Republicans want tech input on U.S. net neutrality legislation

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional committee on Monday asked for input from Google parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Facebook Inc (FB.O), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), Inc (AMZN.O) and other major companies on a proposed rewrite of rules governing consumer internet access, according to an email reviewed by Reuters.

Last week, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s chairman asked the chief executives of those three companies, as well as AT&T Inc (T.N), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Charter Communications Inc (CHTR.O) to testify at a Sept. 7 hearing on the future of net neutrality rules. None of the companies have agreed yet to testify.

On Monday, a lawyer for the committee, Robin Colwell, asked the companies to weigh in on what net neutrality legislation could look like.

“So all we are looking for at this stage is a list of asks. From your perspective, what needs to stay, what needs to be added, and what needs to go?” she wrote in an email.

Representative Greg Walden, the Republican who chairs the committee, said last week that “the time has come to get everyone to the table and get this figured out.”

Walden, Colwell added “continues to be interested in moving forward on a bipartisan legislative solution to the longstanding issue of net neutrality. Since we all basically agree on the fundamental principles and the need to provide certainty for all participants in the internet economy, he believes we are close to reaching an agreement.”

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering tossing out 2015 Obama administration net neutrality rules that reclassified internet service as a public utility. The rules bar providers from blocking, slowing or offering paid prioritization of websites. Many internet providers want Congress to step in and write permanent rules.

A group representing major technology companies earlier this month urged the FCC to abandon plans to rescind the rules barring internet service providers from hindering consumer access to Web content or offering paid “fast lanes.”

Major internet services have urged the FCC to reverse the rules, even as they vowed not to hinder internet access.

In May, the FCC voted 2-1 to advance Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to withdraw the Obama administration’s order reclassifying internet service providers as utilities.

More than 14 million public comments have been filed.

The Internet Association, a group representing companies including Facebook, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), said last week it was “open to alternative legal bases for the rules, either via legislative action codifying the existing net neutrality rules or via sound legal theories.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis