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  (Source: jonlong724 on Flickr)

[Click to enlarge] Want the web? Well prepare to pay. Wireless carriers are plotting per page monthly or data-based fees. And net neutrality legislation looks unlikely to pass, thanks to their healthy flow of lobbyist money.  (Source: Fierce Wireless Semina via Wired)
Leaked slides reveal that net neutrality advocates worst fears may soon be realized

The topic of net neutrality is a thorny issue.  After all, the American public is increasingly adopting the stance that the less government meddling in the private sector, the better.  On the other hand, advocates of the government adopting net neutrality restrictions have long laid out a dystopian vision of the future in which users have only partial paid access to the internet and smaller independent websites fold under the inability to draw paying customers.

Such visions could have been dismissed as alarmism -- until now.  A presentation from Allot Communications and Openet, two wireless industry giants who supply the likes of Verizon and AT&T, leaked out onto the internet and verifies that the wireless industry is plotting just such a scheme.

I.  Want the Web?  Prepare to Pay

At its web seminar the pair revealed a stunning plot in which wireless customers would be forced to pay additional monthly fees per web page accessed and -- in some cases -- per MB used.  The slide suggests a $0.50 USD/month YouTube access fee, a $0.02 USD/MB Facebook access rate, and a 3€ (appr. $3.95 USD) Skype access fee.

Aside from the payoff from immediate fees, the leaked PowerPoint presentation (1.5 MB/PDF) reveals a double benefit to carriers, at consumers' expense.  The slides suggest that top UK carrier giant Vodafone (who partially owns Verizon Wireless) create its own websites -- such as social networks and video sites -- and offer customers free access to them.

By forcing customers to pay for external sites, but offering free internal sites, carriers could attempt to force customers onto its own sites.  While such knockoffs would likely offer inferior quality to carefully crafted services like YouTube and Facebook, carriers wouldn't mind that -- they would be to busy reaping the additional ad revenue.

II.  The FCC Won't Let Me Be

It is unclear whether the leak is coincidental or is meant to test the U.S. Federal Communication Commission's resolve, a week ahead of its planned meeting to discussing net neutrality.  

Current laws do not clearly grant the FCC the power to regulate wireless internet traffic or enforce net neutrality over wired and wireless service providers.  The FCC's attempts to enforce net neutrality regardless were struck down in the spring by a federal court.  The FCC now hopes to draft legislation to present to Congress.

But the legislation faces serious political resistance.  While some Republicans are supportive of net neutrality, much of the Republican party opposes net neutrality.  And the Republicans in January will gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Among the staunchest opponents of net neutrality regulation is former presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Az.).  Sen. McCain, like many Republicans, has previously opposed net neutrality legislation due to a stance against government regulation.  However, Verizon and AT&T bequeathed $237,600 upon his 2008 presidential campaign.  AT&T and Verizon lobbyists also raised from various donors – $2.3M USD and $1.3M USD, respectively – for his campaign.  They also offered free services to his 15-acre Arizona ranch.

Sen. McCain is obviously not alone, however -- such contributions are common in Washington.

Thus net neutrality legislation faces tenuous prospects.  And as our computing heads increasingly into the mobile sphere (with smartphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, etc.) that may soon mean that customers will be paying a lot more for a lot less.  And in the process any government censorship of the internet will likely pale in comparison to that which the "free" market is cooking up.

Many refer to the current generation of web businesses as Web 2.0.  Well if these developments are any indication, we may soon be greeting Web 3.0 -- the transformation of the internet into a series of toll roads.

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By EricMartello on 12/20/2010 9:58:23 AM , Rating: 3
While something like this is not impossible, if it did actually manifest, it would also spawn an "underground" movement. It may lead to the internet evolving to a point where adhoc networks rule and centralized common carriers are completely eliminated from the picture. I think that the "super peer" technology used for many P2P networks could be adapted to create a decentralized network that is free from the shackles of big companies or governments.

RE: Optimism
By Luticus on 12/20/2010 10:18:04 AM , Rating: 3
Where do i sign up? lol.

Personally what i think should happen is a global boycott of all companies that are counter productive to net neutrality. simply have as many websites as we possibly can ban these carriers access. when companies like these are band from half the web their users will be forced to find net neutral carriers. :D

RE: Optimism
By zmatt on 12/20/2010 10:38:43 AM , Rating: 2
I like both of these ideas. I wont lay down and let the teleocm companies suck me dry of cash.

RE: Optimism
By djcameron on 12/20/2010 8:18:11 PM , Rating: 1
You've just suggested exactly why capitalism works! People will vote with the their feet/wallet. If it's too expensive (or too whatever), then people will use another service. The only time we need government intervention is when a cartel or oligopoly comes into existence.

