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The Cost of a Tiered Internet 246

Posted by Zonk
from the have-their-cake-and-eat-it-too dept.
An anonymous reader wrote in to mention a Popular Science article about the money issues involved in a tiered internet. From the article: "With a tiered Internet, such routing technology could be used preferentially to deliver either the telecoms' own services or those of companies who had paid the requisite fees. What does this mean for the rest of us? A stealth Web tax, for one thing. 'Google and Amazon and Yahoo are not going to slice those payments out of their profit margins and eat them,' says Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press, a nonprofit group that monitors media-related legislation. 'They're going to pass them on to the consumer. So I'll end up paying twice. I'm going to pay my $29.99 a month for access, and then I'm going to pay higher prices for consumer goods all across the economy because these Internet companies will charge more for online advertising.'" Update: 05/26 16:54 GMT by Z : The article is hosted on CNN, but is original material from Popular Science. Post updated to reflect this.
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The Cost of a Tiered Internet

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  • Fix it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linvir (970218) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:09PM (#15405151)
    Stop ISPs from creating a conflict of interests by banning them from going into the content market at all. It'd kind of gut AOL, but you've got to learn take the bad with the good :p

    Obviously, the situation already exists, so a simple ban wouldn't be enough. But in Microsoft's antitrust case, they considered splitting them up to fix just such an issue. The ISPs in the US have similar monopolies, right? So cut them up. AOL Internet and AOL Portal, or something.

    No way we should pay twice for them to profit twice though. Screw that.

    • Re:Fix it (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Stop ISPs from creating a conflict of interests by banning them from going into the content market at all. It'd kind of gut AOL, but you've got to learn take the bad with the good :p

      I'm sorry, I don't see the "bad" in this situation.

      All kidding aside, that's a spectacularly bad idea. The internet is about freedom. I would just like to see a law saying that if you are prioritizing services, you must disclose this to the customer and potential customer, in addition to telling them what consideration

      • Re:Fix it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by linvir (970218) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:15PM (#15405198)
        I've given it some extra thought, and I reckon it'd be a false sense of security anyway. Swiss bank accounts and under the table deals make that kind of legislation moot.

        I'm still up for gutting AOL though.

        • Re:Fix it (Score:5, Funny)

          by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@NospaM.yahoo.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:31PM (#15405348) Journal
          Can't we just gut all the AOL users instead? What was that quote, oh yes, here we go (emphasis mine):

          There it is again. Some clueless fool talking about the "Information Superhighway". They don't know didley about the Net. It's nothing like a superhighway. That's a rotten metaphor.

          Suppose the metaphor ran in the other direction. Suppose the highways were like the net...

          A highway hundreds of lanes wide. Most with pitfalls for potholes. Privately operated bridges and overpasses. No highway patrol. A couple of rent-a-cops on bicycles with broken whistles. 500 member vigilante posses with nuclear weapons. A minimum of 237 on ramps at every intersection.

          No signs. Wanna get to Ensenada? Holler out the window at a passing truck to ask directions.

          Ad hoc traffic laws. Some lanes would vote to make use by a single-occupant-vehicle a capital offense on Monday through Friday between 7:00 and 9:00. Other lanes would just shoot you without a trial for talking on a car phone.

          AOL would be a giant diesel-smoking bus with hundreds of ebola victims on board throwing dead wombats and rotten cabbage at the other cars, most of which have been assembled at home from kits. Some are built around 2.5 horsepower lawn mower engines with a top speed of nine miles an hour. Others burn nitroglycerin and idle at 120.

          No license plates. World War II bomber nose art instead. Terrifying paintings of huge teeth or vampire eagles. Bumper mounted machine guns. Flip somebody the finger on this highway and get a white phosphorus grenade up your tailpipe. Flatbed trucks cruise around with anti-aircraft missile batteries to shoot down the traffic helicopter. Little kids on tricycles with squirt guns filled with hydrochloric acid switch lanes without warning.

          NO OFFRAMPS. None.

          Now that's the way to run an Interstate Highway system.

          Author (maybe, it's hard to track down sources on the Net): Jim Wiedman

          • Other lanes would just shoot you without a trial for talking on a car phone.

            Sounds good. When can we get this implemented in the real world?
          • Re:Fix it (Score:2, Insightful)

            by MoOsEb0y (2177)
            It's a shame I used up my mod points this morning. That's one of the best analogies I've heard for the Internet yet.
      • Re:Fix it (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Having an informed choice is meaningless if you only have one choice. At the moment, I have one and only one option for high speed at home. That's Charter. Do I like them? Not really. I'd had them in the past, and they are overly expensive and reliability isn't what I'd like. However, since there is no DSL availability at my house (it stops about 1 mile away from me), and no other cable companies have high-speed access at my house, I'm stuck with either them or a slow connection. Well, not counting p
        • I agree with you except that wireless is coming, and coming fast. After the metropolitan areas in which they can get the majority of subscribers, I suspect they'll go after the boonies where you can't get anything else. Also BPL will probably get out there in a widespread fashion eventually whether it's a good idea or not. Choices are coming, albeit not fast enough for me, either. Where I live, I have NO broadband available - at least, I'm pretty sure that the trees are in the way of satellite access, and I
      • I'm sorry, I don't see the "bad" in this situation.

