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GOOGLE has unveiled a plan aimed at letting computer users determine whether ISPs are inappropriately blocking or slowing their work online. The scheme is the latest bid in the debate over network neutrality in the US, which pits content companies like Google against some internet service providers (ISPs). The ISPs say they need to take reasonable steps to manage ever-growing traffic on their networks for the good of all users. Content and applications companies fear the providers have the power to discriminate, favouring some traffic over others. Google will provide academic researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the US and Europe to analyse data, said its chief internet guru, Vint Cerf, known as the "father of the internet." "When an internet application doesn't work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP, the application, your PC, or something else?" Mr Cerf said in a blog post. The effort aims to uncover the problem for users, he said. Mr Cerf is widely known for his work for the US government in designing the Internet protocol in the 1970s and 1980s. In a precedent-setting decision last year, the five-member US Federal Communications Commission voted to uphold a complaint accusing ISP Comcast of violating the FCC's open-internet principles by blocking file-sharing services, such as those that distribute video and television shows. The case became a flash point in the net neutrality debate. Comcast is fighting the decision in the courts. In a move likely to fuel further debate, another large US cable company, Cox Communications, announced this week it would begin testing a plan to give priority to time-sensitive traffic like web page views and streaming videos. Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, could be delayed under the plan. Cox said it will not discriminate based on owner or source of traffic. In Australia, the Federal Government is set to start live internet filtering trials with some ISPs in a bid to block inappropriate content. Still, net neutrality advocates are wary of such policies. "The lesson we learned from the Comcast case is that we must be skeptical of any practice that comes between users and the internet," said Ben Scott, policy director of advocacy group Free Press. Researchers are already using tools to test connection speed and determine if an ISP is blocking or throttling particular applications. Google's effort will allow an expansion of that effort. "The goal is to let consumers see what's under the hood of their internet connection," said Sascha Meinrath, a wireless expert at think-tank the New America Foundation, in which Google boss Eric Schmidt is board chairman. "Right now it's very difficult... to make an informed consumer choice." Google has a business interest in keeping user experiences fast and efficient, said Google policy analyst Derek Slater, who reserved further judgment until he could learn more about the new Cox policy. "Our ability to innovate still depends on end users being able to use their broadband connections to access Google. To the extent that consumers are having problems doing that, that can directly hurt Google."