Saturday, December 17, 2005

A faster Internet at whose expense?

AT&T and Bellsouth are leading the telcom charge for a two-tiered Internet. The issue? The telcoms want faster services for their customers and slower transfer rates for their competitors.

The Boston Globe reports (Telecoms want their products to travel on a faster Internet):
"AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. are lobbying Capitol Hill for the right to create a two-tiered Internet, where the telecom carriers' own Internet services would be transmitted faster and more efficiently than those of their competitors.

The proposal is certain to provoke a major fight with Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Time Warner Inc., and Microsoft Corp., the powerful owners of popular Internet sites. The companies fear such a move would give telecommunications companies too much control over a fast-growing part of the Internet.

The battle is largely over video services. Several major telecom companies are working on ways to deliver broadcast-quality television over the Internet. Currently, online video can be slow to download and choppy to watch, even with higher-speed Internet services"

"The prospect of a tiered Internet with ''regular' and ''premium' broadband services is spawning fierce debate as Congress takes up a major overhaul of telecom regulations. The House of Representatives last month held hearings on a preliminary draft by two GOP congressmen, Joe Barton of Texas and Fred Upton of Michigan, that would give the telecom companies the freedom to establish premium broadband services. The telecom bill is due for action early next year.

A change along these lines would be different from the way the Internet has operated. ''The Internet model has been that carriers cannot interfere with the choices that consumers make,' said Alan Davidson, Google's Washington policy counsel.

Google is fighting the proposal, along with other large Internet companies including Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. They fear they may have to pay telecoms millions of dollars to gain access to customers who use the premium Internet services. In addition, they argue, many small Internet start-ups would be unable to pay the fees, which could reduce consumer choice."

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