Financial And Internet Neutrality Bid Fails

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Financial and Internet services providers were vowing last week to take their fight to the Senate, after the House approved a telecommunications bill absent a provision that would ensure that targeted users of high-speed Internet access could not be charged higher fees for critical services, like broadband.

A broad-based coalition calling itself "It's Our Net" and including Internet powers like Google, Yahoo, eBay and several financial service providers, failed to get a provision ensuring "net neutrality" into the bill but were pledging to continue their lobbying efforts as the issue moves over to the Senate.

Credit unions, which have been caught between two giant lobby groups, are particularly concerned that they and other financial service providers could be forced to pay higher rates for high-speed access if telecommunications providers like AT&T, Bell South, Comcast and Verizon choose to charge tiered rates for levels of service.

"NAFCU is concerned with the limitation on network neutrality as Congress considers telecommunications legislation," said Fred Becker, president of the trade group. "The financial services marketplace has evolved into a virtual age where fast and effective online tools help credit unions offer a variety of paperless services."

But there was some optimism as the issues moves to the Senate, even as some Senate leaders indicated the net neutrality provisions will not be included in their bill.

"There still is an opportunity with the Senate measure, to amend or alter that as it goes forward. We hope that some action can be taken before Congress finally and completely acts," said Pat Keefe, a spokesman for CUNA.

The net neutrality amendment would forbid owners of the large networks on which Internet traffic travels from charging different rates to send content.

Those network owners, like AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp. and Comcast Corp., were once forbidden by the Federal Communications Commission from treating varying kinds of content differently in terms of how fast it is sent and if some content is charged for.

But the FCC lifted that rule last summer, and since then many organizations and companies have been gearing up for legislation to replace the FCC rule.

Ed Roberts can be reached at robertscuj

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