EBay Marshals Members For Net Neutrality


Online auctioneer eBay raised its bid on network neutrality this week by sending 1 million-plus call-to-action e-mails to its members.


In the e-mail, authored by President and CEO Meg Whitman, eBay urged its
members to bombard Washington with e-mails and calls protesting efforts by
broadband providers to create a two-tiered Internet.


Ebay spokesman Catherine England declined to disclose how many e-mails were
actually sent, “but I can confirm that it was over 1 million.”


Under the two-lane plan, the two dominant broadband providers in the U.S. — telephone and cable companies — would charge an extra fee to content,
service and application providers based on bandwidth consumption.


“Right now, the telephone and cable companies in control of Internet access
are trying to use their enormous political muscle to dramatically change the
Internet,” Whitman wrote.

“It might be hard to believe, but lawmakers in
Washington are seriously debating whether consumers should be free to use
the Internet as they want in the future.”


Whitman characterized the broadband providers’ scheme as a “Pay-to-Play
high-speed toll road restricted to only the largest companies that can
afford to pay high fees for preferential access to the Net.


“The bottom tier — the slow lane — would be what is left for
everyone else. If the fast lane is the information ‘super-highway,’ the slow
lane will operate more like a dirt road.”


AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said Whitman’s e-mail contained “misleading
half-truths and utter falsehoods.”


The telecom giant contends the proposed pricing model is essential to bringing
IPTV to the market as a competitor to cable television. Statutory network
neutrality provisions, AT&T claims, would hamper those efforts.


“The online giants are lobbying for legislation that would deny consumers
these new video services and force consumers to pay the entire costs of a
bigger and better broadband Internet,” Balmoris said in an e-mail to
internetnews.com.

“We are confident that lawmakers will vote for
video choice over higher broadband rates for consumers.”


The testy exchange comes as Congress enters a critical stage in lawmakers’
proposed telecom reform legislation.


The House Commerce Committee passed legislation in
April that would leave questions of network neutrality to the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC).

A similar bill in the
Senate would leave network neutrality to further FCC study.


Both bills call for national video franchising for IPTV. Key votes on the
issue are scheduled in the next few weeks.


Network neutrality proponents are seeking specific legislative language that
would prohibit broadband providers from price discrimination in handling
network traffic.


“A two-lane system will restrict innovation because start-ups and small
companies — the companies that can’t afford the high fees — will be unable
to succeed, and we’ll lose out on the jobs, creativity and inspiration that
come with them,” Whitman wrote.


“The power belongs
with Internet users, not the big phone and cable companies. Let’s use that
power to send as many messages as possible to our elected officials in
Washington.”

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