AT&T and Bellsouth are lobbying Congress to allow them to create a premium level of internet service that would get priority over regular traffic. They envision using this “premium” level of service to carry traffic sensitive to the internet’s typical delays, such as video. In addition, they would be able to charge a service fee to any provider that would like to use this higher speed internet, or users that wish to receive traffic over it. Having this higher level of service would also allow the telephone companies to prioritize their own traffic.
Some of the largest internet companies, such as Google and eBay, are fighting this proposal. It would put every company competing with the telephone companies at a huge disadvantage. This is, of course, exactly what the telephone companies are looking for. With no new ideas to bring to the table since their monopoly was broken up, they are looking to put themselves back into the position of power they seem to believe they deserve. Although a couple of corporate lap-dogs in Congress, namely Joe Barton of Texas and Fred Upton of Michigan, have introduced legislation that would allow this, there is still plenty of time for cooler heads to prevail.
The internet has thrived because it has been kept free from the clutches of corporate governance. They are free to use it to generate revenue just like every other company, but to give preference to any company, and allow them to charge others for the access, is the beginning of a steep decline for the internet. The telephone companies claim that they have a right to regain the costs for investing in the infrastructure, but handing them de facto control over any part of the internet is just plain the wrong tactic. Unfortunately, I think the FCC in Kevin Martin is not going to take the consumer’s side on this issue.
Posted by Jeff