In an escalation of the war of words over network neutrality -- the idea
that all Internet content would not be prioritized for delivery on the basis of fees -
- a top Google executive said Tuesday that the Internet giant would
pursue antitrust enforcement against telecommunications companies if abuses occur.

Google Vice President and noted Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf said at a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, that the company would be happy if the U.S. Congress passes a measure to enforce network neutrality.

But if it does not, he said, Google will not hesitate to file antitrust
complaints if telecommunications companies misuse their resulting market

If a provision for network neutrality is not added to an existing
telecommunications bill in Congress, he said, "then we will simply have to wait until something bad happens, and then we will make known our case to the Department of Justice's antitrust division."

'Hand on Spigot'

Brian Washburn, an analyst at Current Analysis, a technology research firm,said Cerf's statement might simply amount to posturing.

"It may be tough for Google to argue antitrust if net neutrality measures fail," Washburn said. "In order to argue antitrust,
one would need to
establish that a company or a group of companies are monopolistic, with
their hand on the spigot. But there are many providers and many resellers."

Last week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology -- by an 11-11 vote -- defeated an amendment that would remove certain barriers for telephone companies to sell TV channels.

The main bill, which passed the committee by a 15-7 vote, deals with
broadband, TV, and other telecommunications matters. It includes a provision allowing the FCC to fine phone and cable companies if they try to block access to legal content or services on the Net.

A similar bill, which also does not include a requirement for network
neutrality, has passed the House of Representatives.

Wyden To Filibuster?

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has indicated that he is prepared to filibuster the entire bill unless a provision for network
neutrality is included.

"Without a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet and
without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate, the Internet
will be forever changed for the worse," Wyden said in a statement.

"A Verizon Communications executive has called for an 'end to Google's free lunch,'" he said. "A Bell South executive has said that he wants the Internet to be turned into a 'pay-for-performance marketplace.'"

Under Senate rules, a Senator may filibuster by speaking without limit on a given measure, thus blocking a vote. Sixty votes in the Senate would be required to end a filibuster.

But Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who sponsored the main bill and chairs the Committee, has acknowledged he does not yet have 60 votes. It is expected that the bill will not reach the Senate floor until September at the earliest.

Proponents of network neutrality believe that, unless it is required,
telecommunications companies will be able to charge different rates for
different kinds of Internet content. Network neutrality would specifically prohibit these kinds of "toll roads."

Thank you.


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