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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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If only...
By Kurz on 12/20/2010 10:38:58 AM , Rating: 5
If only we (The Government) didn't set up these monopolies in the first place we wouldn't need to worry about these big corporate interests playing us like pawns.

Though I actually think there will just be more hotspot action. Myself I always near a unsecured hotspot. There is no need for me to have 3G internet access. In effect they are going to price themselves out of the market and it'll end up costing them more (Subscribers cutting off internet access) by doing this.




RE: If only...
By Iaiken on 12/21/2010 10:36:46 AM , Rating: 3
You're missing the point.

They want to at least try to price the competition out of the market.

Basically this is what is happening in wild west terms:

The telcos are the wealthy cattle barons. If you wanna drive your data-cattle across the land (which they own all of) you're going to have to pay a tax/toll/fee. However, they're free to drive their own cattle across the land to you at no charge.

They want to take advantage of the fact that we're cheap and we'll have basically no choice, but to pay them so we can use the competition, or submit to their walled gardens and let them collect add revenue off us. Regardless, they will be building a complete categorical demographic profile of your online habits.

ENJOY!


RE: If only...
By Lerianis on 12/21/2010 7:33:33 PM , Rating: 2
BINGO! Right argument in one, Iaiken.

We cannot allow this to happen, unless we want the Telco's to kill the next Netflix, Hulu, etc.


RE: If only...
By Kurz on 12/22/2010 12:52:05 AM , Rating: 2
>.> Government made them wealthy in the first place by protecting their Cattle and putting up barriers to entry.

I did enjoy your feeble attempt at grasping how we got to this in the first place.


"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis














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