Pay more, speed up

Since the beginning of the World Wide Web, Internet companies have flourished, in part, because they could deliver information freely over telephone lines. Whatever else the costs from ISPs or subscription services, companies did not have to bear the costs of developing or maintaining the dissemination infrastructure.

Now telephone companies in the U.S. want to profit for providing the pipes. They’re lobbying the U.S. federal government to be allowed to speed up or impede certain websites. Their plan? To give the companies that pay the fast ride. Companies that don’t pay or pay less will be slowed down. Think of Yahoo paying AT&T to have the fastest speed. What might happen to Google? And what about Voice over IP, the major competition to phone service? Hmmmm. I foresee some degradation of service.

Some company heads are getting mad:

In a November Business Week story, AT&T Chairman Edward E. Whitacre Jr. complained that Internet content providers were getting a free ride: “They don’t have any fiber out there. They don’t have any wires. . . . They use my lines for free — and that’s bull,” he said. “For a Google or a Yahoo or a Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes for free is nuts!”

This is far from a pipedream:

an executive with BellSouth was quoted saying that the company would consider charging Apple five or 10 cents extra each time a customer downloaded a song using iTunes.

Besides being irritated that electronic commerce will cost more, I’m worried about the impact on online activism. The same technology allowing the telephone company to speed up preferred customers and impede others, can allow phone companies to reject politically objectionable websites. Want Greenpeace? For some reason, it won’t download.

3 Responses to “Pay more, speed up”

  1. Tyrone V. says:

    It is all about Corporate Greed. They want more and more money while these same companies are destroying the future of workers by eliminating Pensions and further degrading benefits. It seems that companies are afraid to compete on services and just want to monopolize everything by charging their competition out of existence leaving those who are unable to pay out of the information superhighway. The world is becoming sicker in some aspects by the day which is increasingly frightening to me and this is just one example of it

  2. spike says:

    There has long been a business model built on this principle. In Burlington, VT, the state paid to lay fiberoptic cable throughout, and then reaped the profits of its use similar to renting real-estate. I’m not sure I would call it Corporate Greed, but I certainly wouldn’t use capital letters.

    If you get familiar with the NGO world, they operate no differently than Corporations – their ‘profit motives’ are of different nature, of course, but they work tirelessly to promote themselves and their cause, often with no regard for the back-firing and misdirection of policy changes that might result.