Who does Net neutrality benefit?

Washington wasted no time in the new year getting back to the business of Net neutrality. Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2007 last week.

The bill came less than two weeks after AT&T conceded to network neutrality commitments in its merger with BellSouth.

The bill seeks to ensure that broadband service providers don't "interfere with, discriminate against, impair, or degrade" any Internet applications--in particular by charging more for certain services or content.

Snowe said the legislation would help keep the Internet in the hands of users, "not a few gatekeepers." Dorgan and Snowe introduced similar legislation last year, but it never made it to a vote.

Net neutrality would seem to be a pet project of the new Democratic majority. Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Hillary Clinton of New York, Tom Harkin of Iowa, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Barack Obama of Illinois are co-sponsoring this latest bill.

Opponents of Net neutrality say the legislation benefits large Web companies like Google, while forcing consumers to bear the cost of upgrading U.S. communications networks.

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