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PORTLAND -- Sen. Ron Wyden today joined large and small business owners, labor leaders and consumer advocates in calling on Congress to protect Network Neutrality -- the endangered principle that ensures all Web sites and services are treated equally.

"The powerful interests that control the pipes are trying to take control of the Internet away from their consumers by creating discriminatory networks that play favorites," said Senator Wyden, the first member of Congress to introduce legislation protecting Net Neutrality. "Over the past decade, Oregon businesses, consumers, and political activists have come to rely on the Internet as a free and open forum to buy, sell or simply exchange ideas. We can't afford to let discrimination rule the Internet, which is why I'll continue fighting to ensure Net Neutrality."

The press conference took place at Powell's Books in Portland, where Wyden was greeted by local business owners, representatives of Google, Yahoo! and E-Bay, the Oregon Alliance to Reform Media, and local members of the Coalition, who delivered more than 20,000 petitions from Oregon residents supporting Net Neutrality.

"For 35 years, Powell's Books has prided itself on keeping ideas in circulation, providing our community with access to the wealth of information on our shelves," said Michael Powell, the store's longtime owner. "Net Neutrality seeks to maintain that same freedom of access online, now and in the future."

Big telephone and cable companies like AT&T, Qwest and Comcast have spent millions lobbying Congress to eliminate Net Neutrality, the longstanding principle that prevents Internet service providers from discriminating against content or services traveling over their wires based on which companies pay them the most.

"Our Web site hosting customers are often the entrepreneurs and businesspeople whose innovative applications make the Internet the thriving environment it is," said Rich Bader, president and CEO of Oregon's EasyStreet Online Services. "They are dependent on unfettered access to all Internet users. It is essential, especially in this time of consolidation of Internet Service Providers and telecommunications firms, that Congress enact legislation ensuring Net Neutrality remains a cornerstone of our Internet in the future."

Congress is now considering a major overhaul of the nation's telecommunications laws (H.R. 5252) that fails to protect Net Neutrality. Senator Wyden has placed a hold on this legislation until clear language is included in the bill to protect Net Neutrality. He is also a co-sponsor of a bipartisan Net Neutrality measure offered this spring by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

"The key to the Internet's growth and success has been its inherent openness and freedom," said Alan Davidson of Google. "Senator Wyden has been among the strongest voices fighting to protect the freedom of Internet users. We applaud his efforts to preserve Network Neutrality and to make sure any Internet content can be accessed free of restrictions."

Net Neutrality is supported by a diverse, growing coalition of big and small businesses, unions, educators, thousands of bloggers and every major consumer group in the country. More than 750 organizations from across the political spectrum have come together as the Coalition, including Free Press, U.S. PIRG, the Christian Coalition, MoveOn, Consumers Union, Gun Owners of America, ACLU and the American Library Association. has collected more than 1.2 million petition signatures nationwide.

"In Oregon, as elsewhere, the advance of media consolidation has virtually forced independent musicians and artists into the Internet-driven marketing technologies," said Bruce Fife, member of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 99 and Oregon Alliance to Reform Media. "If a few corporations are allowed to control access and delivery of information over the internet, independent voices won't be able to reach a wide audience."

"If the big phone and cable companies succeed in taking over the Internet," added Laura Etherton of OSPIRG, "content from public interest organizations, small companies, political movements, independent artists, filmmakers and musicians would be relegated to traveling on slower lanes. The Internet should work for everyone, not just for the big telephone and cable companies. As the debate continues, we urge Congress to listen to the public and preserve Net Neutrality."

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