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US Senate committee in Vt. hears of net neutrality - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

US Senate committee in Vt. hears of net neutrality

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The internet, for many, has become as synonymous with everyday life as cars and TV. But some say a new debate over net neutrality could threaten that.

"An online world that is split into fast lanes and slow lanes or pay to play deals that can dictate who reaches consumers is contrary to ever single principal I thought the internet was based on," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Leahy chairs the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee held a field hearing Tuesday at the University of Vermont to discuss what Leahy says could be the demise of the open internet.

Under proposed new rules by the Federal Communications Commission, big internet providers like Comcast and Verizon would be able to sell faster bandwidth to content providers such as Amazon and Netflix, corporations that could afford it.

"I don't want to see an internet that’s divided into the haves and the have-nots. I don't want to see an internet where those who can afford to pay can muffle the voices of those who cannot," Leahy said.

Smaller business owners like Cabot Orton, proprietor of the Vermont Country Store, says his company won't be able to keep up with big companies who can pay for faster service.

"We don't want to imagine an America with two internets-- a fast one for giant corporations, a slow one for everybody else," Orton said.

But Ric Messier of Champlain College says the debate has been blown out of proportion. He says the internet has never been free and open. People have always had to pay for not only access, but speed.

"Businesses can always pay for more bandwidth from their provider; that's the way it's always been. You're always going to get as much bandwidth as you pay for," Messier said.

But Leahy is proposing a law that would require the FCC to ban so-called paid prioritization agreements between broadband suppliers and content providers.

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