(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Joelle Davis is a Tualatin resident.)

'Net neutrality' is a concept that most Americans don't know about. It's essentially the First Amendment for the Internet - allowing Web users to go where they want and do what they please online. This democratic standard is why the Internet has become a revolutionary force for economic innovation and new ideas.

How does this affect you? Say you're looking for vital health-care information, or you're a home-schooling parent - without Net neutrality, you will have slower access, or even zero access to certain Web sites, and a poor quality experience unless those sites pay up to 'big telecom.'

Say you're a small business. Without Net neutrality, your chances of surviving online will be slim to none, unless you can afford to pay off the likes of Verizon and Comcast.

Say you're a school, house of worship or nonprofit organization - without Net neutrality, you won't be able to get your message out to students, congregants or interested parties without ponying up to 'big telecom' extortion.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the deceitfully named CORA, or Communications Opportunity Promotion and Enhancement Act. The only 'opportunity' this bill provides is exclusively for 'big telecom.'

They will have the opportunity to line their pockets with more of your money. They want to keep you from benefiting from the innovations of open, neutral Internet.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden recently introduced a new bill, the Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006, which would guarantee that these companies will never be allowed to block, degrade or modify online traffic, never be allowed to extort money from content providers to get quicker access to consumers, while allowing consumers choices in how they access the Internet by way of access devices, access rate transparency and non-discriminatory services.

This bill goes further in protecting our rights as consumers to use spam, spyware and pop-up blocking software and services. It gives emergency communications priority treatment and allows network operators to assist law enforcement in preventing the transmission of illegal content like child pornography.

Large cable and telephone companies are planning to do away with Net neutrality. They're asking Congress to pass the CORA legislation that allows them to control what Web sites get priority over everything else and which ones are left behind. The CORA bill does nothing to protect you as a consumer from fraud, computer viruses, pedophiles, piracy or ultimately higher rates for your Internet access.

Please urge our members of Congress to support Net neutrality by voting against CORA, and voting for Wyden's INDA 2006. Anyone who cares about preserving freedom should fight for it today.

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