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Superhighway Roadblock?

Zach Anderson is a California sixth-grader who can't imagine life offline.

"I love the Internet. I use it so much and I do everything on it," Zach said.

It's relatively cheap for people like Zach and his mom to email friends and surf the Web because dialing up the Internet is a local call.

But Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that Internet calls are essentially interstate calls, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes.

"We're not regulating the Internet," said FCC Chairman William Kennard. "From the consumer's prospective, nothing will change."

The FCC says Thursday's ruling merely resolves a dispute among phone companies over how to compensate each other for Internet connections and to clarify the role of state and federal regulators.

But consumer groups say the FCC's decision opens the door for phone companies to ask the courts for permission to charge long-distance rates for Internet calls.

"Internet users will have to start to pay per minute. The meter will be running while they're using their Internet service," said Gene Kimmelman of the Consumers Union.

That could be bad news to a lot of people. The Internet isn't a fledgling technology anymore as about 40% of the population goes online.

That's why the FCC has a rule in place to protect consumers from paying per-minute charges. But the rule may not stand up in court.

"I wouldn't be able to go on as much. I'd hate that," Zach says.

"Yeah," Zach's mother adds. "I'd have to set limits with him."

So would millions of other Americans, who would have no choice but to pay more or use the Internet less.

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