- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said yesterday that antitrust legislation is the best way to ensure so-called Internet neutrality.

“I believe antitrust law is the most appropriate way to deal with this problem and antitrust law is not regulation,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat and chairman of the committee’s Antitrust Task Force.

At issue are practices by Internet service providers (ISPs) to organize traffic over their networks. Comcast Corp. and other providers argue that limited bandwidth makes it necessary to prioritize certain types of data over others, like video, that they say slows their networks. Proponents of net neutrality, on the other hand, say such practices are tantamount to unreasonable discrimination.

Mr. Conyers’ panel heard testimony of net neutrality proponents including the Christian Coalition of America and the American Civil Liberties Union as well as critic Christopher S. Yoo of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The panel met two weeks after the media-regulating Federal Communications Commission convened a public hearing on the issue in Boston on the heels of news that Comcast was slowing access to the file-sharing program BitTorrent. The commission has no specific net neutrality rule, but in 2005 it adopted a number of broadband access principles that call for “open, affordable and accessible” networks.

Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican, said net neutrality could be achieved through private competition.

“Legislation is not always the right answer,” he said. “Burdensome regulations may actually slow the development of bandwidth, reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Internet.”

Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, earlier this year introduced a bill that would require the FCC to investigate network complaints. The agency is investigating the accusations against Comcast.

WTOP’s new studio

D.C.’s all-news radio station WTOP-FM (103.5 and 103.9) now boasts the largest local radio newsroom in the country.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, yesterday cut the ribbon on the new-and-improved “Glass-enclosed Nerve Center,” a 7,200-square-foot studio that cost parent company Bonneville International Corp. $2.5 million.

The new digs, referred to as a “digitized, computerized colossus” by Capitol Hill correspondent Dave McConnell, had been under construction for about a year. During that time employees were forced to make due in a cramped area with “less-than-perfect air conditioning and heating,” according to General Manager Joel Oxley.

The ceremony included midday champagne and hors d’oeuvres. For the record, Channel Surfing was puzzled by a lack of tongs at the food table that forced revelers to use their hands.

In other news

c It’s been out of the news for awhile, but a move to kill the Fairness Doctrine for good was endorsed yesterday by President Bush during his speech at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn. Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, is sponsoring the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would prevent a future FCC from reviving a rule that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints on political issues. The agency scrapped it in 1987, saying it restricted journalistic freedom.

c Channel Surfing runs Wednesdays. E-mail krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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