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Old 04-05-2006, 03:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Net neutrality under attack

Quote:
Republicans defeat Net neutrality proposal
By Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: April 5, 2006, 3:07 PM PDT

A partisan divide pitting Republicans against Democrats on the question of Internet regulation appears to be deepening.

A Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday defeated a proposal that would have levied extensive regulations on broadband providers and forcibly prevented them from offering higher-speed video services to partners or affiliates.

By an 8-to-23 margin, the committee members rejected a Democratic-backed "Net neutrality" amendment to a current piece of telecommunications legislation. The amendment had attracted support from companies including Amazon.com, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, and their chief executives wrote a last-minute letter to the committee on Wednesday saying such a change to the legislation was "critical."

Before the vote, amendment sponsor Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, assailed his Republican colleagues. "We're about to break with the entire history of the Internet," Markey said. "Everyone should understand that."

This philosophical rift extends beyond the precise wording of the telecommunications legislation. It centers on whether broadband providers will be free to design their networks as they see fit and enjoy the latitude to prioritize certain types of traffic--such as streaming video--over others. (In an interview last week with CNET News.com, Verizon Chief Technology Officer Mark Wegleitner said prioritization is necessary to make such services economically viable.)

After a day of debate, the committee went on to vote 27-4 in favor of approving the final bill--minus the Democrats' amendment--sending it onward to full committee consideration, expected in late April. The vote on the amendment itself did not occur strictly along party lines, with one Republican voting in favor and four Democrats voting against the bill.

Leading Republicans have dismissed concerns about Net neutrality, also called network neutrality, as simultaneously overblown and overly vague.

"This is not Chicken Little, the sky is not falling, we're not going to change the direction of the axis of the earth on this vote," said Rep. John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican. He said overregulatory Net neutrality provisions would amount to picking winners and losers in the marketplace and discourage investment in faster connections that will benefit consumers.

Last week, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton said: "Before we get too far down the road, I want to let the market kind of sort itself out, and I'm not convinced that we really have a problem with Net neutrality."

Barton and other Republican leaders of the House panel did, however, offer some modest changes to a telecommunications bill in response to concerns from Internet and software companies.

Their replacement bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to vet all complaints of violations of Net neutrality principles within 90 days. It gave the FCC the power to levy fines of up to $500,000 per violation.

It also contained explicit language denying the FCC the authority to make new rules on Net neutrality. Democrats charged that lack of enforcement power would mean the FCC would be unable to deal with the topic flexibly.

Rep. Charles Pickering, a Mississippi Republican, backed that less-regulatory approach, saying that a "case-by-case adjudicatory process" is the best way to address Net neutrality concerns while ensuring competition in the marketplace.

The amendment that was rejected on Wednesday took a similar approach to strict Net neutrality legislation introduced in the Senate last month by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden.

It said that any content provider must be awarded bandwidth "with equivalent or better capability than the provider extends to itself or affiliated parties, and without the imposition of any charge." That would likely prohibit any plans by Verizon or other former Bell companies to offer their own video services that would be given priority over other traffic (video is bandwidth-intensive and intolerant of network delays).

"I think this walled garden approach that many network providers would like to create would fundamentally change the way the Internet works and undermine the power of the Net as a force of innovation and change," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat.

Markey warned: '"There is a fundamental choice. It's the choice between the bottleneck designs of a...small handful of very large companies and the dreams and innovations of thousands of online companies and innovators."

By "very large companies," Markey was not referring to Microsoft, which has a market value of $287 billion, but its much smaller political rival Verizon, which has a market value of $101 billion and has opposed Net neutrality mandates. Markey did not appear to be referring to Google, which has a value of $121 billion and has been lobbying on behalf of federal regulations, but to AT&T, which has a value of $105 billion and has opposed them.

