Technology News: Net Neutrality Bill Could Raises Costs For FIs

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A bill introduced in Congress seeks to ensure "net neutrality" by preventing telecommunications operators and broadband providers from creating a tiered system of premium services, which could boost costs for financial service providers and other premium users of Internet services.

The Network Neutrality Act, sponsored by Rep. Edward Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, would also bar telecom companies and cable operators from favoring one provider's web traffic or their own content over another's by ensuring faster downloads to companies that pay higher fees. Net neutrality has become a stealth issue on Capitol Hill, and especially among financial services providers who worry that telecom companies could start charging higher fees for unlimited access to high-speed Internet services, like those required for online transactions.

A broad coalition of tech companies, like eBay, Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com, as well as advocacy groups and consumer organizations have expressed some of the concerns addressed by Markey in his bill, such as the possibility of a tiered system. But telecom companies, like AT&T, Bell South and Verizon, maintain that legislation is unnecessary and would compromise the quality of service. They argue they should be able to charge higher fees to companies who want faster service, especially for VoIP, or voice over internet protocol, or TV over Internet. A coalition of financial companies is trying to bring the issue to the attention of the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee.

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