‘Net Neutrality’ Sought ForOnline Pricing

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WASHINGTON - (05/05/06) – A bill introduced in CongressTuesday seeks to ensure ‘net neutrality’ by preventingtelecommunications operators and broadband providers from creatinga tiered system of premium services, which could boost costs forfinancial service providers and other premium users of Internetservices. The Network Neutrality Act, sponsored by Rep. EdwardMarkey, the ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, wouldalso bar telecom companies and cable operators from favoring oneprovider’s Web traffic or their own content overanother’s by ensuring faster downloads to companies that payhigher fees. Net neutrality has become a stealth issue on CapitolHill, and especially among financial services providers who worrythat telecom companies could start charging higher fees forunlimited access to high-speed Internet services, like thoserequired for online transactions. A broad coalition of techcompanies, like eBay, Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com, as well asadvocacy groups and consumer organizations have expressed some ofthe concerns addressed by Markey in his bill, such as thepossibility of a tiered system. But telecom companies, likeAT&T, Bell South and Verizon, maintain that legislation isunnecessary and would compromise the quality of service. They arguethey should be able to charge higher fees to companies who wantfaster service, especially for VoIP, or voice over internetprotocol, or TV over Internet. A coalition of financial companiesis trying to bring the issue to the attention of the HouseFinancial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee to ensurethat their interests are protected.

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