A CNET News.com report published last week, however, showed that the Internet industry is being outspent in Washington by more than a 3-to-1 margin.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon spent $230.9 million on politicians from 1998 until the present, while the three Internet companies plus Amazon.com and eBay spent only a combined $71.2 million. (Those figures include lobbying expenditures, individual contributions, political action committees and soft money.)
Sorry, I can't come up with much right now. I'm fucking pissed, and sit here dreaming our reps may just be bargaining. They know better, right? But I fear the reality is my leadership has once again sold us out to the highest bidders without a whisp of a clue about the technology or larger industry beyond electronic fund transfers that stuff their account with contributions.

Obviously, for me this is a big button. Can anyone help prod this toward a discussion?

Time for a 4:15pm beer.
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Old 04-05-2006, 04:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Lately, my first question regarding legislation is "who benefits." That was answered at the end of the article.

Quote:
A CNET News.com report published last week, however, showed that the Internet industry is being outspent in Washington by more than a 3-to-1 margin.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon spent $230.9 million on politicians from 1998 until the present, while the three Internet companies plus Amazon.com and eBay spent only a combined $71.2 million. (Those figures include lobbying expenditures, individual contributions, political action committees and soft money.)
My big button is ethics reform. Did you see that worthless piece of crap both houses are calling 'reform'?
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Old 04-05-2006, 04:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'd have thought the obvious impact of this bill is that it further extends the power of the FCC where it doesn't belong.
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Old 04-05-2006, 05:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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That's a message the carriers and money recipients have been floating, but it's warped. The bill intended to keep the status quo, not change things. What's at risk of changing is the net's historically equal footing for all participants. Bits moving from peer to peer without privileged access beyond your connection speed and network efficiency.

Net neutrality as a law was intended to maintain that equal footing in the face of telecoms wanting to move bits they're paid extra for before bits they have to move for free. The big telecoms and providers want to continue charging the consumer end of the connection, and start charging content providers for privileged access. i.e. company a pays more so squeezes out company b. It upsets the historically equal footing of content providers, which of course means we'll get to watch bidding wars between the big guys and someone new like youtube2 will have a hell of a time getting started. Want to squeeze them out? Pay more for your content to ensure you have priority and their service will suffer. Obviously this favors the carriers and large media interests.

I don't expect problems to hit immediately but it'll be a creep of profits vs. what the public will bear. It'll change the landscape.
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Old 04-05-2006, 05:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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One of the big problems with beginning to allow providers to bid for privledged access to transfers, is that there is no way that the consumer is going to have access to this information without serious digging. All you will know is that Site A is really slow and Site B is quick, affecting the appeal of these sites. Community sites like TFP and Wiki are going to suffer under these kinds of regimes.
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Old 04-05-2006, 07:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Although this is a minor threadjack, isn't there also a movement afoot to move away from unlimited access for consumers, and toward charging by the amount of use?

The phone company never really did that, but that doesn't mean anything.
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Old 04-06-2006, 01:46 AM   #7 (permalink)
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sorry for continuing the threadjack a bit farther...but anyway, my cable internet provider has limits on how much monthly upload and download usage can be. They have never enforced it, but ti is in place and i keep waiting for htem to randomly stick to it...


Now, for the actual thread...It took me a bit to understand it, but if i'm reading correctly, is this basically saying that company A can pay to have its content prioritized over the content of company B...Is that what it's saying? I can see how that would change EVERYTHING about the internet and how it is used....How can Joe blow who is selling widgets even get noticed bc his site's bandwidth is pushed so far back in the queue that it's pretty much inaccessible....

from a business standpoint, i can see how this could make an ass of money, but the damage it would do is just astounding.

amazing...
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Old 04-06-2006, 06:11 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Remember, more government regulation of private industry is a good thing and always keeps prices down.

The government knows whats best for consumers after all, and whats best for business.

We need more rules and we need them now!
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Old 04-06-2006, 06:36 AM   #9 (permalink)
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While I agree in the broad sense Ustwo, the telcos already have a large amout of government regulation proping them up. Basically, if the telcos are allowed to beginning having a tiered structure, then once again the corporations get a government sponsered pat on the head, while the rest of us get a government enforced kick in the ass.
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Old 04-06-2006, 07:33 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RAGEAngel9
While I agree in the broad sense Ustwo, the telcos already have a large amout of government regulation proping them up. Basically, if the telcos are allowed to beginning having a tiered structure, then once again the corporations get a government sponsered pat on the head, while the rest of us get a government enforced kick in the ass.
Based on the current choises for my telco, and internet provider, this is a far cry from the Ma-Bell days in terms of needed regulation. Before we go regulating an industry, it would be good to see what happens first.

