US Telecom companies : poised to give the Internet the sting of death ?

By    John Garner on  Thursday, April 6, 2006
Summary: Lawmakers in the US Congress will be voting today on a law that will allow the big telecom companies in the US to give priority to certain content. They argue that certain companies are wanting to serve larger files like video and should thus pay more. However everybody knows that you can measure how much […]

Lawmakers in the US Congress will be voting today on a law that will allow the big telecom companies in the US to give priority to certain content. They argue that certain companies are wanting to serve larger files like video and should thus pay more. However everybody knows that you can measure how much data leaves a server already since on many hosting providers you pay for the extra bandwidth. So what are they really after ?

This law / bill displays distinct and undeniable advantages for the telephone companies even though they seem to be denying all the lobbying effort that has gone into such an interesting law for them. In this article Verizon describes Google as a freeloader and goes as far as saying "The network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers," (John Thorne, Verizon senior vice president). It's true doing things cheaply and being successful is bad. Don't Cyndi Lauper's lyrics "I see your true colours shining through" come to mind ? I wonder if the fact that Google has just won a wifi network deal with the City of San Fransisco would have anything to do with the telecom companies being Google-averse ?

In this article published on Red Herring today, Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest advocacy group is quoted to have said "The subcommittee missed an opportunity to maintain the free and open Internet that we have come to value over the years,".

Another article published on InternetNews discusses a bill put forward by two senators that are members of the Senate Commerce Committee to modify the telecom landscape and although net neutrality is rejected as a description for this bill there are similarities in that it aims at stopping the telecom companies from being able to hinder content providers in a way that is described above.

Another interesting article that explains a other issues by James Seng can be read here notably the way that Telecom companies are trying to make sure that investors see how interesting they are and how these changes will help that. And yet another article by Andrew Schmitt that also discusses the fact that Internet users are not equal in the way they use the Internet, which obviously opens the debate on whether heavy users should contribute to the cost of the Internet bandwidth. A post on the media geek also recounts how some of the politicians are starting to see why the pro telecom bill is not necessarily good for their voters and how republicans are "pulling out the hatchets"...

It is interesting to see opposing market forces at work on trying to pave their way to financial gain on the one hand and fight against obviously biased legislation on the other and how the politicians are in the middle counting the points. It is however worrying to see how telecom companies making enormous amounts of money from the Internet boom are as usual looking to make more money. Although this time it could be to the detriment of the Internet as we know it.

This also brings me to talk about an article in the financial times that seems to argue in favour of letting the companies do the bidding and selling of there services as usual. But I can't stop thinking that there is an analogy between this and the way that France created a system that regulates telecom companies and strives to stop abuse from companies that have real power over others, resulting in innovative services and prices for the consumers.

It all reminds me of the fable of the scorpion wanting to cross the river on the back of the frog and both end up drowning. Being competitive and seeking financial gain can hardly be considered an anomaly in today's society. The will to change what has been the success of the Internet in a near apartheid move may well come back to sting the telecom companies though if they get there own way !

Article written by  John Garner

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