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The Internet The Almighty Buck

BellSouth Will Charge Providers For Performance 594

smooth wombat writes "In a follow-up to this Slashdot story from last month, BellSouth has confirmed that it is in discussions with content providers to levy charges to reliably and speedily deliver content and services of the providers. Bill Smith, chief technology officer at BellSouth justified content charging companies by saying they are using the telco's network without paying for it. "
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BellSouth Will Charge Providers For Performance

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  • There goes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:34AM (#14490522) Homepage
    Common carrier status.
    • Re:There goes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by altoz ( 653655 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:37AM (#14490551)
      Yep, separate the moronic ISPs who'll be out of business in 5 years and the innovative cost-effective ones that'll be in business for a while.
    • Re:There goes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:43AM (#14490600)
      So does this mean a small website could sue for extortion or sabotage if the network performance is poor? With this liability and the potential loss of common carrier status for the "paid off" pages, I would think the company lawyers would be nervous. But then again, it seems no company is looking ahead to potential liability anymore.
      • Competition? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:02PM (#14490788) Homepage Journal
        And can I pay to have my competitor's service not accelerated?

        • Hey look, there's somebody that thinks they know how to make money on teh intarweb. Let's tax them!
      • Re:There goes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:06PM (#14490824) Homepage Journal
        So does this mean a small website could sue for extortion or sabotage if the network performance is poor?

        I have to hope so. Also, those users who see poor performance on a website should sue as well, because users DO pay for the use of the lines. This is without a question extortion. Bell South says "they don't pay for the lines" as if no one at all pays for them. But you and I pay for the lines - so Bell South wants to be paid twice for the same slice of cake.

        I hope this gets challenged in court and Bell South gets the spanking it deserves. This makes me so sick.

        • Re:There goes (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jamieswith ( 682838 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:19PM (#14490964)
          Incredibly good point... It would be like your phone company sending a bill to everyone that you call... If you are already supposed to be paying for the entire call, what right do they have to charge someone else for the same call? I'd be tempted as a consumer to try to sue BellSouth for at least part of the cost of my DSL, since apparently I'm not supposed to be paying the entire cost of my connection - apparently the content providers are paying some of it - sounds like a simple case of over-billing! 2 slices of the cake indeed.
          • Re:There goes (Score:5, Interesting)

            by rahlquist ( 558509 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:46PM (#14491168) Homepage
            Yes bellsouth wants to charge you for both ends of that phone call. What else they want to do is force companies like VOIP providers to pay higher rates than say Google or Itunes and the VOIP provider has to pass that cost on to you. How much would bellsouth charge for such a thing, well probably something in EXCESS of what they charge the average schmuck for long distance service. Effectively making someone like Vonage charge their users more than BS has to charge its customers for the services.

            So they completely plan on screwing the end user. But hey as long as they are loyal to their shareholders who gives a flip about you lousy customers, you cost too much using all of that bandwidth we are selling to you! This doesnt remind me anything of monopolistic business practices.
          • Re:There goes (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @02:01PM (#14491882)
            Or that's like ATM vendors charging your bank to provide service through an ATM, and your bank passes that fee on to you. Then, the ATM assesses you a surcharge directly, which is added to the other fee.

            Oh wait, this one happens...
            • Re:There goes (Score:3, Insightful)

              by aaronl ( 43811 )
              No, that does not happen. What *is* happening is that your bank either charges you a fee to use an ATM, or not. If they don't, and you use their ATMs, then you pay nothing. If you use an out of network ATM, they may levy a transaction fee. The bank that owns the ATM may also assess a transaction fee; after all, it is their ATM.

              So... your bank charges you for using a foreign ATM. The foreign bank charges you for using their ATM with a foreign account. That is why when you withdraw $20, you get debitted
      • Re:There goes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GoodNicsTken ( 688415 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:11PM (#14490871)
        I don't think they are thinking this through. Right now they only see Access charges (what LD companies pay them) in decline, and VoIP is eating their lunch. With the FCC taking years to fix the problem they are trying to find an alternative.

        I find it odd that the main arguement DSL used in early 2000 was the connection is not shared as it is with cable. Now as a subscriber, I can apparently pay for 1M service, but only get 500K unless the service provider is paying Bellsouth (and if this flys, every other telco) for the extra bandwidth?

        When customers realize Bellsouth is not providing the service they are paying for, there's going to be some backlash. This is what happens when the stock market is running a company. Executives do stupid things to try and make their bouns.

        • Re:There goes (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Cramer ( 69040 )
          You're only paying for 1M between you and the DSLAM. Beyond the DSLAM, I'm certain you're not going to always get your full rate. Case in point, I know of at least one DSL ISP that sells >1M connections to DLSAMs feed via 768K frame T1's... it is impossible to see greater than 768k to any single connection; and then, only if you are the only one moving any traffic. Even the ones feed by DS3 are oversold by a factor of 12. (which is actually a little better than the industry average.)

