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A legislative bid to prevent US network operators from introducing discriminatory pricing for their own services has been defeated at the sub-committee phase in the lower house.

The proposed legislation, an amendment to the Telecommunications Act, would have outlawed an ISP from "offering varied service plans to users at defined levels of bandwidth and different prices". It was voted down by the House's Energy and Commerce Committee's telecom subcommittee.

Late last month a lengthier proposal by Rep.Joe Barton (Tx, R) , which mandated specific protection for Voice over IP (VoIP) services, was also voted down. Yesterday's amendment was tabled by Reps. Edward Markey (Mass, D), Rick Boucher (Va, D) and two others.

The amendment won the support of the largest internet companies Google, Amazon,com, eBay, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Barry Diller's InterActive Corp, which owns around 20 properties including TicketMaster, Match.com and Ask.com.

The former Bells are investing heavily to ensure their pipes are ready for potentially lucrative services such as IPTV, in a bid to leapfrog the cable business.

With the US telecoms landscape coalescing back into a duopoly of AT&T and Verizon, the net neutrality movement seeks to enshrine important operating principles in law.

However, there's little or no money in traditional IP offerings, with "AmaYahGooBay" scooping off most of the gravy - and legislation which not only deters investment in high speed networks but outlaws basic business practices such as tiered service was never likely to succeed.

(Quite apart from the somewhat rallying cry of "Give us neutrality, or give us death!" Hint to net lobbyists: campaigns usually succeed when they're for something.)

So the US could end-up with the worst of all worlds. Telecoms gatekeepers who connive to charge monopoly rent for bandwidth, and a network infastructure far slower than the United States' economic rivals. ®

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