Consumers Union Urges House Judiciary Committee to Support Net Neutrality Rules

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WASHINGTON, February 15, 2011 – As the House Judiciary Committee prepared to hold a hearing on net neutrality today, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, submitted a statement in strong support of net neutrality rules established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure the Internet remains an open medium.

Paul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “The debate over an open Internet is a balancing act between the interests of Internet users, including entrepreneurs and innovators, and the interests of the Internet access service providers. The net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC present a reasonable path for ensuring that balance.”

Desai noted that the Internet service provider market has become increasingly concentrated. Most consumers can only choose between the phone company and the local cable monopoly for Internet service, and as demand for high-speed service grows, FCC data suggests the cable company will be the only choice for most consumers needing high-speed Internet. The prospect for competition from wireless carriers is complicated by the fact the wireless industry is captured by dominant wireline companies, competitors to the dominant wireless carriers face huge hurdles, and consumers face obstacles if they want to switch carriers.

Citing FCC reports of numerous instances in which Internet service providers either degraded or blocked Internet traffic, Desai said net neutrality protections will ensure all Internet users will have nondiscriminatory and unfettered access to the Internet.

“Oversight is needed to ensure that market power is not used to stifle innovation and competition. The government’s role does not have to be intrusive or complicated. The FCC’s rules provide basic protections for Internet users and let the free market work.”