Edit:Example I recall. About 5 years ago I was in an crappy apparentment with an even crappier cable company internet. The problem with living in an appartment is they get a contract with some crappy company (for money under the table or whatever) and I couldn't get the very good cable internet that everyone else in the area had. So I wanted to get DSL, but I was pretty far from the node. I was surprised because I was in a very high density area, in a solid middle/upper middle class town. What had happened was the state decided 'in fairness' to force the telco to sell bulk rate DSL lines to competitors who then would market them to the public. Sounds good, you get competition right? Wrong. What they were saying was 'SBC YOU do all the work, you take the risk, they get to profit off of your work.' SBC decided it wasn't worth the money to upgrade the equipment and they didn't put in any new nodes, so I got screwed (I had a friend working for SBC at the time which is how I found it out). So what would sound like a big victory to consumers and the internet hippies, really fucked a lot of people over.
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Last edited by Ustwo; 04-06-2006 at 07:40 AM..
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Old 04-06-2006, 07:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
Based on the current choises for my telco, and internet provider, this is a far cry from the Ma-Bell days in terms of needed regulation. Before we go regulating an industry, it would be good to see what happens first. ...
Whoa. UStwo, I encourage you to research this a bit further. Start by ignoring party lines. This is a very atypical regulation/deregulation issue. Check previous attempts to affect net neutrality that came about through peering disputes, especially during the hungry late 90's. It's never been allowed to happen for many reasons.

Essentially, it allows carriers to bend the ecosystem. As if hyenas were able to ground otherwise unreachable competitor scavengers by decreasing air density. Okay, that's a bit hopeless.

A close analogy would be our roadways. Say we contracted out management and maintenance of roadways to private companies for a few years. The big guys win through efficiency. They maintain them, sell driveway upkeep and access roads to people, and slowly the small contractors go away. Now come rule changes. Up pop toll booths that stop or delay motorists and freight trucks that aren't high bidders. If you can't pony up or are a competitor then your freight isn't making it to walmart until after the carrier's freight partners, or ever.

That's one big scenario net neutrality is meant to prevent. It's been with us since the beginning and has only been bumped against when companies pulled "we're bigger than you so we don't have to move your traffic and we'll bleed you of your customers" tricks. Turf wars of a sort. Until now those were universally met with technical and bipartisan hammer-strokes. This is an effort by the monster carriers to get a green light to set up the toll-booths. The difference now is a few years of financial lubrication in DC.

Edit: I do wish I'd changed the post title. The original article stated this was a republican thing. The reality is that a couple dems also voted for it. Mr. M is a pretty good reporter but he does let bias peek through now and then.
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Last edited by cyrnel; 04-06-2006 at 07:30 PM..
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Old 04-06-2006, 09:28 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrnel
Whoa. UStwo, I encourage you to research this a bit further. Start by ignoring party lines. This is a very atypical regulation/deregulation issue. Check previous attempts to affect net neutrality that came about through peering disputes, especially during the hungry late 90's. It's never been allowed to happen for many reasons.

Essentially, it allows carriers to bend the ecosystem. As if hyenas were able to ground otherwise unreachable competitor scavengers by decreasing air density. Okay, that's a bit hopeless.

A close analogy would be our roadways. Say we contracted out management and maintenance of roadways to private companies for a few years. The big guys win through efficiency. They maintain them, sell driveway upkeep and access roads to people, and slowly the small contractors go away. Now come rule changes. Up pop toll booths that stop or delay motorists and freight trucks that aren't high bidders. If you can't pony up or are a competitor then your freight isn't making it to walmart until after the carrier's freight partners, or ever.

