The Telco Camel in the Internet Tent

I keep alluding to telcommunications companies wanting to limit the Internet. Here’s a pithy summary by Scott Bradner of how the Internet is different and what’s happening now. He notes that telephone companies were present at the earliest public demonstration of the ARPANET and AT&T was even offered an early opportunity to run it. None of the telcos were interested back then, so the followon Internet was mostly left alone both by the telcos and by government regulatory agencies.
This neglect meant that developers were free to experiment with new applications over the Internet. There was no carrier telling users what applications they could or could not run, no carrier that you had to get permission from before you were able to deploy a new Internet-based service. The Internet was just a collection of wires, most of which were bought from the telephone companies by ISPs, who paid what the telephone companies determined was a reasonable fee for use of the wires. The cost of the wire did not depend on what Internet services were running over it, just like the cost of your car does not depend on whom you transport in it. ISP customers paid the phone companies for the wires and paid ISPs for Internet service based on the size of the wire they were using. Everything was simple.

But some of the telephone companies want to change this. They want to charge Google and others to send packets to you. The fact that you have already paid for the wire and the Internet service that Google is using to send those packets is ignored. The phone companies say that they want to let Google pay more to make Google’s packets get to you “better,” but this is the blunt end of the camel well into the tent.

Blocking the power of the Internet By Scott Bradner, Network World, 01/16/06

Telephone companies always used to charge by time, which they do for the INternet in some countries, such as New Zealand, and in Europe some telcos succeeded in charging per byte for a while. Now in the states they’re moving to charge effectively by type of application. I think this means they need to fix their rates. They think otherwise, obviously. I think their thinking is a risk not only to their own businesses, but also to every business that depends on the Internet.