Another Telco Threatens Net Neutrality

    December 1, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

The chief technology officer for BellSouth thinks that popular web sites should pay Internet service providers for having their traffic given priority over sites that don’t pay.

Massive telecom companies seem to be on the same page when it comes to extracting more money from the Internet. In comments reminiscent of SBC CEO Ed Whitacre’s burning desire to charge Yahoo and Google for using their pipes, BellSouth CTO William L. Smith told reporters that his firm should be permitted “to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.”

The Wasington Post reported on Smith’s comments; Smith also brought up the desire to charge VoIP providers for the privilege of having its service “operate with the same quality as BellSouth’s offering.”

Several software companies provide applications than can identify and degrade or block VoIP traffic over a network like BellSouth’s. Those could be used to erect tollbooths on the so-called information superhighway.

Smith did say ISPs should not be able to block or degrade content or traffic. To accomplish the feat of allowing a VoIP competitor like Vonage to have the “same quality” as BellSouth traffic by paying for it, Smith’s comments seem to suggest throttling all Internet traffic and simply removing degradation based on payment.

It’s the same approach that TV advertisers use. Ads can’t be broadcast as a louder level than TV programs, so broadcasters reduce the programming sound level lower than the maximum. That compels people to turn up the volume. Then the commercials begin, at what sounds like a high volume, but it really isn’t. It’s the maximum broadcast volume.

A coalition of tech companies wrote to Congress in an attempt to derail the kind of changes people like Smith and Whitacre advocate, the Post reported:

“The incredible potential of broadband will be severely compromised if network operators are permitted to be the gatekeepers of the Internet, deciding what content, applications and services succeed or fail on the Internet,” wrote the coalition, which includes Inc., eBay Inc., Google and IAC/InterActive Corp.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.