An impressive array of tech titans has joined the It'sOurNet coalition. Among them: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, Amazon, and IAC/Interactive. They're banding together to fight for rules aimed at preventing what they say would be discrimination by telephone and cable companies in directing Web traffic. The group has enlisted a diverse cadre of supporters, from the conservative Christian Coalition, to the liberal, to consumer-minded groups like the Consumer Union.

But for all that seemingly formidable firepower, the coalition has had a tough time finding support in Washington. In particular, it's struggled to enlist the aid of the many lobbyists who can make all the difference in getting a message to the right legislator at the right time.

Why? Established telecom and cable companies, well-versed in the ways of Washington, are sitting on the opposite side of the policy issue. And they have succeeded in locking up some of the lobbyists most qualified to tackle telecom issues on the Hill. It's difficult to find a top-notch telecom expert without a conflict of interest. "Even if they aren't working this issue for a cable [or telecom] company, they'll say they can't do it," says Maura Corbett, a partner with Qorvis Communications who is in charge of coordinating the tech companies' fight.

At stake are rules that would prohibit phone companies and cable-TV operators, which oversee the vast networks that send information around the Internet, from favoring some types of Web traffic over others. Google, Yahoo, and friends are pressing for what they call "Net neutrality" rules that would bar operators from charging different fees for varying levels of service. Phone companies like Verizon and AT&T and cable operators such as Comcast oppose government restrictions on how they run their networks.

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