Concerns Emerge Over Net Neutrality

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WASHINGTON – The growing debate over so-called net neutrality is raising concerns among credit unions and others who fear Internet service providers could choose to charge users more for certain types of services, such as financial transactions.

“We have concerns that large institutions could gain some advantage over smaller institutions if Internet service providers are allowed to charge higher rates,” said Brad Thaler, senior lobbyist for NAFCU, who pointed out that such a fee structure could put credit unions at a significant disadvantage at a time when increasing numbers of transactions are moving to the Internet.

The issue has emerged in recent weeks amid an agreement between Internet giant Google and Internet service provider Verizon suggesting that the government impose net-neutrality regulations on wired Internet connections but exempt separate, add-on services from those rules. The rules would be waived for wireless services, although carriers would have to disclose what sites or services they hinder or prioritize.

In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed a framework that would give it jurisdiction over cyberspace so it could bar service providers from setting separate tiers for their pricing.

NAFCU’s Thaler said he expects lawmakers to take up the issue in the near future, if not this year, then in the next Congress, with hearings or some legislative initiative.

A broad-based coalition to fight for net neutrality has emerged to fight efforts to tier Internet rates. The coalition includes a variety of consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and U.S. Public Interest Group, as well as hundreds of small business groups, religious associations, video gamers and local Internet service providers.

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