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By The Skanner News
Published: 10 May 2006

If a server has ever censored your e-mail, if you have ever been blocked by a search engine from looking at a Web site or a blog, or if you have ever been prevented from receiving an incoming message because of its content, there's a meeting you might want to attend.

Proposals being discussed by Congress could take away your right to communicate freely over the Internet. At the heart of the problem is the "network neutrality" principle, which allows users free access to any Web sites and search engines. Without "net neutrality," users might be barred from certain sites unless they paid for them or unless the sites themselves paid the companies providing the Internet service.

The Oregon Alliance to Reform Media will host a meeting to discuss the problem from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, in Studio A at Portland Community Media, 2766 N.E. Martin Luther King Blvd.

Laura Etherton, consumer advocate for OSPIRG, will discuss how the proposed legislation could undermine the Internet's open access principle and threaten civic participation and free speech.

Jeff Bissonnette, chair of Portland Community Media, will explore how local community organizations could lose millions of dollars in communications resources if the proposed legislation is approved.

Mary Beth Henry, deputy director of the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, will talk about how local government's role in managing the communications infrastructure would be pre-empted by the proposals.

Among the impacts that could be felt by the community could be:

• Portland and Multnomah County residents could lose $2 million a year in funds dedicated to supporting local communications technology and community access channels.

• Local enforcement of customer service standards would go to the Federal CommunicationsComm-ission; public safety concerns and citizens' complaints would be handled by a federal bureaucracy.

• The network neutrality principle would be abandoned.

• Universal service and "anti-redlining"policies would be eliminated, allowing communications companies to serve only parts of a community instead of requiring service to all of the community, no matter the income level.

• The Community Access Capital Grant Program would be eliminated. During the past eight years of funding, nearly $6 million has gone to community organizations, schools, libraries and local governments for public access media.

For more information, contact Julie S. Omelchuck, 503-823-4188, or write her at [email protected], or visit the Oregon Alliance to Reform Media Web site at www.oregonarm.org.

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