        Here, let me help you see it .

        When the corporations are making the ppl of the US pay more than
        their overseas counterparts for service that is substandard by
        comparison , and then decide to hike it even more just for the sake
        of unending profit they sound more like Ferengi than Humans .

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferengi [wikipedia.org]

        This capitalism run amok in a Enronesque fashion does nothing but
        make the rich, filthy rich .

        I grow weary of this Tax on taxes, and fees on f
        • Re:Fix it (Score:4, Funny)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:38PM (#15406115) Homepage Journal
          You're an idiot. Don't just read what you want into my comments. Read what I actually said, instead. The next line, which you failed to quote, starts "All kidding aside". In the English language, that typically means that the last thing you said/wrote was humor. In other languages, it doesn't mean shit, therefore you have no fucking excuse. Where I was talking about not seeing the bad, I was talking about AOL being blown out of the water, which is a huge win for everyone - so I was half-serious, and every good joke contains a kernel of the truth just as every good stereotype does. YOU fit the stereotype of the slashbot with a knee spasm problem.
    • Other than the 'regulation is bad' angle and the swiss bank accounts that you mention, there is also the chance that they would just try extorting the content providers anyway. If they could get the likes of Google and Yahoo paying protection money so they don't appear slow compared to MSN (for example) you still get the tier problem without it being to do with conflicts of interests.
    • by JoeLinux (20366) <joelinuxNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:24PM (#15405718) Homepage
      Fine...let them create the tiered internet...then sue them the next time you get spammed through their connection.

      1 million lawsuits the day after should convince them otherwise.

      All you need are lawyers....
  • by XorNand (517466) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:09PM (#15405152)
    A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and wrote my first and only letter to a federal rep. Here in Oakland county, Michigan that happens to be Thaddeus McCotter [house.gov]. I decided on a fax because I've read that letters are given greater consideration compared to phone calls and emails, and a fax is better (faster) than the postal service due to postal security concerns. While the letter addresses my concerns from the viewpoint of a VoIP company founder, net neturallity is of major concern to anyone who is starting (or thinking of starting) any Internet-based company.

    Congressman McCotter:

    I am not politically active and have never contacted a federal representative in my life. However, I am taking the time today to write you because I am very deeply concerned about pending legislation intended to counter recent actions by large telecommunication companies that will hugely detrimental effect on the American citizenry, your constituents, and myself personally.

    As things currently stand, big phone companies and cable conglomerates have what is called "common carrier [wikipedia.org]" status. Meaning that they are required to treat all phone calls, Internet traffic, etc. identically. In exchange for keeping their hands off, carriers are given special tax breaks and are normally exempt from being liable for the content they carry (Comcast can't be held criminally liable if someone downloads child porn using a Comcast cable modem, for example). This is how things have been since 1934. However, Congress is moving in the direction to give the big phone and cable companies the power to regulate the 'net as they see fit. They will be able to pick favorites and decide who's traffic they carry--or don't carry at all.

    December of last year, I founded Bright Idea VoIP [brightideavoip.com] here in Novi, Michigan. We're an Internet-based telephone company that provides voice communication services to small-businesses. I frequently explain it as "Vonage for companies with 5 to 100 employees." This technology is known as "Voice-over-IP" (VoIP) is currently one of the fastest growing segments of the Internet. There are hundreds of companies like mine popping up all over the map. I am not rich by any sense of the word; I am simply a computer geek with a great idea who is trying to earn my piece of the American dream. And it's paying off... The company is growing very quickly. I (and my small, but also growing, group of coworkers) are working hard, but enjoying almost every minute of it. But for us to continue to thrive, or just to survive, we need a level playing field.

    If AT&T, Verizon, or another large competitor of ours gains the ability to turn off or slow down areas of the Internet, our service will grind to a halt and I won't be able to do a thing about it. If they start to charge me a special "priority access fee", I'll have to pass that cost onto my subscribers. Suddenly the largest appeal of VoIP is reduced, making it less of a threat to the big telecom companies. The net effect is that I will be out of business within a year. And it's not just me... it's the thousands of other Internet innovators. We'll never know the next Google, eBay, or Amazon.com if the established 800 lb. gorillas get the power to decide who stays and who fails. That's not capitalism and that's not the American way.

    With the lifeblood of manufacturing jobs in the metro Detroit area rapidly disappearing, your district desperately needs your help in promoting innovation and job growth in the technology sector. I ask that you please support Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey's "Network Neutrality Act of 2006 [house.gov]", and that you see through the well-funded smoke screen of large telecom lobbyists.



