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Unfair Park, Brought to You By AT&T?

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Arguments in the House of Representatives are heating up this week about the future of Internet neutrality. Um...wuzzat mean? You won't get easy answers in recent reports on tech sites, and much of the major media is ignoring the Congressional goodness at a moment when things are really cooking up, so let us refer you to (gasp) a solid Dallas Morning News report from May 17. Or if you're lazy, here's the gist: National telecom firms (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) have been lobbying for months for legislation that would deregulate limits currently placed on Internet service providers (ISPs). From the article:

Rep. Joe Barton, the Ennis Republican who chairs the [House Energy and Commerce] committee, maintained that companies investing billions of dollars in their networks have a right to charge fees for enhanced services.

Now, by "services," you might think he means download speeds, traffic limits, stuff like that--which ISPs already use to pro-rate their charges to customers. But what he actually means are which sites you can visit. Want to use a "voice over IP" service like Vonage, which lets you hook a phone into your AT&T Internet connection to make cheaper phone calls? Right now, you can, but if this legislation pushes through, AT&T may choose to block your access...unless you pay AT&T an extra fee. Some might call that logical--why should AT&T let you make phone calls through a cheaper competitor?--but if that sense of "Net neutrality" is destroyed, then AT&T could very well make you pay extra to use rival search engines, rival news services...rival local blogs?

Telecoms are spinning this proposed legislation the best they can right now--"Its Republican backers, along with Verizon and AT&T, say it has sufficient Net neutrality protections for consumers," according to the aforelinked ZDNet report. Glad to hear your intentions are so pure, but the legislation is on the table, and its loopholes are too glaring to ignore thanks only to good intentions. Don't let the Internet suffer from deregulation the same way radio stations and newspapers have for the past decade; make your voice heard. Click here for Google's tips on how to contact your district's Representative. Hey, you like Google, don'tcha? -Sam Machkovech

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