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4/30/2007
03:24 PM
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Big Apple Weighs In On Net Neutrality

Speakers at New York City hearing urge Congress to legislate a free and open Internet.

New York City will vote on a resolution urging Congress to pass network neutrality legislation.

City Council member Gale Brewer, a Manhattan Democrat, held a hearing Monday on the resolution, which she introduced. Those testifying in support of the net neutrality resolution include Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, who submitted written comments; Timothy Karr, campaign director for Free Press; Timothy Wu, the Columbia University Law School professor who coined the phrase "net neutrality"; and Henning Schulzrinne, chairman of Columbia's computer science department.

"I am already concerned about New Yorkers having access to the Internet without them having to pay ridiculous fees," Brewer said in a prepared statement. "The Internet is too expensive for many of our city's residents. We must urge Congress to take the necessary step and legislate protections against companies limiting the services available to Internet users."

Karr said that more 1.5 million people wrote Congress last year to urge passage of net neutrality legislation, which he called "the First Amendment of the Internet."

"As Congress prepares new legislation in 2007, they must hear from cities how important this issue is to keeping the Internet open to new ideas, fostering economic innovation, and encouraging competition," he said. "New York City can lead the way by passing a resolution in support of net neutrality."

Hands Off The Internet, a group resisting such legislation, opposes government regulation of a market it claims provides consumer choice, freedom, fair pricing, and diverse experience.

The group -- which includes the American Conservative Union, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Citizens Against Government Waste, manufacturers, and network operators -- did not answer the phone at its headquarters or return calls for comment immediately Monday. Its rival, SavetheInternet.com, also boasts membership that spans the political spectrum.

Hands Off The Internet's Web site says that companies raced to develop high-speed Internet access systems, including cable wire, DSL, and wireless, in "competition in its purest form."

"We directly benefited consumers through lower prices," the Web site states. "The Internet has succeeded because of the minimal legislative and regulatory impact placed upon it. This has led to expanded consumer choices and greater capital investment."

Hands Off The Internet states that if government regulates one aspect of the Internet, "that will be the start of a never-ending flood of legislation and regulation.

"This, in turn, will undoubtedly change the fundamental landscape, characteristics and freedom that we have long come to expect and appreciate from the Internet," the group's Web site states.

Schulzrinne said net neutrality legislation would not prevent improved quality of service. Instead, it would allow more applications to flourish because of improvements, "without the carrier picking the winners," Schulzrinne said.

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