    I didn't even get a form letter back in return. Since he's up for relelection this
    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:13PM (#15405182)
      Lack of reply is not lack of response. Watch how he votes before deciding how you vote.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:33PM (#15405360)
      Good letter!

      Now tell me how you faxed the wikipedia link, and I'll be really impressed.
    • I'm all for the idea of net neutrality, but I am against net neutrality laws which give the government more power over the internet. Then later when they pass more laws concerning the internet, laws that the slashdot crowd doesn't agree with, everyone will be complaining how the U.S. government has no business regulating the world wide web.

      This is similar to 1st Amendment rights. Do I want Neo-Nazis to hold their little hate demonstrations? No. Do I want the government to outlaw them? NO! That's how
      • The problem is that the government is already involved. The idea of the internet as you see it today is a direct responce to the governments involvment (common carrier status). What we are asking is that the government don't change any of the laws as they currently stand or if they do change the laws, only do so to enforce the internet as it currently stands.

        The idea of a neo nazi making hate speech in your home towns public square is also something levied about by government interfearance. It is government
      • You just can't pick and choose when you want the government's involvement on an issue.

        Excuse me for being naive, but I thought that was *exactly* what democracy was about; this compromise.

        The alternatives are anarchy, or 100% government control.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Next time, skip the part about being "not politically active" - it lends a sense of honesty and credibility to the letter, but the unintended consequence is that you have also just told the staffer who reads it that you exercise little political power beyond your own vote. Unfortunately that might hurt your chances of the congressman paying attention to you.
    • Hey, I just came up with my list of the top 1 things never to say to a politician you're trying to influence (or even read the remainder of your letter), and I thought I'd pass it along to you for future reference:

      1. I am not politically active

      hth!

    • I highly recommend anyone writing similar letters to their representatives to Get to the Point in the first paragraph. Identify the bill and how you think they should vote as soon as you're done with the formality of introducing yourself. Just like writing technical reports. The introduction or abstract always sums up the main content so a busy reader can glean the important parts from it immediately. Congressmen don't have time for their constituents...^H^H^H^H... are very busy people and receive quite a b
    • McCotter: Secretary, throw that trash from the fax machine on the fire.
      Secretary: Woohoo! More heat!
  • Tiery eyed (Score:4, Funny)

    by dotslashdot (694478) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:11PM (#15405166)
    It brings tiers to my eyes.
    • Oh man, they'd just love that. Your Eye-S-P could decide to prioritise pretty much anything they wanted, and they could stick the charge at either end too. Want to read a book today? "Sorry, as part of our QoS plan, we're deprioritising books in favor of good old fashioned Fox News and SUV adverts."
    • Don't loose any sleep over it.
  • be fair (Score:5, Funny)

    by convolvatron (176505) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:13PM (#15405176)
    i'm sure that given this new income, the phone companies will lower
    their rates and it will all balance out.
    • i'm sure that given this new income, the phone companies will lower
      their rates and it will all balance out.


      Joking aside, maybe not the phone company but why not ISP vs ISP and (at the next level) Telco vs Telco? Unless there are no alternative routes for the data it seems to me that there will be competition. Sure, asinine ISP "A" will put the brakes on data from source X but the word will get around and over time customers will move to alternative ISP "B" where the data is moving faster. While not everyon
      • Sure, asinine ISP "A" will put the brakes on data from source X but the word will get around and over time customers will move to alternative ISP "B" where the data is moving faster. While not everyone has access to multiple suppliers it seems to me that there is pretty healthy competition in this market and, best of all, for many customers it really isn't too hard to switch suppliers.

        Which is precisely why AOL went out of business in '01, when other ISP's were offering much faster service for lower prices.

  • Poor Analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nos. (179609) <andrew AT thekerrs DOT ca> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:14PM (#15405185) Homepage

    FTA: "Christopher Yoo, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, argues that consumers should be willing to pay for faster delivery of content on the Internet, just as many FedEx customers willingly shell out extra for overnight delivery. "A regulatory approach that allows companies to pursue a strategy like FedEx's makes sense," he says.

    He's looking at it incorrectly though. Absolutely I should, as a consumer of a service be able to choose different levels of service, for example, dial up, "light" high speed, or torrent-downloading-freak high speed. However, using his Fed-Ex example, since when does the shipper AND the receiver pay for the service.


    • However, using his Fed-Ex example, since when does the shipper AND the receiver pay for the service.

      When you buy something.
    • Re:Poor Analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xenocide2 (231786) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:12PM (#15405629) Homepage
      It's even more retarded than you present it. Currently, companies like Google and Yahoo and Archive.org pay for every byte they send. Yes, there's the issue of who is charged, reciever or sender, and Tiered Internet changes this some. But currently, if you use more packets, you pay more money. Net neutrality isn't about paying more for sending or recieving more. It's about selling "priority routing." Your average bandwidth likely remains the same, but worst case latency could be much improved. Say you're a large company with a good income stream from selling VoIP products. What the ISPs want to sell you is the right for your packets to be served before everyone else's. If you're the only person in line, it's a great advantage, your packets will all have low latency, and packet loss would be minimal. You would be able to corner the market quickly, either by paying the ISPs for the exclusive right for priority, or simply by being among the few who choose to pay for the privledge. This division of packets among customers (customers who've already paid per byte) is what has been labelled a Tiered Internet.