That's one big scenario net neutrality is meant to prevent. It's been with us since the beginning and has only been bumped against when companies pulled "we're bigger than you so we don't have to move your traffic and we'll bleed you of your customers" tricks. Turf wars of a sort. Until now those were universally met with technical and bipartisan hammer-strokes. This is an effort by the monster carriers to get a green light to set up the toll-booths. The difference now is a few years of financial lubrication in DC.

Edit: I do wish I'd changed the post title. The original article stated this was a republican thing. The reality is that a couple dems also voted for it. Mr. M is a pretty good reporter but he does let bias peek through now and then.
Who said I'm seeing party lines? I'm seeing philisophical lines. I don't like government regulation in business where it is not absolutely needed. I don't see this as a NEED yet. If we wanted to play party games I'd point out which party wanted to start taxing internet use and which party shot it down at least for a time.
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Old 04-06-2006, 11:38 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Posted twice, in error....

Last edited by host; 04-06-2006 at 11:41 PM..
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Old 04-06-2006, 11:40 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
Who said I'm seeing party lines? I'm seeing philisophical lines. I don't like government regulation in business where it is not absolutely needed. I don't see this as a NEED yet. If we wanted to play party games I'd point out which party wanted to start taxing internet use and which party shot it down at least for a time.
This status quo is not simply "business", after this effort to "buy" legislative control of the regulatory "potential":
Quote:
........AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon spent $230.9 million on politicians from 1998 until the present, while the three Internet companies plus Amazon.com and eBay spent only a combined $71.2 million. (Those figures include lobbying expenditures, individual contributions, political action committees and soft money..........
NOOOOOOoooooo!!!! Rather...it is a high stakes "game" that puts the public interest at the "end of the line". Control of the priority of data flow on the "internet pipe", is in a special category, a priority below clean air or inexpensively available, clean water, but "up there" with widely available electrical and telephone land line service, even in rural areas.

The demand for data network infrastructure was driven by innovators who designed the WWW standards, browsers, media players like Realplayer, and those who design and produce the content, followed the government driven military and scientific innovation and investment that originated this late 20th century, communication concept, in the first place.

To pick one component, the "pipe", and literally cede control of it's prioritization to a small group of previously regulated monopolies, akin to public utilities in earlier stages of their evolution, because THEY "spent more money on politicians", than the public or the content providers could afford or justify.....and to declare that doing so is consistant with avoiding government "regulation", is inconsistant, IMO with the public interest.

If government is not about regulating in the interest of the public, in a matter like this one, BEFORE, the monopolization of the priority of the speed and the order of information distribution, falls under the control of those who bought the politicians of the party in power, for that privilege,
then when is the public interest ever to be considered. These f**ks paid this much, BEFORE the profits that buying non-regulation of their new monopoly, are realized.

How will your "wait and see" stance, be reversed when the monopolies grow much more wealthy and profitable from their new "prioritized fees" revenue schemes, when it appears that some regulation cannot even be legislated, now.

This is not a case of "government" interfering with "business". This "business" did not evolve from anything aproximating an "even" playing field. The public interest is in levelling the playing field to offset the influence that the few "businesses" who control the internet infrastructure, purchased with the intent to keep out the best interests of the public, in the first place. Imagine if the $230 + $71 millions, spent on buying political control had been invested in productive endeavors or paid as dividends to investors.

If that had been the case, in a poltical system that actually represented the public that elected it, the monopolies might be satisfying their investors in ways less sordid than schemes to charge tolls to speed the flow of the information of a wealthier minority, to the detriment of the rest of us!
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Old 04-07-2006, 04:16 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Interesting post, host.

Nice.

I know that I am regretting that I don't have the technical knowledge necessary to really comprehend how data flow on the internet works and would be affected by this change.
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Old 04-07-2006, 11:33 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrnel
Start by ignoring party lines. This is a very atypical regulation/deregulation issue...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
Who said I'm seeing party lines? I'm seeing philisophical lines. ...
UStwo, I apologize for the party line thing. It wasn't intended as a it now reads to me. I was thinking about the atypical part and how it's being presented as a typical de/regulation issue. I won't repeat why I think neutrality of the playing field qualifies for baby gloves. Anyway, for what it's worth.
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Old 04-08-2006, 11:29 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Carriers want a peice of the content pie, even though they have no peice in its actual creation/production. People already pay for internet access, and content providers pay their bandwidth bills.

