Agency Urges Caution on Net Neutrality

The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday recommended against additional regulation of high-speed Internet traffic.

Deborah Platt Majoras said policymakers should proceed cautiously on the issue of "net neutrality," which is the notion that all online traffic should be treated equally by Internet service providers.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Majoras said that without evidence of "market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area."

In separate remarks before a lawyers' group Wednesday, Majoras said the agency was unaware of any market failure or consumer harm in the high-speed Internet market, according to a written copy of her speech.

Majoras' comments provide support for telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp., which oppose so-called net neutrality regulation. They would like the option of charging customers more for transmitting certain content, such as live video, faster or more reliably than other data.

Supporters of net neutrality rules, including consumer groups and content providers such as Google Inc., are concerned that Internet access providers could slow or block content in the absence of such rules, particularly as Internet providers offer their own services, such as Internet phone calls.

Majoras also said the agency's report concludes that such competition concerns can be addressed by antitrust law.

The Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice have jurisdiction over high-speed Internet access, while Congress has considered legislation that would mandate network neutrality.

The agency also said in its report that certain practices that would discriminate among Internet traffic, such as prioritizing some data or providing exclusive deals to content providers, "can benefit consumers" as well as harm them.

The report grew out of a workshop the agency held in February on Internet access and net neutrality issues.

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