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Should the Net Be Neutral?

Simply asking the question suggests its absurdity, yet the issue of whether everyone should have equal access to the Internet is up for grabs. As Justin Patten notes today -- following up on posts by legal bloggers Kevin O'Keefe and Diane Levin -- no less a Net luminary than Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the original developer of the World Wide Web, has entered the fray, asserting that a campaign by telcos to create a two-tiered system of broadband access would end free access  for Internet users in the United States.

At issue is a campaign by cable and phone companies to urge Congress to allow them to decide which Internet sites get to use high-speed lines. As writer Cory Doctorow explains:

"Phone and cable companies are looking for the right to charge popular Internet sites like Google and Yahoo to carry data to customers. The big Internet companies, they argue, are getting a free ride, using lots of bandwidth to get to customers and not paying a fair price for it. This will only get worse, they say, as multimedia content becomes more popular, demanding more bandwidth."

Doctorow, who writes the blog Boing Boing, calls their argument "rubbish," and any number of commentators agree, including Daniel Weitzner, John Doerr and Reed Hastings, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Rockboom host Amanda Congdon.

For those hoping to salvage a user-neutral Internet, says Lawrence Lessig, this is a critical time:

"After just barely squeezing a victory in the House Judiciary Committee last week, the press is on now for the vote on the floor. The Congress Daily (which can’t be linked to) estimates about a $1 million per week is being spent on ads by telecom and cable companies to fight neutrality legislation."

He urges action through Save the Internet or by other means.  Kevin O'Keefe calls on lawyers  to rally to support Net neutrality. As Patten puts it:

"Do you really think that the telecoms industry is going to run this in a way which does not threatens the open model of the internet? Broadband providers will become gatekeepers to the web's content and it appears it will not be open as before."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 26, 2006 at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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