      Nobody knows how the ISPs plan to implement this Tiered Internet from a business perspective. Some people fear ISPs like the Bells will use this to crush the threat VoIP represents to their phone networks. Some people think that it could be used as a competitive advantage for ISPs to enter content markets by giving themselves higest priority reguardless of bids on the table. Some people worry that priority creates a false scarcity and bidding war that leaves the larger players well served and squeezes out the traditionally vital role small new players have had in Internet applications; the consumer ISPs represent such a huge and critical market that companies can't risk losing them, and everyone ends up paying for privledges. Others have said that optimizing the Internet for one particular role (streaming media) deoptimizes it for all others.

      Ideally, a Tiered Internet allows us to segregate data transfers that don't require some level of QoS (downloading patches, web traffic, other non-realtime data) from applications that do benefit from it (streaming movies, VoIP, other real-time contrained things). I personally worry that the consumer internet market is not diverse enough to allow a free market to compete for the most optimal solution, nor the average consumer capable of pinpointing the troubles they may find on subtle changes to the network that the ISPs have planned but not advertised.
    • It's worse than that.

      Sender and receiver already pay for traffic, to their respective ISPs. This is like being charged extra to let the parcel you already paid FedEx to deliver, actually be delivered.
  • by RingDev (879105) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:14PM (#15405193) Homepage Journal
    Simple, if they don't want to be a common carrier, hold them accountable for anything that is transmitted.

    Either be a common carrier, or be charged with a felony every time a kiddy porn image passes through their network. Hold them accountable for criminal digital acts including hacking, DOS attacks, defacement, etc...

    Either they are a common carrier, or they aren't. None of this cake having and eating.

    -Rick
    • None of this cake having and eating.
      You're being very closed minded about this, aren't you. There are companies making billions off of sending cake through my pipes, and even though it's my infrastructure that I built, for some reason I'm not allowed to see any of that profit?
      • There are companies making billions off of sending cake through my pipes, and even though it's my infrastructure that I built, for some reason I'm not allowed to see any of that profit?


        That's exactly right, or do you think that the phone company should make money based upon how many sales a company makes using the telephone? No, they get money when they carry data over their lines, they are a carrier.
        • Dear me, I do wish they would let me put a big foot icon in my posts. But then again, would anyone even notice [linuxvirus.net]?
          • The problem is that there is plenty of precedent for this, see the history of American railroad companies. Everything was negotiable, and the railroads held almost all of the negotiating power. If you didn't like their rates, you were free to build your own railroad.
            • If you didn't like their rates, you were free to build your own railroad.

              With one very big difference: The freight in this case (packets) can be quickly and easily re-routed and there are already existing alternative tracks in place for most routes. Bottom line: there isn't a monopoly on the digital "rails" from (for example) Boston to Los Angeles. If the biggest pipe between those two cities decides to start preferentially charging google traffic then ISP's on either end will have an incentive to find a c
      • Well.... you should be making money getting people to sign up for Internet access from your pipes (paying various amounts for given service speed levels).

        I mean fucking BILLIONS of dollars have been made by people making business deals on the phone.... are you saying the phone company is somehow entitled to a percentage of real estate deals made on the telephone???

        I call bullshite on you, and you have ignored the main point of his argument... the service providers have been shielded from prosecution
      • Yes, just like when we build a toll bridge, we charge for utilization, not for what kind of utilization. Yes, you pay more per axle, but that's really just an easy way to charge for different weight classes (think throughput) without using scales. You don't pay more if you're Con-X than if you're US Veterans Trucking.
        • I think that analogy hits very directly at what tiered internet effectively accomplishes.

          Now onto the question of whether or not someone who owns a private bridge (since almost all bridges in the US are managed by some level of the government, but almost all the backbones are privately owned), has a right to let FedEx's trucks cross before UPS's when the bridge is crowded if FedEx is willing to pay for the privilege. Meanwhile UPS can wait in the queue.

          But wait...transportation projects are taken on p
          • Personally I think that infrastructure should be open and legislated, perhaps even government-owned (as the roads are) while services that utilize them should be private. The simple fact is that even lines on roads are rules. Laws then make those lines more than they were already, of course - but what I'm getting at is that if the cops wouldn't come out and get people for crossing the lines when they shouldn't, or running into people for that matter, what we'd end up with would be a bunch of slow-moving ar

      • No, you aren't. I own US patent 0001337, method for sending cake through pipes. Expect a letter from my attorneys.
        • Looks like we've got conflicting patents then, because I've got this other patent detailing a method for turning the benefits of a free cake provision service into shit and then forcing my paying customers on the other end to eat this shit, and also the shit smells.
      • Lets see, you charge consumer level ISPs and consumers to connect to your pipes. Then you charge the content providers another fee to be connected to your pipes. It sure sounds like you have ample opportunity to see as much of that profit as you like. You are completely entitled to raise your fees as high as the market will bear.