They fail to realize people pay for their internet connections due to the compelling content online. The fact that content and online service providers provide a great benefit to their networks seems to be lost on them. They want to charge for them for their connection and then charge them for it again. I'm sure they could eventually think of another way to charge for the same thing when they decide they need more money. I'm of the mindset that carriers should pay companies like google, yourtube, myspace etc for providing a reason for people to have their internet connections.

I can see being skeptical of more government regulations, but if the carriers are allowed to implement this rediculous plan, we will all be poorer as a result. This has to be stopped. It will be the worst thing to happen to the internet since its creation.
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Old 04-11-2006, 05:02 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Saw a quote on Techdirt.com today, and this pretty much sums up the situation, even though its in an article unrelated to the topic:

"...in the US, where regulators dither and let incumbent telcos continue to abuse the public benefits they've been handed while letting them wriggle out of pretty much every competitive measure imposed on them. All the while, the FCC sings the praises of the competitive US market, while other countries like France lead the way."

http://techdirt.com/articles/20060410/0947233.shtml
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Old 04-23-2006, 03:15 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Another recent news article:

Congress is giving away the Internet

Quote:
Congress Is Giving Away the Internet,
and You Won't Like Who Gets It
By Art Brodsky
TPM Cafe

Saturday 22 April 2006

Congress is going to hand the operation of the Internet over to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Democrats are helping. It's a shame.

Don't look now, but the House Commerce Committee next Wednesday is likely to vote to turn control of the Internet over to AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner and what's left of the telecommunications industry. It will be one of those stories the MSM writes about as "little noticed" because they haven't covered it.

On the surface, it may seem a stretch to think that those companies could control the great, wide, infinite Internet. After all, the incredible diversity of the Net allowed everything Web sites and services of all kinds to exist in perfect harmony. What's more, they were all delivered to your screen without any interference by the companies that carried the bits to and fro. Until recently, they had to. It was the law. The telephone companies, which carried all of the Web traffic until relatively recently, had to treat all of their calls alike without giving any Web site or service favored treatment over another.

The result was today's Internet, which developed as a result of billions of dollars of investments, from the largest Internet company that spent millions on software and networking, to the one person with a blog who spent a few hundred dollars on a laptop. The Internet grew into a universal public resource because the telephone and cable companies simply transported the bits.

Last fall, however, the Federal Communications Commission, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, decided that the high-speed Internet services offered by the cable and telephone companies didn't fall under that law, the Communications Act. Out the window went the law that treated everyone equally. Now, with broadband, we are in a new game without rules.

Telephone and cable companies own 98% of the high-speed broadband networks the public uses to go online for reading news, shopping, listening to music, posting videos or any of the thousands of other uses developed for the Internet. But that isn't enough. They want to control what you read, see or hear online. The companies say that they will create premium lanes on the Internet for higher fees, and give preferential access to their own services and those who can afford extra charges. The rest of us will be left to use an inferior version of the Internet.

Admittedly, it hasn't become a problem yet. But to think it won't become one is to ignore 100 years of history of anti-competitive behavior by the phone companies. And it was a mere six weeks or so from the time the FCC issued its ill-fated decision to the time when Ed Whitacre, the CEO of (then-SBC) now AT&T issued his famous manifesto attacking Google and other Web sites for "using my pipes (for) free." They don't, by the way.

Here's the inside baseball: A couple of weeks ago, a courageous band of legislators tried to stop the madness in Subcommittee. Ed Markey, Rick Boucher, Anna Eshoo and Jay Inslee proposed some good language to protect the Internet. For their troubles, they just got four more votes, other than theirs. Just three Democrats, other than the sponsors, voted for it. Only one Republican voted for it. When we talk about special interest giveaways, this one will be at the top of the list. And we won't have only Republicans to blame.
TPM Cafe is an interesting politics forum worth a visit, if you haven't done so already.
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