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The fact that the committee tied on the amendment is considered an indication that the Senate may also be split and that conditions are ripe for a dogfight.
Among the senators leading the fight for Net neutrality is Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has publicly said he would oppose any effort to have the full Senate consider the telecom bill without the amendment. Wyden's statement to the Senate following the committee vote was seen by some observers as an indication that he would try for a filibuster if the current bill moved forward.
"I believe these changes are so important, mean so much to our country, it ought to be possible for the Senate to slow this down and take the time to really consider what the implications are of a badly flawed piece of legislation with respect to its treatment of the Internet," Wyden said before the Senate.
Supporters outside the Senate are also not standing still. MoveOn.org Civic Action on Thursday sent emails to constituents within the states of senators on the committee who voted against the amendment, urging them to call their senator's office to object to the vote. MoveOn.org is part of the Save The Internet.com alliance that also includes the Christian Coalition.
Groups against a Net neutrality amendment are also unlikely to be silent. Besides the heavy lobbying efforts by telephone and cable companies, such as Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., groups such as the Computing Technology Industry Association are expected to fight hard to get the telecom bill on the Senate floor.
"We commend the Senate's work yesterday, and look forward to helping its passage on the Senate floor," ComTIA said in a statement released Thursday.
Aside from the Net neutrality issue, a major provision of the telecom reform bill would make it easier for telephone companies to seek approval for launching TV services that could compete against cable operators. The bill would require states to streamline the process to 90 days.
Proponents of the Net neutrality amendment, which include Internet giants Yahoo and Google, say it is necessary to keep the Internet open to startups and smaller companies that couldn't afford fees for faster delivery of services. Opponents argue that the law is unnecessary since there's no indication that companies that own today's broadband networks would discriminate against companies that didn't pay for higher bandwidth.
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