        But allowing an ISP to determine the quality (or availability) of a service will undermine competition and innovation. How hard is it to foresee AT&T slowing VoIP calls down to
  • They're being very up-front: they want more money. There's nothing "stealth" about it.
  • Not exactly... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RexRhino (769423) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:20PM (#15405241)
    Creating a tiered internet does not mean that users pay twice... It means that users pay more to the online content provider instead of paying more to their internet service provider. The economics of the article are not exactly correct.

    Now, don't get me wrong, tiered internet is still bad, because it squeezes out smaller content providers who can't pay for extra bandwidth. But opposition to a tiered internet isn't about paying less, it is about making sure that Internet isn't like cable TV or radio, or other mediums where a handful of companies or the government control the whole thing. I, as a consumer, want to get the web site that I want, and I want to get it fast, and I don't care if that web site is google or something very obscure.
    • No, a given user's ISP will be charged more for their fat pipe to the Internet and therefore will charge their customers more for access. If the price remained the same, the outer ISPs would all lose money on the deal.

      Because routing is dynamic, the problem is actually worse than that, particularly if peering essentially collapses and different backbone providers charge each other for preferred bandwidth and/or preferred routing. Those prices will bubble up through the system, hitting the end-point ISPs, fo

    • Right now, content sites balance the price of bandwidth with the sale of ad space. They have to average more income from ad clicks than it costs them bandwidth. If they get hit with "Tiered Internet" costs, their costs go up, which means they either:
      A) Put more ads on the site
      B)Start charging money for formerly free services (like the stuff in GoogleLabs, or blogs costing money to rent), or
      C) Go out of business.

      Whichever way it works out, the customer loses value or has to pay more. Therefore, this pl
  • I don't mean the idea of net-neutrality, but rather the idea of service providers charging content providers extra.

    That is, as long as there is competition in the Internet bandwidth space. I don't know what it's like now, but back in '99 or so there was quite a bit of competition as these companies were fighting to get the business.

    So google.com has a internet connections coming in from AT&T, and AT&T says "You have to pay us extra because you are google". What's google going to do? They're going
    • by SydShamino (547793) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:58PM (#15405541)
      So google.com has a internet connections coming in from AT&T, and AT&T says "You have to pay us extra because you are google". What's google going to do? They're going to call around and find someone else to provide the service.

      You have the idea completely wrong. Here is the scenario as stated:
      1. Google does not use AT&T for its ISP.
      2. AT&T calls Google and says "We have 100,000 customers. Pay us $0.01 a packet or we will deliberately slow down or lose packets sent from you to our customers."
      3. Google says "..."

      This has nothing to do with service providers charging more to their own customers (who happen to be content providers). It has to do with service providers charging independent content providers a sort of "mob tax" to make sure nothing "happens" to their data on its route.

      Sure if AT&T does this, AT&T's customers can move to Time Warner. Then what if Time Warner does it, too? Those are the only high-speed internet options I have. And even if there was a third-party ISP (i.e. Earthlink), they probably rent their lines from AT&T or Time Warner, and they would have the same restriction.

      The only option I see is this one:
      3. Google says "O Rly. Well then, we're going to take our nationwide dark fiber and roll out a low-cost high-speed nationwide ISP. When you've lost 20,000 customers, come back and apologize and we won't take your other 80,000." ..but probably Google will turn evil and offer tiered service, too.
      • Sure if AT&T does this, AT&T's customers can move to Time Warner. Then what if Time Warner does it, too? Those are the only high-speed internet options I have.

        So Google places a banner on their site that says "We recognize you are coming from AT&T, and you must know that this company is giving you piss poor service in an attempt to blackmail us. If you care about that, call 1-800-CALL-ATT" or something.

        This whole thing is going to flop just like DivX.

        I guess my point is, the big boys are going
        • So Google places a banner on their site that says "We recognize you are coming from AT&T, and you must know that this company is giving you piss poor service in an attempt to blackmail us. If you care about that, call 1-800-CALL-ATT" or something.
          How is this going to stop them? AT&T will tell me that "in the interest of giving you the best possible service, we have chosen select providers to guarantee high-speed access directly to our customers. For web search, we have chosen MSN Search, which is
    • I don't think you understand the issue with net neutrality here: Its not what Google's ISP charges them. Its what Your ISP -- or anyone providing any of the pipes in between Google and you -- charges Google to guarantee that Google's packets get to you on a timely basis (which also means "reliably", or possibly "at all"). Right now, Google's ISP(s) could negotiate a special deal with them (and, given that I doubt anyone has a standard scale that covers the level of service Google requires, I'm sure that ea
  • by mpapet (761907)
    If I could place a bet on a Tiered Internet, I would because it's going to happen.

