From Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley, it's become one of the most controversial and confusing topics to hit the tech industry this year: network neutrality. The term is confusing, the ad campaigns have further clouded the issue, and it's no longer easy to tell who's for it and who's not.

Whatever becomes of the concept could affect what you pay for connectivity, the sites you'll have access to and the types of services (think video, music and Internet phone offerings) you'll be able to use.

Net neutrality is the push to prohibit a pay-for-speed Internet pricing structure that the cable and phone companies -- those that provide high-speed Internet connections -- have proposed.

To better understand it all, go back to the old "information superhighway" analogy, where the phone and cable lines that connect your computer to the Web are the on-ramps to that highway. Should the companies who built those on-ramps -- Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. in the Washington region -- be allowed to impose a toll system that charges Web companies such as Google Inc. a higher fee to reach your computer faster than its competitors, such as Yahoo Inc.?

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