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The E3 Experience

The headline of the ad read:

"'Net neutrality' means the big dot-coms won't pay anything toward building the next generation of the Internet. Guess who will?"

It goes on to say that "big online businesses" want and need more bandwidth but "don't want to pay for it" and instead want Congress to prevent telecom companies from charging them "their fair share."

This is so wrong, I'm not sure where to start. Has the author of this thing asked Google or Amazon to total up their bandwidth costs lately? These companies aren't mooching off their neighbors' wireless connections. They collectively pay billions of dollars to ensure that their sites are accessible full time. (Entire companies have gone into business just to ensure that.) You, in turn, pay for the bandwidth needed to get their content into your home. If you used so much bandwidth that your Internet provider got stressed, it could pad out your bill accordingly.

Then there's the identification of the purchaser of this ad -- a group called "Hands Off the Internet". That sounds like some fierce defender of human rights but it is really a coalition dominated by the largest telecom carriers: AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular. Oh, wait, AT&T owns half of Cingular and is trying to buy BellSouth, which owns the other half. (The "About Us" page on that site also lists the National Association of Manufacturers, plus some small manufacturers of telecom hardware, a couple of conservative lobbies -- Citizens Against Government Waste and the American Conservative Union -- and a bunch of other lobbies that I've never heard of before.)

It's fair to say that Congress should not limit the right of private businesses to negotiate whatever contracts they see fit. But to suggest that Internet retailers and publishers are getting online for free is idiotic. You should feel insulted that anybody expects you to believe such obvious nonsense.

Weekend Wrap

My column yesterday reviews a few different ways to download video online -- the new (and generally awful) movie-purchase options at CinemaNow and Movielink, plus the free, far more appealing TV-viewing options from AOL and ABC.

In Web Watch, Frank Ahrens notes an updated version of one of the oldest surviving peer-to-peer services and the growth of social-networking sites. We've got a survey of new developments in portable GPS receivers. And my Help File column suggests ways to view your digital photos on a high-definition television and outlines three ways to shut down a crashed program on a Mac.

Lastly, it's that time again: I'll be online at 2 p.m. Monday to answer your technology questions.

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