    The profit potential is too great.

    Whatever you thought the Internet is/was, it won't be for long because there are too many players that stand to make way too much money.

    -Big ISP's kill the smaller ISP's because they'll pay a "wholesale transit tax." Competition? What competition?

    -Companies providing the fiber/cable get to collect more. Someone explain to me how it's possible for there to be any competition in this segment
  • by bobs666 (146801)
    When there is a tiered Internet, there will be the EvilNet and the KoolWiFiNet. The cost will be time until the Kool Net can be made a reality.

    Just yet another Government imposed setback. Its things like this that lets the rest of the world simply pass us by.

  • by i am kman (972584) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:27PM (#15405295)
    The article talks about selectively prioritizing data streams, which does seem almost evil on the face of it.

    But what if they left the existing infrastructure in place and focused offering on enhanced access to paid sites through selective, local staging and caching (such as leveraging telco-based Yotta Yotta or Akamai implementations)? It seems reasonable to charge for this, it doesn't really impact the rest of the world, and it could enable much faster access.

    Ok, it does sound a little bit evil. But certainly far less than deliberately routing non-paying sites through lower bandwidth lines.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:28PM (#15405305)
    If Amazon shows consumers this tiered fee/tax (and the tech support number of the offending ISP), I can't help but think that ISP will soon discover that the fee/tax is unprofitable.

    Let the market decide, but ensure that consumers have all the facts and tools to affect the decision.
  • Correct me if I am wrong:

    a) Hosting companies pay their uplink for bandwidth and transfer

    b) Websites pay hosting companies for bandwidth and transfer

    c) ISPs pay their uplink for bandwidth and transfer

    d) Surfers pay ISPs for bandwidth and transfer

    This is an obvious spite move by Big Telecom. Analog telephony is dead, long live analog telephony. Don't invent services to make up for an obviated technology.
  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:35PM (#15405376) Journal
    Version 1: What every Slashdotter fears. Our ISPs charge us, the site's ISP charges them, and then our ISP and anyone in between charges the site to not throttle down their connection. This business model is impractical and would probably be found illegal if taken to court.

    Version 2: What will probably happen. Any site can pay for what amounts to a "leased line" from their server to our ISP. This would give them guaranteed bandwidth across the entire trip and eliminate potential bottlenecks.

    Another idea (would also fit in #2) I've heard mentioned is that service providers can essentially buy more bandwidth for you, but only to use their site. Say you have a 3 Mb connection. ABC wants to stream HDTV to you and would prefer it be over a 6- or 10 Mb connection. They pay your ISP, your ISP conditionally opens up your bandwidth so you can get the stream flawlessly without having to pay for the higher bandwidth full-time.

    I'm all for #2, especially the second part. I'd love to be able to pay a small fee to have my bandwidth opened up for a particular service.
    • by mugnyte (203225) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:08PM (#15405603) Journal
      How can you say your 2.2 is a workable solution? Imagine: User upgrades from 3Mbit to 6Mbit, full time, anytime. User doesn't have to worry if content at "schmoe.nowhere" is in the same game as "www.abc.com", or any other closely tied affiliate of ISP.

        The ISP cannot throttle what they've already sold. This is the Big Lie of bandwidth. It's dynamic on the demand side. However, scaling back based on any criteria suddenly places the carrier into a serious category: judge.

      • What are the public checks to ensure ISP doesn't throttle based on source? content?
      • If they do throttle, what are the rules? How are they communicated? enforced?
      • What are the true values for continuous bandwidth? can i demand content all day at full without worry? What did I pay for?
      • How does the market remain free for smaller ISPs? If they are throttled above them, but their competition is not, why? Who is going to police this behavior, and pay for such policing?

      Overall, it's a safe bet that the money is going to the ISPs. This is a power play, IMHO. "You like internet? great, today internet is slower, unless you visit my friends' sites, or pay me". Bullshit!

      If this goes through, perhaps the only recourse is homegrown networks, with fat links to other homegrowns. Suddenly, the backbone is replaced with a newborn wireless system - which will take a long time to match anything around today. However, the possibility is growing.

         
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:51PM (#15405871)
      Er, #1 and #2 are two different ways of wording the exact same thing.

      The "amounts to a 'leased line'" connection in #2 is the result of the charges in #1. In either case, you get a comparatively degraded connection unless your content provider has paid a negotiated surcharge to the pipes between their service provider and you to guarantee premium access, and you can guarantee that if they are providing a service that your ISP wants to provide (or anyone else in between!), those fees are not going to be reasonable.
  • Christopher Yoo, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, argues that consumers should be willing to pay for faster delivery of content on the Internet, just as many FedEx customers willingly shell out extra for overnight delivery. "A regulatory approach that allows companies to pursue a strategy like FedEx's makes sense," he says.