          The claims of "no
    • Not if LobbyMan! and the Lawyer Justice Leauge has anything to do about it. To the Slime Cave!
    • Re:There goes (Score:5, Informative)

      by ipfwadm ( 12995 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:57AM (#14490745) Homepage
      They didn't have common carrier status to begin with. Remember this []? The Wikipedia article on common carrier [] also says that ISPs are not generally considered common carriers, and do not wish to be so. Unfortunately, it's a bit thin on the details aside from saying that common carrier status carries "obligations they would rather avoid".
    • Re:There goes (Score:5, Informative)

      by metternich ( 888601 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:58AM (#14490751)
      Why do people keep on insisting that ISPs are Common Carriers when they aren't?

      See the damn Wikipedia article []:
      The key FCC Order on this point is: IN RE FEDERAL-STATE JOINT BOARD ON UNIVERSAL SERVICE, 13 FCC Rcd. 11501 (1998), which holds that ISP service (both "retail" and backbone) is an "information service" (not subject to common carrier obligations) rather than a "telecommunications service" (which might be classified as "common carriage").

    • Re:There goes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:04PM (#14490811) Homepage
      It will be very difficult for the FCC to do anything here because as a result of the death of public peering points around 2000 all usual content suspects are directly connected to the BellSouth (and other tier 1 providers) networks and are in direct commercial agreement with them. As a result these are just normal customer/provider relations. It is not transit or anything originated by another carrier carried across BellSouth and dumped onto another carrier. So common carrier ideas will be very difficult to apply.
      If the FCC did not close their eyes when the Tier1 effectively formed a cartel and killed all peering points around 2000 and if it did not allow babybells to grow back to mabell size it would not have happened. Now there is little that can be done besides restarting the MaBell breakup process
  • by mikelieman ( 35628 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:35AM (#14490528) Homepage
    Oh, I guess you want to have your cake, AND eat it too?

    • by Spamalope ( 91802 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:43AM (#14490606)
      I want my cake. BellSouth is benefiting from the services it's subscribers are accessing over the network. BellSouth uses this access to sell monthly network access subscriptions to my (and everyone else's) content. BellSouth is selling my content. Pay up bitch.
      • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:07PM (#14490842)
        Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

        Give the man a prize.

        If you include company's logo in your video game without asking you are likely to get a nastygram from their lawyers insisting you remove it.

        If you contact them and ask them how much they want to license the logo to you they will quote you a price and gladly take your money.

        But. . .

        If you contact them and ask them what they will pay for product placement . . .they will make you an offer and you can gladly take their money.

        Learn the equation. Work the side that works for you.

      • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:15PM (#14490916)
        Go check out [].

        I'll wait...

        Back? Good.

        This is a perfect example of what is going to happen here. First, only a few stupid companies will pay Bell South (Even SCO got some takers). Then the content providers will start charging Bell South to allow users of the Bell South internet service to access their web sites. It's already started. The content providers know that they're in charge. There are so many ISPs out there that the ISP needs the content more than the content providers need any single ISP. Bell South will figure this out, or they will lose customers. Once again, the free market works.

        And I bet you were only half serious.
    • I don't think they want to get paid twice. I think they want the aggregate influence of their subscribers to use as leverage against other companies. That's more flexible than money. If this is allowed it only moves the decision of what you want to use your internet connection for from the consumer to the communications company. Any idea why anyone would want this except ISPs?
    • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm&icebalm,com> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:50AM (#14490670)
      This euphemism is a big misconception. Anybody can have their cake and then eat it, the real trick is to eat your cake and then have it.
    • Oh, I guess you want to have your cake, AND eat it too?

      Of course they want that! They'll take whatever they can get, and they'll naturally target things like VoIP and media (IPTV, music, etc.) services first.

      But to play devil's advocate for a moment: they're threatened by people who want to provide, for example, broadband VoIP services, partly because VoIP providers haven't been saddled with the same baggage as traditional telephone operators (though that's changing bit by bit as well), just as IPTV-over-br
      • Errata (Score:3, Insightful)

        Now, if Bellsouth loses of customers to VoIP

        should have read

        Now, if Bellsouth loses {some large number} of customers to VoIP

        ...but the filter didn't accept the carats I originally enclosed it with.

        Also, I'm well aware that many of these providers' networks were originally built witt government subsidies (i.e., our taxes), and/or continue to be built and maintained at very tax-advantaged rates, and that many operators have what is essentially a government-mandated monopoly for the "last mile". However, even

    • Its not just you and me as ISP customers, businesses don't get bandwidth for free, they pay their ISPs who will have peering agreements with everyone their connected to. The notion that there's this poor man in the middle who's not getting paid is absurd. This is extortion, plain and simple and is likely (as many have pointed out) a reaction to VOIP more than anything else.
  • Paid twice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nixoloco ( 675549 )
    But their other customers are paying for it. They just want to get paid twice!
  • by XMilkProject ( 935232 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:35AM (#14490530) Homepage
    The companies aren't pushing any data across your networks, they aren't the ones using it. Quite on the contrary, your subscribers are the ones pulling data across your network from the various sources, and I'd wager a bet that you are already charging them a fat monthly fee.
    • by scoove ( 71173 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:44AM (#14490614)
      The companies aren't pushing any data across your networks, they aren't the ones using it.

      Exactly. It's amazing this "eyeballs vs. content" battle still hasn't gone away, especially after several notable disasters where the eyeball owners (service providers to consumers) tried to exact a toll for the content their subscribers were consuming.

