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State officials join net neutrality scrum

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Two US states have been dragged into the net neutrality battle as the dispute widens to state-level officials. Later this week a Senate panel will vote on net neutrality legislation, and two state attorneys general have lent their support to a neutral internet.

In a letter to the US Senate Commerce Committee, New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer has backed Google, eBay and other internet companies who are calling for a ban on ISPs cutting deals with some web firms to give them preferential access to users over their networks.

California's attorney general Bill Lockyer has also backed the pro-neutrality side of the debate. A spokesman said although Lockyer did not endorse any specific bill, he supports net neutrality principles in general.

The battle in the US is between those, largely Republicans, who want telecoms firms to be able to cut deals with internet firms to give them faster, preferential access to customers homes, and those who do not.

Telcos argue they are entitled to charge firms for this treatment because they have invested so much in broadband network infrastructure. Others, largely Democrats, argue that the internet is based on a principle of equality of information and that telcos should be banned from offering improved information delivery service to those who can pay for it.

A number of bills and amendments on the topic are currently under consideration by US lawmakers. The Communications, Consumers' Choice and broadband Deployment Act is due to be debated this week, but the proposed Freedom Preservation Act is likely to be offered as an amendment to it, outlawing the cutting of special data delivery deals.

"Congress must not permit the ongoing consolidation of the telecommunications industry to work radical and perhaps irrevocable change in the free and neutral nature of the internet," wrote Spitzer in his letter.

US states elect their attorney generals, who have party affiliations. Spitzer is a Democrat and is running for election as governor of New York this autumn.

See: Spitzer's letter (3 page/118KB PDF)

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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