RE: Optimism
By Kurz on 12/21/2010 9:04:46 AM , Rating: 4
Funny thing is Government is excellent at creating those cartels/Oligopoly.

RE: Optimism
By Lerianis on 12/21/2010 7:30:47 PM , Rating: 1
Wrong. In most cases, government only gives it's blessing to the cartel/oligopoly.... those things existed long before the government go involved in most cases.

RE: Optimism
By Kurz on 12/20/2010 11:12:51 AM , Rating: 2
We had the internet since the early 90's.
So now we have to eliminate/prepare for some problem that probably won't happen?

RE: Optimism
By Luticus on 12/20/2010 11:22:30 AM , Rating: 2
I mean IF things get as serious as what's pictured above. IF they put this plan into action then you start blacklisting companies. It's silly to pass "guilty verdicts" on companies that have only talked about doing "evil" :-)

RE: Optimism
By Kurz on 12/20/2010 11:54:26 AM , Rating: 2
Thats good... Many people believe in preventive law making.
Which honestly just makes things worse than they are.

Thanks for being sensible ;)

RE: Optimism
By mindless1 on 12/24/2010 9:14:21 AM , Rating: 2
Not really, the guilty of being evil stance is true by mere intention to do something, it doesn't matter if you actually succeed.

Ever hear of attempted murder?

RE: Optimism
By TacticalTrading on 12/20/2010 10:41:43 AM , Rating: 2
What will really be interesting is: if ALL providers were to follow the same/similar paths and the resulting Monopoly / Collusion based lawsuits.

Because if I were Sprint (or any smaller provider) I would be hoping Verizon and AT&T took the toll road. Then the smaller providers could sit back offering unlimited and unrestricted access and watch customers flock their way.

The upside of capitalism:
While the Govt can regulate an industry to death and add an absurd fee structure (read: Tax) to everything, the government can not dictate a product based pricing structure that all market participants must follow... No matter how hard the large industry players may try.

RE: Optimism
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 12/20/2010 11:14:09 AM , Rating: 1
Well, I am glad to see all the "free trade (mostly for their gas guzzlers)" people quaking about this free trade.

But seriously, how are your P2P peers going to network? All traffic crosses the major carriers through some local carriers, so you will get charged one way or another. The point of origin of the traffic will not concern the major carriers, just that there was traffic. And if you are the end-consumer, then you will get charged through your local carrier. It is the interweb, my friend, it's all piggy-backed. Even a VLAN travels on someone's wires.

RE: Optimism
By EricMartello on 12/21/2010 2:57:22 AM , Rating: 2
The basic premise of P2P networking is decentralization. That's how it works, because it was designed to allow people to share files without there being a single target that could be "shut down" to kill the network.

Whose wires will it travel over? Well the answer is more likely than not going to be wireless connections. WiFi routers are a lot more abundant now than they ever were creating a new wifi standard that supports P2P adhoc networking is not far fetched. The internet will essentially consist of millions of individual access points acting as nodes.

This isn't a new idea, I think Google wanted to make something like this happen a few years ago but the time wasn't right. If the major providers start charging extra based on the domain you want to access, that may be the catalyst that sets the P2P internet in motion.

As for Sprint and smaller providers benefiting from Verizon or Comcast going the premium access route - highly unlikely. The large telecom providers own most of the infrastructure and therefore have ultimate control over the minimum that a company like Sprint could charge for access. There are "peering" agreements between large telecom providers which basically amount to "You can use my lines if I can use yours" but smaller providers are LEASING the infrastructure and have to make a profit on top of the fees they pay to lease the lines...they also need to abide by the terms of the leasing agreement, which may require them to follow in kind on the premium access charges.

RE: Optimism
By Yames on 12/21/2010 1:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
There will not be any tolls between peers (internet providers). Once you're on the internet, you're on. Tolls can only be instituted by the edge providers as they control their customers traffic, and can map the traffic back to actual customers. Control to that degree between peers is just too cumbersome and does not make any sense if you understand how the internet operates.

So the original argument is still valid in that customers will flock to ISPs/Wireless providers that offer flat rate access charges, like what we have today, if available.

I agree that the Govt should stay out of it until such a time where the consumer is at such a disadvantage that there is no way for them to fight back, i.e. the fair market collapses.

RE: Optimism
By mindless1 on 12/24/2010 9:17:41 AM , Rating: 2
Actually there could be. If these edge providers are billed by the peers based on where the traffic goes they will argue the fairness of and attempt to pass on the costs to their subscribers, so while it is not direct billing it is still indirectly doing so.

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