      I was at the Commercial Internet Exchange annual meeting in 1996 when this issue popped up there. Many theorized then that the Bells, who had lost out on their NSFNET NAP scheme (which Al Gore was a strong proponent of), would find another way to get a measured use model into the net. It's apparent they still dream of ratcheting measured use costs, since they happen to be rather good at billing complicated use schemes. Still, it's amazing to wonder how they think they can carry this out. What would they do - require a fee per domain name to be consumed by a household (and enforce it how? That's one heck of an ACL - as if RBOC DSL service isn't sluggish enough already - Qwest can't get you down the street from home to serving wire center under 40-45 ms typically).

      Or would you block it on an AS basis and pick up the whole bilaterial battle that saw Exodus and BBN (if my history is correct) fight? Unfortunately for the RBOCs, there are alternatives to their mediocre DSL. If you think a consumer will pay $55 for partial Internet when they can get complete service from the cable or wireless provider for the same fee, they're gone.

      • by BrynM ( 217883 ) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:56AM (#14490730) Homepage Journal
        What would they do - require a fee per domain name to be consumed by a household (and enforce it how? That's one heck of an ACL - as if RBOC DSL service isn't sluggish enough already - Qwest can't get you down the street from home to serving wire center under 40-45 ms typically).
        The scheme would probably work like this:
        1. Cap all traffic from everywhere at a certain rate or usage limit
        2. Charge either provider or subscriber for a higher bandwidth cap on a site. A subscriber could have a list of sites they would like as "premium" - maybe even submit a bookmark list on a micropayment per address scheme. The provider would of course pay for their sites or even individual files to be "premium".
        3. (obscene) Profit!!!
        Think of it as a modified cable business model.
        • by BlueUnderwear ( 73957 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:17PM (#14490935)
          The scheme would probably work like this:

          1. Cap all traffic from everywhere at a certain rate or usage limit
          2. Charge either provider or subscriber for a higher bandwidth cap on a site. A subscriber could have a list of sites they would like as "premium" - maybe even submit a bookmark list on a micropayment per address scheme. The provider would of course pay for their sites or even individual files to be "premium".
          3. (obscene) Profit!!! Think of it as a modified cable business model.
          You forgot:
          4. Pay all your obscene profit (and then some...) back to HNS, as patent infringment fees. Just Read claim #12 of EP1050117 []:
          12. A method for controlling the rate at which data is transferred between a source computer (140) and a plurality of requesting terminals (110) comprising the steps of:
          • monitoring the rate at which data is transferred to each of the requesting terminals (110);
          • determining account information for each requesting terminal (110);
          • determining a level of service subsribed to by each of the requesting terminals (110) from the account information;
          • comparing the rate at which data is transferred to each of the plurality of requesting terminals (110) and the level of service subsribed to by each of the requesting terminals (110);
          • and controlling the rate at which data is transferred to each of the requesting terminals (110) based on the comparison
          Yes, they do patent stuff such as this (don't be fooled by the complicated language... it's really as trivial as "limit bandwidth by webserver and user"). While I usually don't agree with software patents, I have to admit that in this case it's beneficial: at least it prevents Bellsouth from being too annoying to its users and to the world at large ;-)
        • by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:20PM (#14490971) Homepage Journal
          Charge either provider or subscriber for a higher bandwidth cap on a site. A subscriber could have a list of sites they would like as "premium" - maybe even submit a bookmark list on a micropayment per address scheme. The provider would of course pay for their sites or even individual files to be "premium".

          In the scenario where the Bells charge the customer more for a select couple of sites, if I were Google or Yahoo!, I'd be pretty pissed that a Bell thought it could charge more for MY services.

          "We'll give you better Google" assumes that they have the right to mess with Google at all.

          • by fatboy ( 6851 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:53PM (#14491240)
            I would like to see content providers such as Google and Yahoo! NULL route Bellsouth's Netblocks for 72 hours, in protest.

            Let's see who really needs whom more.
          • They dont need to give web browsing a bad experience, as its quite hard to do. You either limit monthly data yse (=very unhappy users) or throttle bandwidth (often too subtle to notice on a busy site).

            What they can do is give VoIP packets a bad experience, and drop VPN packets on the floor altogeher. Want SSH? pay more. Want IPSec? Pay much more (in theory Comcast charge a premium for this BTW). But VoIP? you just slow down the packets. Bandwidth can be maintained, but suddely google talk and yahoo phone st
        • Outright bandwidth caps would be too blatant, and would be easy to get around (even if default sources have a limited bandwidth, you keep adding/changing mirror sources to achieve the overall bandwidth you need).

          No, they're looking to pursue the IP QoS extortion model, which is a bit more subtle. It's a "frog in a pot" scenario: at first, just a few companies pay extra for a higher level of service. After a while, so many high-profile, high-bandwidth sites are paying that the service for non-paying sources
    • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:46AM (#14490634) Homepage
      FTA: "It's the shipping business of the digital age," Smith said, arguing that consumers should welcome the pay-for-delivery concept.
      I am not sure that this is an apt analogy. I am not sure what a good analogy would be. To use the shipping analogy from the article however, wouldn't it be like a shippee paying UPS or FEDEx a monthly fee for unlimited deliveries, and then having UPS or FEDEx ask the shipper to pay part of the cost?
      In the artcile they say that they may ask apple for a nicklle or dime per song downloaded. I pay my cable internet provider $60 a month for access- now they want content providers to pay too? This is ridiculous. What do they think they are, the government? (the gov't charges you tax on gas for roads, and other road taxes, yet you still must pay tolls at times...)
      • wouldn't it be like a shippee paying UPS or FEDEx a monthly fee for unlimited deliveries, and then having UPS or FEDEx ask the shipper to pay part of the cost?

