[article] Defeat for net neutrality backers

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from : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5063072.stm

US politicians have rejected attempts to enshrine the principle of net
neutrality in legislation.
Some fear the decision will mean net providers start deciding on
behalf of customers which websites and services they can visit and

The vote is a defeat for Google, eBay and Amazon which wanted the net
neutrality principle protected by law.

All three mounted vigorous lobbying campaigns prior to the vote in the
House of Representatives.

The rejection of the principle of net neutrality came during a debate
on the wide-ranging Communications Opportunity, Promotion and
Enhancement Act (Cope Act).

Among other things, this aims to make it easier for telecoms firms to
offer video services around America by replacing 30,000 local
franchise boards with a national system overseen by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC).

Representative Fred Upton, head of the House telecommunications
subcommittee, said competition could mean people save $30 to $40 each
month on their net access fees.

An amendment to the Act tried to add clauses that would demand net
service firms treat equally all the data passing through their cables.

The amendment was thought to be needed after the FCC ripped up its
rules that guaranteed net neutrality.

During the debate House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said that
without the amendment "telecommunications and cable companies will be
able to create toll lanes on the information superhighway".

"This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the
internet," she added.
Critics of the amendment said it would bring in unnecessary government

Prior to the vote net firms worried about the effect of the amendment
on their business lobbied hard in favour of the amendment. They fear
their sites will become hard to reach or that they will be forced to
pay to guarantee that they can get through to web users.

Meg Whitman, eBay chief executive, e-mailed more than one million
members of the auction site asking them to back the idea of net
neutrality. Google boss Eric Schmidt called on staff at the search
giant to support the idea, and film stars such as Alyssa Milano also
backed the amendment.

The ending of net neutrality rules also spurred the creation of
activism sites such as Save The Internet and Its Our Net.

Speaking at a conference in late May, web creator Tim Berners-Lee
warned that the net faced entering a "dark period" if access suppliers
were allowed to choose which traffic to prioritise.

The amendment was defeated by 269 votes to 152 and the Cope Act was
passed by 321-101 votes.

The debate over the issue now moves to the US Senate where the
Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will vote on its
version of the act in late June. The debate in that chamber is also
likely to centre on issues of net neutrality.


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