Network Neutrality Revisited

I’ve been writing a lot about the concept of network neutrality – how all websites and services should move through the Internet unimpeded. Some telcos and other Internet providers see it otherwise.

I though this was a very geeky topic and there wouldn’t be much discussion. Then I picked up this morning’s New York Times. My hot topic is their lead editorial.

Would the Internet have flourished with new age companies like Yahoo!, Google, Amazon and EBay, if they had to pay-to-play?

The End Of Open Internet Access?

If you want to view content on or or any website, you assume your Internet provider (probably your cable or phone company) is treating everyone alike. Right now, they probably are.

I wonder how long that will be the case? Maybe not for long. More ‘chatter’ today coming from BellSouth.

There are articles about this access issue on a number of websites, but I like the style and tone of this one from Networking Pipeline.

BellSouth’s new business model, a slightly more polite form of the kind of extortion practiced by Tony Soprano, is starting to pay off. The company says it is in negotiations with several Web sites willing to pay extra fees to BellSouth for more bandwidth than it provides to other sites.

BellSouth says that it shouldn’t have to bear the cost of providing bandwidth for big sites like Google. Instead, the sites should pay for them. But BellSouth ignores an inconvenient fact — it doesn’t bear those costs; its customers do. So BellSouth gets to double-dip.

What BellSouth seems to be saying to content providers is, pay us, or you’ll suffer second class delivery. That’s frightening. Of course BellSouth’s subscribers (who, as was pointed out in the article, already are paying) will be held hostage in all this.

It goes against every principle that’s guided the Internet so far, that Internet providers should be site agnostic.

What does this mean from a practical standpoint? An Internet provider could effectively block the ability to start a new business online or favor their own in-house content versus a competitor’s!

Take (a great website, with a daily video blog). Rocketboom’s content is very bandwidth intensive. If they had to pay to get to my computer… and pay before there was any chance for revenue… they would have never been born.

Much of what I like about the Internet is my ability to choose what, when and how I will view content. It seems to me, when I pay my ISP (Comcast), I’ve paid for that ability – unfettered. If I pay for 6 Mbps, then it should be my choice how I fill that pipe – not their’s.

I am guessing Google and some other producers of Internet content will chime in on this. It would be tragic is BellSouth’s wish came true.

When Bandwidth Is King

Maybe you read my entry about watching the Internet’s gatekeepers? It looks like some of what I suspected was going on is actually happening! Internet providers are interested in favoring their own offerings (or deteriorating those from their competitors).

Currently, on the Internet, all content is created equal. Under the provider’s suggestions that will change… possibly drastically.

This battle will pit SBC, Comcast and their brethren against Google, Yahoo!, EBay and the like. It’s a real 21st century battle of the titans.

This is, as they say, a developing story. Stay tuned.