        More like having an all-you-can-eat buffet, charging the customers to eat, then charging the farmers for the food.
    • Quite on the contrary, your subscribers are the ones pulling data across your network

      They are talking about the space in the middle. These are the backbone providers. Try doing a tracert to somewhere far. If you're in the US try or vise-versa. These folks are talking about all of those "hops" your data makes getting from say the slashdot server to OSDN to backbone provider to your isp then to you. It's not a single connection downloading a file, it's hundreds of parts taking many paths that get

      • by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:36PM (#14491095) Homepage Journal

        I understand what you're saying, but it serves no purpose in this conversation.

        When someone in the UK requests something from a US-based webpage (say, for instance, my employer, Virginia Tech), the data goes from Virginia Tech to Sprint, across the ocean, and to the UK service provider, then to the end user. Or, it might go from Sprint to another carrier in Mae East and then across the ocean. Never through Bell South, though.

        This is the entire point of the outrage at this: If your business is almost entirely servicing end users as an ISP (as bellsouth's is), then THE ONLY REASON for data to go across your network is to get to your end users.

        See also: BGP and AS Path-length. Any ISP worth a goddamn isn't going to avertise that their network is an excellent place for bandwidth to be put through; likewise, major backbone routers aren't going to route data through un-needed hops.

        The outrage is due to the fact that probably almost all the data destined INTO bellsouth's network is destined to be delivered to their end users. That transit has already been paid for by the ISP subscribers. If they were charging for data sent across bell south, i.e. Sprintlink -> BellSouth -> Quest -> The UK, then it would be wierd and unethical, but 1.) they're not a backbone, 2.) they're not a common carrier, and 3.) even if they wanted to charge for that, people would just adjust their routing tables to use a different route via prepending the bellsouth ASN's. The internet would move on - it's designed for these kinds of things. However, bellsouth has a monopoly on internet routing destined for their end users, and is therefore trying to leverage that to charge tolls.

        Saying they want to get paid twice for the exact same data going to the exact same places is exactly correct.

        • I understand what you're saying, but it serves no purpose in this conversation.

          Bellsouth is [] a backbone provider here in the US. Don't forget that SBC/AT&T or whoever they are today is thinking of doing this as well. How many content providers have servers on their networks? If they decided to both do this at the same time, that would be a major swath of the US backbone. I see your point about the captive consumer audience, but enough of the backbone here in the US has murmured about this that I think

  • by MasterOfUniverse ( 812371 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:35AM (#14490534)
    I know it sounds cheesy, but this is a big moment in the history. If we do not stop this, internet will be changed completely as we know it today. I hope people are outraged and something is done to stop this! Unfortunately, the media in US is completely ignorant of the importance of this thing...
    • I agree. The Internet is so good, it's almost hard to see how it could have come about in our business culture. We need to draw a line and make a fuss about crap like this or the goodness will slip away.
  • Hurn in Bell (Score:3, Informative)

    by FidelCatsro ( 861135 ) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [orstacledif]> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:36AM (#14490537) Journal
    Bell South have just Proven themselves to be a total bunch of useless bas[TT]ards .
    If we pay for an Internet connection , then it us using their lines to connect to someone .. what next charging someone for receiving a phone call .
    Hurn in Bell I say
    • what next charging someone for receiving a phone call .

      Too late. That's your cell phone in action. By bringing out the same idea in new technology they have managed to get what they couldn't get with the old technology.

  • by BrynM ( 217883 ) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:38AM (#14490556) Homepage Journal
    I wonder who they'll charge for the spam and worm traffic... MS? Spammers? Consumers with zombie machines? Will porn be super slow in the future or will they pay up?

    Seriously though, these "charges" will of course be passed along to us end users somehow, much like the telcos do now with the fees they are charged (look at your phone bill). More plentiful/intrusive ads, registrations a la NYT (note from mom and teste req'd) or just a flat out service fee. The folks playing MMORPGs will probably see the spike most directly in their monthly fees. Of course this leaves us schleps with personal servers and such with yet one more bill to pay if they get aggressive enough about deciding who a content provider is. The bandwidth wars are begining, methinks.

