.3 million. These publications regularly carry articles on Consumers Union’s own product testing; on health, product safety, and marketplace economics; and on legislative, judicial, and regulatory actions that affect consumer welfare. Consumers Union’s income is solely derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, its other publications and services, fees, noncommercial contributions and grants. Consumers Union’s publications and services carry no outside advertising and receive no commercial support.