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Whose Net Is It? Courts May Have To Decide

When Internet pioneer Lawrence G. Roberts was developing the technology for the first computer networks, he and his collaborators did not envision video transmissions, but they did predict a demand for equal access.

"We anticipated that there would be a need for equal access and tried to build that into the structure so it would be very hard to avoid," he said in an interview this week.

Now that the Internet has become a necessary communication tool, a multimedia platform, and a high-tech combination town square/international bazaar, millions of Americans are in a battle over who gets access and how.

Federal authorities and hardware companies are trying to ensure that the government can monitor what is taking place on the Internet. Telecommunications companies are trying to hold onto their ability to charge customers what they want. Internet-spawned companies like Google, Amazon and eBay have joined with bloggers, musicians and others pushing for legislative guarantees that the Internet will remain the open forum it is today.

Most noticeably, the argument is playing out in Congress, where net neutrality provisions failed to pass the U.S. House of Representatives. The issue is expected to go before the Senate next week.

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