  • Ridiculous (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kamidari ( 866694 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:38AM (#14490557)
    That just seems crazy to me... The people accessing the site pay for their internet access, but that's not good enough - they need to double-charge. Seems akin to charging grandma a toll when relatives came to visit her via a tollway on Thanksgiving. She got some benefit from the tollway too, right?!? Cough it up, you leeching old hag!
  • Greed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mnemia ( 218659 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:40AM (#14490567)
    This is nothing but greed at its worst, and it will ultimately ruin the Internet if it succeeds. I'm guessing they are aiming this primarily at VoIP companies since they are worried about losing their local phone monopoly, but it could affect a lot of other things in a negative way too (by undermining the whole economics of the Internet, and vastly increasing expenses for running a website). I think the best move would be for all the bigger companies (like Google, etc) to just refuse to pay their money. Then it's the ISP that looks like the bad guy if they intentionally downgrade the service for refusal to pay "protection money".
    • Re:Greed (Score:5, Funny)

      by metternich ( 888601 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:51AM (#14490686)
      Nice Internet Business you've got there... Hate to anything happen to it...
    • Re:Greed (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moby Cock ( 771358 )
      This signals the death knell for 'old style' communications companies. BellSouth (and many others) simply refuse to accept that the economics of communication are changing They feel entitled to their monopolies and plan to fight any threats to them. This ploy may work for a little while but I am confident that the market will allign itself. In the meantime, anyone on BellSouth should switch (if possible). I abandoned Bell about two years ago and life is great! Come and join me!
    • Re:Greed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ossifer ( 703813 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:58PM (#14491285)
      If I was Google, and BellSouth tried to extort money from me, I would simply shut down access to Google from BellSouth, replacing it with a page saying why, and giving BellSouth CEO's home phone number.

      I'm sure BellSouth recognizes the leverage the larger content providers have, and thus will be going after less established ones.

      Also, content providers aren't paying BellSouth to use their lines??!?! Well BellSouth isn't paying the content providers for their content!!!
      • Re:Greed (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mnemia ( 218659 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @01:19PM (#14491490)
        The stupid thing is that content providers DO pay for the Internet, as does Bell South. Everyone who connects to the Internet pays for it in the form of fees to their upstream ISP. Bell South is just trying to do an endrun around the economic process in which money percolates upwards from the connection points to the people who run the backbones. They aren't content with just providing a local road and getting paid by local residents for it. Instead, they want to also charge everyone who drives into their "neighborhood" of the Internet, and get twice the money. Loose analogy, I know, but this decentralized way is how the Internet is designed to work and be funded.

        As I said, I think this is more intended as a way for them to extract tolls from VoIP. They can't stand that they won't be able to charge exorbitant fees for basic phone service anymore, so they are trying to claim that their customers can't access services that don't pay them. It may also be that a couple of Bell South execs saw Google's share price going through the roof and decided that they would try to get a piece of that pie.

        Also, I wouldn't count Bell South out on winning this one just yet. The Baby Bells may have the FCC on their side, and the FCC is one of the most corrupt, crony-filled agencies in the entire government. They might be able to buy favorable legislation and regulatory rulings if they can't win in the market.
  • Is this a surprise? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denissmith ( 31123 ) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:40AM (#14490570)
    My understanding is that I have paid for a specific download and upload rate from my provider. That rate allows whatever content I download - iTunes or Limewire, applications and product updates. My Understanding is that Apple pays for their connection to the internet, as well, and that there is some level of service ( in bits/sec) that they pay for. So where is this - "they didn't pay us" The transmission of the bits has been paid for, whether those bits were html pages or mp3s or program updates is irrelevant to the discussion. This is all the outcome of the FCC decision not to apply the telecom rules to the broadband market and to 'regulate' it as an information service. All of which ought to sway those who argue that regulation is unnecessary that their view is inadequate, regulation can be good or can be bad - it depends on the regulations, but the lack of regulation always gives the person or group in a power position the right to dictate terms. Some people may argue that you can always switch from BellSouth, but that isn't reality for most people - it is their only choice. If telcos have mispricedthe service, for me or for the content providers, then the price for a level of service should, and will, rise, but charging to tilt the playing field (in favor of the paying content providers) will raise the barrier to entry, and ultimately it will foreclose certain types of internet use, specifically shared, non-commercial applications.
  • by richdun ( 672214 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:41AM (#14490588)
    ...this will definitely get the FCC involved more heavily in regulating Internet providers. The "information service" loophole they've been using to get away with less regulation won't hold up much longer if things like this kick up. The Internet is quickly becoming one of those pieces of infrastructure vital to the public good, just like electricity , phone service, etc, especially when cable, phone and Internet access are now (or soon will be) virtually one service. States may have been deregulating the traditional utilities recently, but I could see something like this swinging the pendulum to the other side.
  • by Kamel Jockey ( 409856 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:42AM (#14490597) Homepage

    Their ISP, or a particular content provider, say Google. I see 2 potential outcomes here:

    1. BS users will not notice any significant degradation in connections to websites like Google, Yahoo, or in using VoIP services or the like. In which case, these content providers will not pay extortion fees to BS. BS retaliates by blocking access to these sites and users leave BS as a result.
    2. Content providers actively solicit BS customers away from BS. For example, a BS customer loads up Google and sees a message on the page like "Don't like the way this page loads? It's because your ISP, BS, stinks! Switch to ISP XYZ today!" Google is seen by many people as an entity which can "do no evil" and as a result it might be able to get away with such a move. A VoIP provider might put a pre-recorded message prior to each call which could say "Your ISP, BS is purposefully degrading the quality of this call. If you don't like this, switch to ISP XYZ today!"

