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A New Price to Pay for Internet Access


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Coming Soon: The Web Toll

Now a freeway, the Internet might soon become a turnpike. How new laws could transform cyberspace - and the way you surf it

By Tim Folger

What if the Internet were like cable television, with Web sites grouped like channels into either basic or premium offerings? What if a few big companies decided which sites loaded quickly and which ones slowly, or not at all, on your computer? Welcome to the brave new Web, brought to you by Verizon, Bell South, AT&T and the other telecommunications giants (including PopSci's parent company, Time Warner) that are now lobbying Congress to block laws that would prevent a two-tiered Internet, with a fast lane for Web sites able to afford it and a slow lane for everyone else.

Specifically, such companies want to charge Web sites for the speedy delivery of streaming video, television, movies and other high-bandwidth data to their customers. If they get their way (Congress may vote on the matter before the year is out), the days of wide-open cyberspace are numbered.

As things stand now, the telecoms provide the lines - copper, cable or fiber-optic - and the other hardware that connects Web sites to consumers. But they don't influence, or profit from, the content that flows to you from, say, cinemanow.com; they simply supply the pipelines. In effect, they are impartial middlemen, leaving you free to browse the entire Internet without worrying about connection speeds to your favorite sites.

That looks set to change. In April a House subcommittee rejected a measure by Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts that would have prevented telecoms from charging Web sites extra fees based on bandwidth usage. The telecom industry sees such remuneration as fair compensation for the substantial cost of maintaining and upgrading the infrastructure that makes high-bandwidth services, such as streaming video, possible. Christopher Yoo, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, argues that consumers should be willing to pay for faster delivery of content on the Internet, just as many FedEx customers willingly shell out extra for overnight delivery. "A regulatory approach that allows companies to pursue a strategy like FedEx's makes sense," he says.

On a technical level, creating this so-called Internet fast lane is easy. In the current system, network devices called differentiated service routers prioritize data, assigning more bandwidth to, for example, an Internet telephone call or streaming video than to an e-mail message. With a tiered Internet, such routing technology could be used preferentially to deliver either the telecoms' own services or those of companies who had paid the requisite fees.

What does this mean for the rest of us? A stealth Web tax, for one thing. "Google and Amazon and Yahoo are not going to slice those payments out of their profit margins and eat them," says Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press, a nonprofit group that monitors media-related legislation. "They're going to pass them on to the consumer. So I'll end up paying twice. I'm going to pay my $29.99 a month for access, and then I'm going to pay higher prices for consumer goods all across the economy because these Internet companies will charge more for online advertising."

Worse still, Scott argues, the plan stands to sour your Web experience. If, for instance, your favorite blogger refused to ante up, her pages would load more slowly on your computer than would content from Web sites that had paid the fees. Which brings up another sticking point: A tiered system would give established companies with deep pockets a huge competitive edge over cash-strapped start-ups consigned to slow lanes. "We have to remember that some of the companies that we now consider to be titans of the Internet started literally as guys in a garage," Scott says."That's the beauty and the brilliance of the Internet, yet we're cavalierly talking about tossing it out the window."

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So, what do you think? Should they or shouldn't they? Yay or nay?

[i personally vote NAY.]

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this sucks, its just another way of them increasign the billions that they make every year.

it should really get blocked and stopped from being able to happen. all it will do is screw up the internet to the extent that everything will be eventually be run by a few companoes which is hardly the freedom of speach the internet is meant to deliever.

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  • Original Poster
  • @jackel: Exactly what I wanted to say. Well, it's one of the things. The other is the point that I made in Duke's thread: it's useless.

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    I already pay extra for Highspeed internet,Cable internet cost more then Dial up, and DSL.

    T1 and the other faster ones cost even more then cable.

    All paid direct to At&T or verizion, SBC or who ever comca$t has to pay to provide my service.

    Why should they care except to  just make a proffit.

    I wonder how many places like Yahoo  will start charging for  using thier sites?

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  • Original Poster
  • I'd bet'cha a lot of them would; After all, what's a corporation without an ever-growing source of profit gained through rip-off? 3.gif

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    Somehow I missed Duke's thread on this. It's really no surprise, they've already let companies like Entercom and Clear Channel utterly destroy US radio. Europe wanted to share control over the internet, would they allow this? Would they stop it if they could? Now here's an issue we can agree on, inter-continentally!

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    I vote YAY...   That is if I was the corperate honcho who would profit off of all this.

    Otherwise I'm not really against it, but nor am I for it (and paying for it isn't really going to be the highlight of my day either).  But honostly after a bit we won't have much choice and we'll live with it, like with the gas prices.  Just another thing that we have to pay for.

    I'm not going to enjoy it, though, but I will get used to it eventually.

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    One more kick in the but for small business owners.  Goodbye middle-class!  (its not just this, this is just one more example of why its next to impossible for average people to start their own business)26.gif.

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    This is not much of a surprise to me... Actually, on the one hand I can understand the network operators. The way the internet currently develops, we will soon get to a point, where bandwidth will become a sparse commodity. The amount of data, that goes around the 'net now is growing over-exponentially thanks to said video streaming, internet telephony etc. And there is only so much we can do to ever increase the optic fibre cable capacities. Once that happens, such service provides WILL be charged no matter we like it or not. It's just simple economics.

    On the other hand, I would reject it as the next one, because it would cause an already over-commercialised internet to commercialise even more. There are already way to many pay-services out there (not even mentioning the dirty stuff... 3.gif ). You can bet that such a pricing system would cause more websites to charge for their access...

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    Originally posted by: manticorefan Somehow I missed Duke's thread on this.quote>

    It's right here.

    And, like this thread, it's two years old.

    I have to say, I'm glad that nothing came of this huge corporate proposal. Score one for sanity and common sense.

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    Originally posted by: screamingman12 D@mn lobbyists and corporate payments making politicians drunk.quote>
     

    That's the voice of the real Americans according to the socialists! (Or she might have mistaken the lobbyists for the line people)

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