If the traditional phone companies have their say you will be soon be paying twice for optimized broadband content.
You first pay for a high speed connection and then you’ll be forced to pay additional tiered fees the phone companies hope to charge your content providers like Movielink and Google and Vonage and Game Servers to deliver uninterrupted multimedia broadcast content to you.
Uninterrupted” or “streaming” content is the key here. Unlike email and instant messages, high quality content demands a data stream be strong and open and continued 00 it doesn’t work well in spurts. Here’s how The Wall Street Journal
reported the issue last week:
The phone companies envision a system whereby Internet companies would agree to pay a fee for their content to receive priority treatment as it moves across increasingly crowded networks. Those that don’t pay the fee would find their transactions with Internet users — for games, movies and software downloads, for example — moving across networks at the normal but comparatively slower pace. Consumers could benefit through faster access to content from companies that agree to pay the fees.
Shaving the streaming tiers with “priority coding” means only the wealthy content providers will be able to afford that price to deliver you content and they aren’t going to pay the extra fees for priority content queuing — you will — so you will not only be paying for the high speed broadband connection, you’ll also be paying for the speed in which your content provider provides high speed content to your connection so you are, in fact, paying twice for the same bandwidth:
“They want to charge us for the bandwidth the customer has already paid for,” said Jeffrey Citron, chief executive of Vonage. Customers who already pay a premium for high-speed Internet access, he said, will end up paying even more if online services pass the new access charges to consumers. “The customer has to pay twice. That’s crazy.”
Here’s how this plan was able to be hatched against us:
The looming battle between phone companies and Internet content providers has parallels with the fight between local and long-distance phone companies of the 1990s, when upstarts sought free access to the regional phone companies’ networks. Until recently, phone companies were required to treat all data sent across their high-speed networks equally and without discrimination.
But last year, a Supreme Court decision cemented the FCC’s authority to decide the rules for broadband Internet lines. The agency promptly deregulated Internet services, dropping rules that prevented the type of pricing plans now being proposed.
I understand the business model behind what amounts to double-billing — Verizon and BellSouth and other hardwire providers must pay to keep the infrastructure in working shape and when a tornado blows away a town it is Verizon and not AOL that must go in there are re-wire and re-connect everyone to everything.
Verizon and BellSouth do not feel they should give up their bandwidth to Vonage and Movielink and the like for the same price they charge email and newsgroup providers. Companies like Vonage and Movielink claim the hardwire providers are creating duplicate content as a competitor to those they plan to charge extra for premium streaming and that gives them an unfair advantage in the marketplace because the hardwire companies will not charge themselves the extra streaming fees and will, by default, deliver their own content faster than anyone else’s for a cheaper price to the end user.
The hardwire companies argue their cost to maintain the infrastructure for broadband delivery is ongoing and escalating in effort and any advantage they may have by providing both backbone and content is negated by maintenance factors.
Smaller content companies with no hope of paying the higher price for guaranteed bandwidth beyond “best efforts” from the hardwire phone companies are facing the notion they will soon not be able to afford to stay in business and when there’s less competition, the big companies can charge whatever fees they wish for content and delivery.
Business is business, but we, the people, must be protected by a new law against this double-billing for content because this is really the same “business model” some ISPs were floating a few years back to charge us, the end user, two cents per email message sent and delivered to and from our accounts.
That plan backfired because we, the people, loudly and vociferously protested how unfair it was to charge us twice for the same service — and we must stand together again to claim the same indignation that an identical effort to double-bill us — this time for quality broadband content delivery — is once again afoot under a newly legal but more dangerous guise.