    What needs to happen here is that word needs to get out that BS is not offering better service to those who pay, but is rather offering crippled service to those who don't pay. Both statements are true because granting one group of traffic priority over the other reduces the quality of the connection available to the other groups of traffic.

  • He suggested that Apple Computer might be asked to pay a nickel or a dime to insure the complete and rapid transmission of a song via the Internet, which is being used for more and more content-intensive purposes. He cited Yahoo Inc.'s plans to stream reality TV shows as an example.

    A little JavaScript box pops up: "If youse would like to download the remainder of dis' song, youse need to contribute to the fund, or we can't be held responsible for what might happen to da' data, see?

    • by wren337 ( 182018 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:00PM (#14490767) Homepage
      Your comment got rated funny, but this is no joke. Do you think bell south is going to offer service FASTER THEN THEY ALREADY OFFER if you pay up? Of course not - the shipping metaphor he keeps using breaks down. They aren't offering ground VS air service here. What he is doing is threatening to degrade service if you don't pay.

      That's not pay for performance, it's blackmail.

  • Slow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:43AM (#14490602) Homepage
    Who does BellSouth think their customers will blame when "the Internet is slow"? Especially when they ask their tech friends who point out that switching to a different ISP will make it faster?
  • by cmoney ( 216557 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:46AM (#14490633)
    So does this mean if a content provider doesn't pay up, BellSouth will throttle down data coming from that provider? Will they arbitrarily lose packets to slow down transmission? Or do they block all access altogether?

    Also as to what Mark Cuban said: Don't we already have different levels of service quality? If I pay for dialup access at say $9/month I get a certain amount of bandwidth. If I pony up $25/month for DSL I get even more. If I decide cable is the way to go and pay $50/month, even more than DSL (in my case at least). And finally, if I really want guaranteed access, I pay for business-level service. So what the hell are these poeple talking about? If I'm already paying for my bandwidth, why am I being asked to pay again. Because we all know that it's the consumers who will end up paying these extra fees.

    All these old-school legacy companies need to get a swift ass kicking.
    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:22PM (#14490992) Homepage
      Don't we already have different levels of service quality? If I pay for dialup access at say $9/month I get a certain amount of bandwidth. If I pony up $25/month for DSL I get even more. If I decide cable is the way to go and pay $50/month, even more than DSL (in my case at least). And finally, if I really want guaranteed access, I pay for business-level service. So what the hell are these poeple talking about?

      It gets better - not only are you only paying for the bandwidth on the client side, the businesses are also already paying for the bandwidth on the server side. Apple has to pay more per month for their connectivity than I do, because they have a lot more bandwidth. Apple's upstream has peering agreements that are supposed to guarantee transport.

      So why will Apple wind up going along with this? Why is Mark Cuban in support? Because it allows the big boys to play and kills the little guys. Competition, while a cornerstone of capitalism, is anathema to corporatism. And don't expect our corporatist government to lift a damned finger - they know that your parents and grandparents don't even know this issue exists (assuming the politicians do), let alone understand it. Noone is going to vote them out if they don't take action. They may threaten to take action, but only so they can get a pile of cash from whoever took Abrahamoff's job. It will almost certainly never be an issue, and even if it does become an issue, they will happily muddle it with vague preaching about fair markets and gloss over the monopoly issue.
  • by feorlen ( 214880 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:47AM (#14490643)
    ... your data were routed through West Elbonia, now wouldn't it?"

    How is this different from paying off the guys with the baseball bats? Or having to hire a "fixer" to get your building permit?

    And just how would they be able to "enforce" anything? I see a RICO lawsuit headed their way...
    • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:35PM (#14491088)
      I see a RICO lawsuit headed their way...

      It seems that some of the actions of big businesses differ (in spirit) less and less from those of organized crime. The objects of their businesses may be different (telecommunications vs., say, cocaine and sports bookies), but their methods are becoming startlingly similar. Protection schemes. Price fixing. Extortion and intimidation.

      And does anybody really believe that Enron witness *really* committed suicide? At a stop light? C'mon...

  • by amigabill ( 146897 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:50AM (#14490671)
    >Bill Smith, chief technology officer at BellSouth justified
    >content charging companies by saying they are using the telco's
    >network without paying for it.

    I thought the internet service customer was the one paying for use of the vendor's network?? As in, I as a Comcast cablemodem customer am paying for use of Comcast's network. Comcast's product that I am buying from them is the ability to access Google, hotmail, webmd, or whoever's web sites I care to look at.

    It sounds like they're wanting to double-charge for a single service. Kindof like if Walmart decided to charge me for the DVD, and also charge the movie producers for the right to have their DVD sold in Walmart's store.

    I've heard rumors that Verizon may be considering this policy as well while I've been asking around about DSL and FIOS. If they pull a prank like this, I may stick with Comcast, even though I'm relatively unhappy with their service's reliability in my case.
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:53AM (#14490703) Homepage Journal
    Find an ISP -- preferably a small, mom-and-pop operation, or at least a customer friendly, yes-we-do-have-a-clue company -- and switch.

    I mean it, vote with your dollars and with your feet, so to speak, and leave Bell $outh behind for good. Send a clear message to the extortionists that they are: we won't tolerate this, we won't accept this and you will pay the price for your stupidity.

