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[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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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.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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