By now you may have heard of Senator Wyden’s “Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006.” Under the proposed bill, network operators would be prohibited from charging companies for faster delivery of their content to consumers over the Internet or favoring certain content over others.
“Creating a two-tiered system could have a chilling effect on small mom and pop businesses that can’t afford the priority lane, leaving these smaller businesses no hope of competing against the Wal-Marts of the world,” Wyden said in a prepared statement today. “Neutrality in technology enables small businesses to thrive on the Internet, and allows folks to start small and dream big, and that’s what I want to protect with this legislation.”
Senator Wyden should be commended for introducing this bill and bringing the issue to the public spotlight. From my perch, it is obvious that if the government doesn’t get involved, the future of the Internet will be very different from its past.
VoIP has changed the way the world communicates and has been the biggest thorn in the side of incumbent providers. Imagine an Internet where VoIP providers would have to pay extra to give you service. Imagine an Internet where you would have to pay an additional fee to be guaranteed VoIP quality that’s intelligible.
Phone companies publicly will tell you that they won’t do anything to impede the quality of VoIP calls but there are subtle ways to alter quality without intentionally sabotaging individual services. Imagine the monumental temptation to reduce the quality of Vonage calls knowing full well that consumers will likely switch to your guaranteed quality phone service at the first sign of trouble.
I would like to point out that LECs have the right to make money and what they are advocating is the right to get paid back for their massive investments. But these LECs are the same companies that lobbied to get rid of CLECs and pressured Washington to rewrite the 1996 Telecom Act that promised competition in the telephony market.
Once they almost guaranteed themselves one half of a duopoly position along with cable companies, they decided that they could charge virtually everyone on the Internet extra fees. These changes would not only b paid by content providers such as companies providing broadcasts but by consumers and businesses as well.
These are the same LECs that charge us more to make a call that is two cities away than we pay to call England over VoIP. These are the same LECs that started selling flat rate calling plans only after VoIP providers started to take market share.
Even before VoIP was born and an independent AT&T provided long distance, we paid less to call California from New York than we did to place a call that was 20 miles away!
The whole issue gets back to competition and the lack thereof. The fact that we are even having such discussions shows how bad the system has gotten. The Internet is way too important to allow a few companies to control it or put artificial tolls on it.
No one will argue that due to the US, the Internet has changed the world for the better. Let’s just hope that the US doesn’t change the Internet for the worse.