    I just hope Bell South will understand the message when they see their customers desert in droves.
  • It goes without saying that BellSouth are probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, gateways between IPs in US and the rest of the world. But what about their Global reach?

    Will traffic between EU addresss be affected by this? EU and Japan? China? Middle east? India? Are Canadian content providers going to have to pay BellSouth extortion money to host for customers outside of the US?

    Anyone have any ideas on this? How long has his arm grown while the armies of good lay sleeping?
  • by Yaa 101 ( 664725 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:57AM (#14490742) Journal
    How is this different from current DDOS extortionists?

    Maybe a slight tech difference, but to me in a social context it means exactly the same.

  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by revery ( 456516 ) <charles@[ ] ['cac' in gap]> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:59AM (#14490756) Homepage
    Starting next Monday the Yellow Cab Company of Chicago will begin charging all business to which a fare is delivered. "It is unreasonable," said Abraham Stoley, President of Yellow Cab, "for businesses to receive the benefit of customers and employees arriving at their sites in a safe and timely manner and for them to pay nothing. We spend time, we spend gas, and quite frankly, we expect them to pay their fair share of the fare." Although they are not implementing it at this time, Mr. Stoley went on to say that they may also begin billing all businesses passed on the way to a destination, as these business receive "free marketing". Businesses everywhere were unavailable for comment.
  • Turnabout.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Deton8 ( 522248 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:03PM (#14490794)
    So, does this mean I can bill Bell South for all the zombie PC's on their networks sending me spam? How about if Google charges Bell South a "delivery surcharge" to ensure that BS customers' searches are completed in an accurate and timely fashion? What if only shows the first 50 words of each story to Bell South customers unless they receive an extra fee? Who is going to scream with pain first? If BS becomes an unusable paraiah network, where will BS be as a company in a couple of years?
  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:06PM (#14490829) Homepage
    Seriously, I hope everyone collectively gives BS the finger. Maybe their peers will have enough of them also and just de-peer them.

    It reminds me of the days where net access was charged by minute, only now they are charging people who are serving the content. And those people are already paying hosting fees and bandwidth charges from their provider. Peering agreements exist in order for the internet to exist. I'll let you route traffic on my network if you let me route traffic across yours... But now, it's let me route traffic on your network, and any traffic passing through mine I'm gonna extort money from the people serving the content. That's not how the internet works.

    What happens if Google, Yahoo, and other large sites get together and just block BellSouth's IP ranges so no BS customers can use their sites? You bet your ass that BS is going to lose customers if they can't access what they want. I would say that the Yahoo's of the world have got BS by the balls, because they could certainly block BS IP's, and BS could do nothing about it. If I don't want a certain IP range hitting my servers, I have every right to block it.

    Note that this will not stop transit traffic from passing through BS's network, but it will certainly piss of BS's customer base.

    And Mark Cuban's comments on this? He's an idiot. Maybe he should stick to commenting on things he has actual knowledge of.
  • Not Paying? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:08PM (#14490845)

    >Bill Smith, chief technology officer at BellSouth justified content charging companies by saying they are using the telco's network without paying for it.

    So is he saying that CNN is NOT paying for their hookup to the net? Somehow, I don't think that's true. I would guess that wherever their server farm is (might not be Atlanta), the fat pipe connecting it to the rest of the internet already comes with a fat bill from Bell South or some other telco. I guess he's talking more about MS and Google that are already paying someone else, and he wants to add a tariff to every packet from outside the Bell South system. Does that apply only to packets delivered to BS customers or to those that transit their system on their way to somewhere else?

    I can see it now:
    Subject: Closing the big deal
    Bob, We can close this deal for six figures if you meet the client for lunch at [this packet of this email can be made available for reading by logging onto and authorizing payment of the tariff from your account. If you do not have an account, one can be set up after arranging the account setup fee and monthly payment structure. Have a noce day, Bell South] late we'll lose the whole deal to those slimeballs at theirbiz. Good luck, John.

  • by izomiac ( 815208 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:16PM (#14490920) Homepage
    Hmm... since connection speed can be slowed down at both the server and the ISP, couldn't a popular website do the same thing to BellSouth. Take Yahoo or Google for example. They could demand that BellSouth pay them a hefty monthly fee or they'll throttle any traffic to their IP space to 5 KB/s or perhaps add a 7500 ms delay. Such a slow speed (and an explaination from the website about the new two-tiered internet) would cause a LOT of customers to switch. (Why pay for high speed access if everything is throttled?) Websites obviously couldn't do this to every ISP, but they could certainly do it to any one of them. After all, since a lot of websites use ads to generate revenue, they probably couldn't afford to pay every ISP some fee. Of course, even if they did then their ads, being hosted on a different server, would either slow down their entire webpage (making paying the fee pointless), or simply not load before the user moves on.
  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:16PM (#14490922) Homepage
    I find this incomprehensible. Right now, Comcast is attacking BellSouth continuously in TV commercials over the incredible speed difference between cable and DSL. Yeah, I'm sure you can find someone with a shitty cable connection, but right now I'm getting 6Mb/s from Comcast. I've seen downloads at night of 850KB/s sustained, and regularly get 500KB/s during the day. They are continuously working to speed up their network and advertise that fact.

