U.S. House panel wants Google, Facebook, AT&T CEOs to testify on internet rules

The chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday asked the chief executives of Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc, AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and other companies to testify at a Sept. 7 hearing on the future of net neutrality rules.

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering tossing out 2015 Obama administration net neutrality rules that reclassified internet service like 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.

Other chief executives asked to testify include the heads of Comcast Corp, Netflix Inc and Charter Communications Inc.

Some companies including Facebook said they were reviewing the letter but none immediately said if they will testify.

"A strong consensus is forming across party lines and across industries that it’s time for Congress to call a halt on the back-and-forth and set clear net neutrality ground rules for the internet,” said Representative Greg Walden, a Republican, who chairs the committee. "The time has come to get everyone to the table and get this figured out."

A group representing major technology firms last week 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."

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Major internet service have urged the FCC, however, 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 former Obama administration's order reclassifying internet service providers as if they were utilities.

The FCC is considering whether it has the authority to limit internet providers' ability to block, throttle or offer "paid prioritization," and, if so, whether it should keep any regulations in place.

More than 12 million public comments have been filed on the proposal.

The Internet Association, a group representing Facebook, Google, Microsoft Corp and Twitter Inc, 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 offered by the commission." 

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by James Dalgleish)