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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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RE: Good idea if...
By MrBungle123 on 12/20/2010 4:49:27 PM , Rating: 0
Oil prices skyrocket. Gas prices skyrocket. If you were paying about $100 per month in gas before, now you're paying $200. Disposable income plummets. If that figure holds true for only 1/3rd of the US population, you are now talking about billions of dollars redirected from the established market every single month. Higher gas prices also trigger increases in travel and shipping, which in turn affects the tourism industry and increases prices on everything that gets shipped. Disposable income drops further. Depression/Recession anyone?

And depression/recession is good for the oil companies how? Again capitalism will work if you let it. It does not help Shell/Exxon/BP etc if there is massive economic downturn due to highly inflated oil prices. They may see a temporary bump in their profits but a downward spiral over the long term. High prices would also accelerate the development of alternative fuels which could potentially cost them an enormous chunk of marketshare. Ups and downs are a consequence of an unplanned economy but the good side of it is increased personal freedom and over all higher standards of living.

RE: Good idea if...
By Tanclearas on 12/20/2010 7:28:11 PM , Rating: 2
...and yet that is exactly what happened.

A recession is not good for the economy as a whole, but the reality is people will still buy gas. People still need to get to work. They will still drive to see loved ones. Unfortunately, as spending continues to decrease, fewer people will be working. Once they aren't working, even visiting loved ones becomes a luxury. And yes, it did put pressure on governments to actually start taking alternative fuel research seriously.

Those repercussions take a while to impact the oil companies. Greed, and pressure on management to show immediate results, often keeps people from seeing a much bigger picture.

RE: Good idea if...
By Kurz on 12/21/2010 9:14:21 AM , Rating: 2
Money has to be spent in order to get the wealth from it.
Money is still very liquid... except now people are spending what they have, not spending thousands of dollars to finance over a few years.

Money is just a medium of wealth exchange nothing more.
By itself its worthless.

RE: Good idea if...
By Iaiken on 12/21/2010 10:38:17 AM , Rating: 2
Thank you captain obvious...

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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