    BellSouth is stuck with technology that cannot compete on speed, so their response is to make the speed worse? Only in a monopoly telecom would that make any sense.

    Comcast is also doing an all-out assault on "the dish", which BellSouth pushes as an alternative to cable. I think Comcast is winning that battle, too.

    I'm waiting for the next step where BellSouth tries to buy some legislation to shore up their failing internet business.
  • by CharonX ( 522492 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:23PM (#14490995) Journal
    So Ma Bell wants to charge companies and people that deliver content to Bell's very own customers.
    So let them. But don't pay. And inform the customers WHY they recieve such bad troughput when using their websites.
    Imagine e.g. Google, doing a simple revers IP lookup to determine the provider and if it's Ma Bell, adding the following message to their search sites.

    Dear Visitor,
    We apologize for the possible slowness of our service.
    However your provider BellSouth, has decided to demand "bandwith charges" from all major website transmitting data over their network (in addition to any subscription charges from you).
    Google has declined to pay those additional charges, as this traffic - like searching via Google - should be (and with all other ISP is) covered with your subscription charge.
    If you have any questions, please contact your local BellSouth service center.
    Happy Googling!

    Tens of thousands of unhappy customers calling BellSouth should make them do another reality check and stop demanding those ridiculous charges.
  • Pay up BellSouth! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:27PM (#14491027) Journal
    BellSouth should be paying the big content providers for giving them a reason to sell bandwidth. Without iTunes and Google and all the other content providers why the hell would anyone buy broadband? I'd love to see some big content providers hit BellSouth back by requiring them to pay fees or get cut off from their content. That would kill their ISP business in a hurry.

  • Peering (Score:5, Informative)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:27PM (#14491028) Journal
    BellSouth charges end-users for network (Internet) access. That is what you're paying those DSL charges for, if you're a BS customer.

    Data that comes from some other network, like MCI or Level 3, is handled thru a peering agreement with that other network.

    Many hosting providers have backbone connections to multiple networks, to make things faster. For example, Gnomovision Co-Lo and Hosting may have direct links to BS, Time Warner, MCI, Level 3 and more. These type of customer shouldn't be affected because they are already paying BS for a link.

    Customers that have to go thru peered links seem to be BS' target. They *should* negotiate this with the peer, not the provider.

    Google, with their rumored "data center in a container", could just drop a container on BS' network and not peer at all. They'd have to pay connect charges, but they would have a direct link to BS' network.

    It seems to me that this would threaten the peering arrangement that makes the Internet function more than anything else.

    Note: In order to complain to the FCC you must be a customer of BS, submit your complaint in writing and include a copy of your telephone bill.

  • by Wubby ( 56755 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:38PM (#14491111) Homepage Journal
    Maybe I'm not understanding the issues here, but aren't the "providers" providing content to BellSouth customers through their network? I pay for a DSL connection and then stream video or have Vonage or some other use of the bandwidth, aren't I paying for the access already?

    Isn't this just BellSouth double-billing for the same service? Why not just recover cost from their already paying customers? I assume the answer is that they can't, either for regulatory issue or because they have already maxed out what they think their customers are willing to put up with.

    Here's a sneaky/evil idea. If you are an Apple sized company and you recieve this sort of extortion request, degrade the network performance TO BellSouth networks with a big old link to a notice as to why! Let your customers fight their ISP's for you!
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @01:42PM (#14491698) Homepage Journal

    It would seem that BellSouth (hereinafter known more appropriately as BS) has forgotten that their CUSTOMERS have already paid for the network. THEY pay BS to be able to pull 3rd party content through the network to their machines. The content providers should charge BS for giving people a reason to get DSL. After all, if they were to all null route BS's IPs, everyone would switch to cable overnight. I just can't imagine advertising with "Access the few parts of the Internet that are too stupid to realize we need them more than they need us" to be all that effective in getting people to sign up.

    So, if they actually get providers to pay them for network traffic, does that mean that they will quit treating 'power downloaders' (that is, CUSTOMERS who PAID for unlimited Internet access) like freeloaders?

  • by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @02:20PM (#14492095)
    Bell South, like the-corporation-formerly-known-as-SBC, thinks it has a user base and that it should charge content providers for access to the userbase.

    BS and SBC want a closed-content system. There were closed-content systems in the past: GEnie, Prodigy, Compuserve, AOL. Users abandoned them for the open internet, where they could get any content they wanted. The number of households online skyrocketted.

    If BS and SBC succeed in levying these fees, they may find users abandoning them, too. What user base will they sell to the content providers then? This plan is doomed.
  • Sorry that this is so offtopic. I was simply curious and thought I might ask here:

    Is this how I would block all of the customers from a specific ISP, if I ever wanted to? I'm not sure why I would, but you never do know...

    RewriteEngine on
    Rewritemap bssubnet txt:/stuff/bssubnets.txt

    RewriteCond ${bssubnet:%{REMOTE_ADDR}} ^b$ [NC]
    RewriteCond %{request_uri} !^/your_isp_stinks.html$ [NC]
    RewriteRule .* /your_isp_stinks.html [R,L]

    Also, does anyone know where I can find the list of all subnets that an ISP might have? Especially the business customers.

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