    So, just how is the internet similar to SnailMail? The only thing I can think of to explain this statement is that this guy is getting a lot of money from some ISP.

  • I mean, seriously. When I call someone long distance, I pay the bill. They don't typically bill the person I'm calling, too. This sounds remarkably similar to the VOIP phone service in my area, where all calls are included in the basic rate, no matter where or for how long. Sure, the other party has to have phone service, too, but I feel pretty confident that Google pays something for their access to the backbone.

    This just sounds like another BS excuse to get more money. If the flat rate is too expensi
  • by Stalyn (662) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:41PM (#15405422) Homepage Journal
    Today the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation to "preserve Internet freedom and competition". From the press release [house.gov]
    H.R. 5417, the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act" will give certainty to entrepreneurs, investors, and others who seek to deliver innovative ideas to market that they may do so without fearing discrimination. Specifically, this bill would amend the Clayton Act to require that network providers: 1) interconnect with the facilities of other network providers on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis; 2) operate their network in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner such that non-affiliated providers of content,
    services and applications have an equal opportunity to reach consumers; and 3) refrain frominterfering with users' ability to choose the lawful content, services and applications they want to use.
  • by fl!ptop (902193) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:48PM (#15405464) Journal

    i have been keeping very close track of this story for the past 2 months now. both sides of the argument have valid points.

    for example, consider the telecommunications companies' point of view. currently, they sell more access to bandwidth than they have available. which is fine for regular, burst-type internet use.

    now, with internet tv, video-on-demand, and movie downloads looming on the horizon, their argument is, "the current infrastructure can't handle everyone watching streaming video or downloading movies at the same time. if your house is on fire, and all your neighbors are downloading the last episode of '24', your VoIP phone call to 911 may not go through."

    so their goal is to get the gov't to allow them to run their part of the internet as a private network. where they can partition off portions of their bandwidth that's dedicated to VoIP phone calls and such, while allowing a (perhaps smaller) portion of the pipe to be available for video downloads and such.

    but the potention for abuse is there. what's to stop comcast from throttling a customer's bandwidth if they're using vonage so it basically becomes unusable, then forcing that customer to use comcast's VoIP service instead?

    then you have the argument of the google's, microsoft's, amazon's, etc. they know that they'll be charged money to guarantee fast delivery of their services on infrastructure of those companies they're not partnered with. for example, if comcast and yahoo partner up, comcast can guarantee yahoo's search page comes up right away, but google's might take a few seconds longer. that would be a disaster for anyone who doesn't pay the 'comcast tax' and relies on their ads being served up.

    one thing the telecom companies forget is that, although they've invested billions into this country's infrastructure, joe taxpayer has had a hand in that investment too. look at your phone bill. see those taxes? universal service charge - what's that for? it's to encourage better connectivity to schools, libraries and rural areas. it's collected and distributed back to the telecoms to invest in infrastructure.

    the root problem is the current infrastructure won't be able to handle all the new tv/video/movie services that are about to strike. so instead of investing in more bandwidth to handle the load in the manner we currently enjoy (net neutrality), the telecoms want to use the 'tiered' structure instead.

    i'm with tim berners-lee on this - provide either service or content, but not both.

    • now, with internet tv, video-on-demand, and movie downloads looming on the horizon, their argument is, "the current infrastructure can't handle everyone watching streaming video or downloading movies at the same time. if your house is on fire, and all your neighbors are downloading the last episode of '24', your VoIP phone call to 911 may not go through."

      There is a simple solution to this. Charge customers by traffic volume. If a user downloads 30GB, he pays twice as much as someone who pays 15GB. Peop

  • You just know that the step after a web site paying to get better service will be paying to cut out the competition. Just like Intel did to AMD: giving the founderies business provided they did not do business with AMD. Typical behavior of a monopolist. At that point the web will stop being the great leveler and will become another cartel owned by the media elite.

    Lets hope and work to make sure that day never arrives.

  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:49PM (#15405472)
    You really think it's a good idea to have big government barging and telling people what they can and can't do on the internet? Wasn't one of the cool things about the internet was that it was supposed to be independent from government regulation and control? That it would allow for experimentation and innovation for both individuals and businesses, and not be told what we can and can't do?
    • Don't you mean, creating a geographicly distributed computer network such that a single strike at one military facility would not take down the entire network?
    • You really think it's a good idea to have big government barging and telling people what they can and can't do on the internet?

      I think its good for government (whether its otherwise "big" or "small") to tell people what they can do with infrastructure for which it is impractical have competition, like telephone wires, power lines, etc. Particularly, to prevent them from leveraging their control over these inherently limited infrastructure resources to stifly competition in other markets. Like, in the case o

  • Good news! (Score:5, Informative)

    by vertinox (846076) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:49PM (#15405473)
    The Net Neutrality bill just passed the committee:

    http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/ [savetheinternet.com]
    The broad, nonpartisan movement for Internet freedom notched a major victory today, when a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee passed the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006 -- a bill that offers meaningful protections for Network Neutrality, "the First Amendment of the Internet."

