No Tolls on The Internet
By Lawrence Lessig and Robert W. McChesney
Thursday, June 8, 2006; A23

Congress is about to cast a historic vote on the future of the Internet. It will decide whether the Internet remains a free and open technology fostering innovation, economic growth and democratic communication, or instead becomes the property of cable and phone companies that can put toll booths at every on-ramp and exit on the information superhighway.

At the center of the debate is the most important public policy you’ve probably never heard of: “network neutrality.” Net neutrality means simply that all like Internet content must be treated alike and move at the same speed over the network. The owners of the Internet’s wires cannot discriminate. This is the simple but brilliant “end-to-end” design of the Internet that has made it such a powerful force for economic and social good: All of the intelligence and control is held by producers and users, not the networks that connect them.

The protections that guaranteed network neutrality have been law since the birth of the Internet — right up until last year, when the Federal Communications Commission eliminated the rules that kept cable and phone companies from discriminating against content providers. This triggered a wave of announcements from phone company chief executives that they plan to do exactly that.

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