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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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December 01, 2005

Bells Formally Seek End of Network Neutrality

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

wsmith.jpgBellSouth has joined AT&T's call to end "network neutrality" and let it charge rents for sites' access to customers.

BellSouth CTO William Smith said he only wanted to charge some sites for "better" access, but he used the exact same rationale as AT&T head Ed Whitacre, that BellSouth's investment in lines justifies its killing the basic principle behind the Internet. .

A House subcommittee has begun auctioning off the end of network neutrality as it considers new broadband legislation. The Bells have all the money in the world, and can win this fight with a corrupt Congress unless you act now.

If you have an AT&T or BellSouth DSL line, you need to seek out an alternative and send those companies a letter saying you will switch unless they back off. A marketplace response to a marketplace threat is the correct alternative here.

My personal fear is that, given the large share of market AT&T and Verizon (MCI) hold in the Internet core, the companies could do exactly what they're threatening there and take payments under the table. But if they do that after the Congress demands network neutrality, the solution would be to throw top executives in jail.

This threat is as serious as a heart attack, and needs to be taken as such by all those who care about the Internet.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: Internet | Telecommunications | law


COMMENTS

1. rwsevier on December 1, 2005 12:15 PM writes...

Dear Sirs:

If Bellsouth begins charging for site access to the internet, I shall immediately cancel my DSL service and swith to another system.

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2. Jose Figueredo on December 1, 2005 03:08 PM writes...

Dear Bell$outh,

If network neutrality is abolished, not only I will discontinue my DSL service, but my voice service at my home, and the services of every customer that I support in the South Florida area, the Internet is an equal opportunity network and the comments of William Smith are offensive and threaten to put and end to the Interent as it was orginlally developed.

Thank you,

Jose V Figueredo
MCSA, Network+, A+

Permalink to Comment

3. J. Lee on December 1, 2005 04:40 PM writes...

Network neutrality is great, but if everyone switched to Vonage over Cable Broadband tomorrow, the Bells would fold, or in the least would have no incentive to keep their wireline network turned on. Then what? Free lunches can last for years even a decade or more, but not forever. In 50 years, whoever's maintaining our beloved IP and wireless networks will have to be paid somehow.

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4. Jesse Kopelman on December 1, 2005 05:18 PM writes...

J. If everyone was using cable broadband, why would we care if the Bells turned off their networks? A network with 0 users doesn't serve a purpose. Meanwhile, there is nothing to stop them from selling their own VoIP service over cable! IP means you can easily separate the service layer from the physical network. Don't believe the lies of the incumbants, the money they charge users for a "pipe" is more than enough to recoupe their costs. Competition will lower their margins, but it will only knock them out of business if they are poorly run.

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5. Riceman on December 1, 2005 06:24 PM writes...

To address the first two posters, we already pay for site access. That's what our monthly bill for Internet service is for. Secondly, the Internet has never been an equal opportunity network, even in its infancy. Being able to freely connect to other networks through your provider is largely attributed to our free market society. Most persons would not accept a service that denied access to sites where you would want to connect to; which is why AOL and CompuServe opened their networks to the Internet all those years ago. You might try convincing the RoC that the Internet is an "equal opportunity network", too. Let me know how that goes.

Ending "network neutrality" does not mean that any carrier will deny access to a site if they do not pay a premium. What it does mean is that carriers will be allowed to sell a dedicated slice of bandwidth to ensure a site, like Amazon or Yahoo for example, will meet a certain minimum level of performance from that carrier. If FTD wants to buy guaranteed bandwith from AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth, Comcast and Earthlink the weeks before Mother's Day to ensure that their customers can reach their site to buy flowers, then the carriers should be allowed to sell that service. If Vonage wants to guarantee that all of Comcast's customers have X # of Vonage customers x 56Kb bandwidth available, then they should be allowed to purchase it and Comcast should be able to market that to Vonage. It is their network, after all, not ours. We just lease access to use it.

Right now we exist in a best-effort world, whether you choose to accept it or not. Allowing carriers to market guaranteed bandwidth from their network to other companies is not a bad thing. Abusing it, of course, is a bad thing and at that point I would encourage anyone to express their displeasure with their wallet. To do so now, in my opinion, is merely being reactionary out of ignorance. There is too much competition in the marketplace right now between the bells and cable companies to seriously believe that any of them would cease increasing their overall bandwidth and just allow the best-effort traffic to dwindle smaller and smaller. Unless, of course, you're willing to delve into the realm of oil-companyesque telco/cable cabal conspiracy theories.

Just my two cents,

Riceman

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6. Brad Hutchings on December 1, 2005 10:20 PM writes...

I think that when any service provider on the Internet makes a business or editorial choice about what packets to favor, we all lose. For example, there is a thread below about AT&T's new brand. called What's in a name?. The front page indicates that there are 3 comments, and the "recent comments" section had indicated that there was a new comment from Jacqueline Bodet, probably in response to my own snarky comment. I've been dying to see whether a PR flack would know when she's being chided for flacking. But when I click through to that article, there are just two comments displayed. It seems as if some service provider on the Internet has blocked the packets in the 3rd comment or given them a lower priority. I'm sure said service provider is bribing a corrupt (Republican of course) Congressman, hopefully not Duke Cunningham, because he resigned the other day. My fear is that said service provider won't even know what the hell I'm talking about or that this post will get lower priority and nobody will ever see the packets. In which case, maybe someone can share a jail cell with Duke Cunningham.

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7. Jesse Kopelman on December 2, 2005 04:49 PM writes...

Riceman, you are correct in your reading of Smith's (Bellsouth CTO) statement. Unfortunately, Whitacre (at&t CEO) is singing a different tune. He is actually talking about blocking his customers from accessing any service that he doesn't like or that doesn't pay him "rent." Now normally, we'd all say who cares. This strategy will just cost him customers and he'll be forced to reverse it. That's all well and good, but what about the significant number of customers for whom at&t is the only option? What about the pricing pressure he can bring to bear to keep potential new entrants out of his markets? The last 10+ years of (de)regulation have all been in the Bells' favor. Until that changes, we should be very concerned when they even hint at doing anything unsavory.

Permalink to Comment

8. Barry on December 9, 2005 10:24 AM writes...

Tha fact is that ATT and BellSouth will develop new 'products' to sell to anyone who will pay for them or force them to pay for them because they control the market. When there is no choice, even in limited amounts, I believe this is abuse of the privalige that the government gave to the companies to use the bandwith to make a profit. Lets not get involved with a discussion that involves chaos. Companies buy the right to sell that bandwith. There are responsibilities and accountabilities that go along with that privilage. A little bit of abuse is just as bad as a lot of abuse because the person abusing does not see or care about the difference. They are like addicts. More is better, no matter what. When you start down THAT road it is very difficult to change direction. I say vote with our dollars NOW to let the 'consolidators' this is the wrong direction to go.

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The CTO of BellSouth raised a blogstorm of controversy when Digg picked up his comments that, "an Internet service provider such as his firm should be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster tha... [Read More]

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