    20 members of the Commitee (6 Republicans and 14 Democrats) voted for the bipartisan Bill, and only 13 against.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:49PM (#15405857) Homepage

    Christopher Yoo got it, and his point is what's wrong with the telecomm's ideas. He's right, consumers should be able to pay for better delivery, just like when I order something shipped FedEx I can pay for regular delivery or I can pay more for overnight delivery depending on what I want. But that's not what the telecomms propose. That'd be like the telecomms saying "Consumer, you're using a lot of bandwidth. If you want to download streaming video you're going to have to pay for a higher-capacity link.". What the telecomms propose, though, is to not have the consumer pay for what they want but to have whoever the consumer's asking for stuff from pay. It's like my ordering something and paying for overnight shipping, and FedEx saying to the shipper "Right then. The customer's paid for standard shipping, but unless you pay us for overnight delivery we'll shove your package in the back and deliver it whenever we feel like it. Which may be never. Oh, and the extra just gets you standard delivery, real overnight will be yet more on top of that.". Of course the telecomms don't want to phrase it that way, because people understand FedEx and the extortion attempt's blatantly obvious.

    • But that (your shipping example) is already happening, isn't it?
      Express delivery with higher fees only works when standard shipping is slower, which can only be guaranteed by deliberatly delaying standard shipped packages.
      Also, when customers complain about nondelivery of packages, shipping companies will usually point to extra services they could have offered to reduce the risk.
      Customers expect their packages to be delivered (not lost) and be delivered in reasonable time, but when standard delivery would d
  • There are a number of sites online with information on this issue. You can take a look at the save the internet coalition at www.savetheinternet.com. One thing that I strongly suggest people look into is a cooperative effort between moveon.org and of all people, the Christian Coalition. They are teaming up to afford a $70,000 ad in the New York Times. That will really get people talking and see that there couldn't be a more Bipartisan issue out there. 2000 people donating $35 gets the ad. I've already
  • Just remember that Yahoo and AT&T are already deeply in bed with each other. They have been partners since long before SBC bought AT&T and assumed that name. If you will recall, SBC bought and destroyed on "portal" company. After that debacle they decided it was best to partner with someone and they picked Yahoo. Remember that they call their DSL service AT&T Yahoo! internet.

    Rember that SBC has been trying to destroy the Internet since the Internet destroyed their plans for a monopoly informatio
  • Easy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MECC (8478) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:10PM (#15406538)
    From the article: "On a technical level, creating this so-called Internet fast lane is easy. In the current system, network devices called differentiated service routers prioritize data, assigning more bandwidth to, for example, an Internet telephone call or streaming video than to an e-mail message."

    Easy did they say? What planet are they on? Every time a packet crosses a carrier, the priority may or may not be paid equal attention to. I wouldn't think for even a second that AT&T will treat Verizon's prioritized packets with as high a priority as their own customer's prioritized packets.

    Even more misunderstood is that the last mile makes much more of a difference than the backbones. If your local ISP doesn't care about the differenciated services settings, all the money Google, Yahoo, and Disney shell out for better streaming video performance won't add up to much. The Disneys of the scene will eventually figure out that they paid for the privilege of slowing everybody down, not speeding themselves up. That should be an interesting fight.

    Easy...

  • not really (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:27PM (#15406628)
    I have no objection in ISP charging web sites for being accessed, it's their right to do so, it's their fiber etc. Well theoretically. The *real* issue is that ISPs have a quasi monopoly. In fact it's a fairly natural monopoly, there's no point in companies digging parallel pipes in the ground. The same problem could arise with electricity. The energy providers can't really do evil, but what if the guys who own the cable starting charging the appliance builders to work with electricity. In the end it all comes back to owns the fiber... even if a monopoly controls it, it can't do a lot of damage since a competitor could profit and start placing evil-free fiber. Google anyone?
  • I'm worried (Score:3, Insightful)

    by igaborf (69869) on Friday May 26, 2006 @06:00AM (#15408353)
    I work for a nonprofit with about 100,000 Internet-connected members. Here's the scenario that worries me:

    Me: Hello, how may I help you?

    Member: I'm having a lot of trouble accessing your Web site through my ISP, BigTelecom, Inc. What gives?

    Me: Let me check into it.

    [later]

    BigTelecom: Hello, how may I help you?

    Me: Hi, our members who are your customers are experiencing problems contacting our Web site, and the problem seems to occur at the border to your network.

    BigTelecom: May I have your customer number, please?

    Me: Uh, I'm not your customer, our members are.

    BigTelecom: Sir, without a customer number we can't guarantee connectivity to your site. It's only $300 per month. Would you like me to transfer you to our sales department?

    Me: Yeah, $300/month times the number of ISPs our members use, which is essentially all of them! Nuts!

    If the telecom companies get what they want, that's the exact scenario I'll be dealing with.

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