The debate over network neutrality is heating up as a congressional committee prepares to take the issue up next week.
The US House Judiciary Committee's Task Force on Telecommunications and Antitrust is holding a hearing Tuesday on whether the Internet should operate like a utility, with equal service, or whether providers should be able to provided tiered access and pricing.
Columbia Law School Professor Timothy Wu, who recently co-wrote a book on Internet control, is scheduled to speak. In the past, Wu has argued that consumers should be the ones to choose which sites are best. He has also argued that the Internet is as successful as it is because users have a great deal of freedom. Provider-imposed restrictions would make the Internet a less valuable product, he said.
Walter B. McCormick, president and CEO of the United States Telecom Association, Paul Misener, vice president of Global Public Policy for Amazon.com and Earl W. Comstock, president and CEO of COMPTEL are also scheduled to testify at the hearing.
Telecommunications and cable companies argue that they provide access, through infrastructure they own and maintain, and therefore should be able to set rates according to what the market will bear. According to their argument, tiered access would fuel greater investment in expanding capacity and improving service.
MoveOn.org is urging its 3 million members to send letters demanding that network access remain neutral, and Google's Internet chief Vint Cerf has spoken out against tiered access.
Blogger and VoIP promoter Jeff Pulver, on the other hand, is urging a new kind of grassroots movement among Internet pioneers. He is backing a viral marketing contest to urge congressional representatives to "Save the Internet" as a level playing field.
"We are allegedly the revolutionaries of the Internet and communications," he tells website visitors. "Shouldn't we be the ones revolutionising the way advocacy is done and communicated in the 21st Century? We might not have the lobbying muscle, money, resources or connections of the entrenched players in the communications debate, but we surely have the individual and collective will and creativity to transform the debate."
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