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Google dips fingers into politics

Attempting to influence US legislation

Google has formed a political action committee to exert pressure on the US Congress and promote legislation that benefits the company.

The group, called Google NetPAC, saw the light last Thursday, when Google registered it with the US Federal Election Commission, a Google spokesman confirmed via email.

"Google NetPAC will support officeholders and candidates who share Google's goal of preserving and promoting the internet as a free and open platform for information, communication, and innovation," the spokesman wrote.

A key legislative and regulatory concern for Google is net neutrality. Its executives favour a law to force broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast to give all traffic on their networks the same quality of service and speed.

In addition to Google, other internet companies like Yahoo, eBay and Amazon support net neutrality and want Congress to prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading web content and services from potential competitors.

Opponents, which include broadband providers and network equipment vendors like Cisco and Qualcomm, say a net neutrality law will let internet companies like Google continue to ride for 'free' on broadband networks.

Such a law will prevent broadband providers from charging web companies new fees for higher speeds and a better quality of service, money needed to build faster networks for new bandwidth-intensive services like internet TV, net neutrality opponents say. If companies like Google don't pay extra, then broadband providers will have to increase fees to consumers, they say.

Other regulatory and legislative issues that are likely of concern for Google include internet privacy, stock-option accounting, law-enforcement access to search engine records and copyright protection.

Google also hired former Republican senators Dan Coats and Connie Mack as outside lobbyists, the Google spokesman confirmed. "We've hired outside firms from across the political spectrum that offer effective expertise to communicate our policy messages," he wrote.

Other high-tech companies with political action committees include Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and AOL's parent company Time Warner.

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