BATTLE FOR FUTURE OF THE INTERNET

By Gail Russell Chaddock, The Christian Science Monitor,

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2006 - Call it a battle for the future of the Internet.

As the Senate takes up the first overhaul of the nation's telecommunications laws in a decade, this week's debate will pitch one of the most unlikely lineups in recent political history against an entrenched industry lobby.

On one side: the big phone companies and cable providers, who want Congress to help them speed up the move into the video market and keep government regulation at a minimum. It's one of the most well-funded and experienced industry groups on Capitol Hill.

On the other side: those who use their services, who want Congress to make sure that the Internet does not become a fast lane for those who can pay - and a dirt road for those who can not. The Save the Internet Coalition includes Google Inc., Amazon.com, Microsoft, and eBay, thousands of bloggers, and more than 700 groups. It's one of the most diverse coalitions ever to lobby a bill.

At stake is whether the Baby Bells and cable companies can charge more for fast, reliable service or “discriminate” against online competitors. Groups ranging from the Christian Coalition, Gunowners of America, and Moveon.org - which are bookends on most other issues - want the government to ensure “network neutrality.”

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