As the long debate over net neutrality closes in on a watershed decision, Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to compromise on how to protect the open internet.
Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet should be a free-for-all informational playground that provides same-speed access to all users, where Exxon and Joe the Plumber have an equal shot at reaching consumers. Without it, internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T could sell priority listings to the highest bidder or block those who don't pay, effectively squeezing out the basement start-up businessman in favor of wealthy corporations.
In countries with questionable free speech, net neutrality overlaps with human rights -- for example China banning Google in order to keep its citizens in the dark about the Tiananmen Square Massacre or Egypt pulling Twitter in the Arab Spring. At home, the regulation of internet companies has embroiled politicians in a finer struggle over how to maintain fair access for all without giving government too much control.
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