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Pay-to Play and the Tiered Internet 664

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the only-a-matter-of-time dept.
Crash24 writes "According to an article at The Nation, "industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing "platinum," "gold" and "silver" levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received." " Tiered internet service may be inevitable folks. Brace yourself.
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Pay-to Play and the Tiered Internet

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  • Thankfully... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion (114072) * on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:17PM (#14629167)
    There are companies fighting this, trying to get policies put forth requiring network neutrality. According to the article, both Google and Amazon are against it, along with other special interest groups. I'm willing to bet that Microsoft would oppose it as well, since they're getting more and more into internet applications. Same goes for Apple.

    Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T may be powerful, but they're going to have a hell of a fight if they're going up against Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon.

    • Fight (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tacokill (531275) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:24PM (#14629252)
      Well, except for the fact that MSFT, Google, Apple, and Amazon need the telcos more than the telcos need them. By a wide margin -- and especially true for Google and Amazon (and eBay).

      If this is successful, it will be the single largest "limiting" factor in the online world. What if this was the case 10 years ago? We wouldn't have the plethora of online stores we currently have, that's for sure. Or blogs. Or online games. Or P2P for that matter. Or VOIP. NONE of these "cool" technologies would have ever gotten out of the starting gate.

      I could go on an on about how bad of an idea it is but I fear I am just wasting my breath. Until internet access is treated as a utility, this nonsense will continue to go on unchecked.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:01PM (#14629654)
        What happens if Google, Amazon, eBay, Apple etc decide to blacklist a telco? Bellsouth limits access to them so they respond by blocking all views coming form that network, and launching a media campaigh letting you know that you need to switch to another network to access them. I think I can tell you who would win that one. I persaonlly care little who provides my access, I care only about the content that I'm after. If I can't get it on one network, I'll go to another.

        ESPN successfully broght pressure on Cox in a similar manner. Cox didn't want to pay as much as ESPN wanted and so threatened to take ESPN off the channel listings. ESPN in turn let all Cox customers know what was going on. Cox customers got mad and said they'd switch to sat service if this happened, ESPN is still on Cox.
        • ...where each platform/service has exclusive content, and people who want multiple providers' exclusive content have to buy multiple machines/subscribe to multiple services.

          I wonder how many people here on Slashdot have an Xbox and a PS2 (and maybe a GameCube), just for this reason...
      • Re:Fight (Score:4, Interesting)

        by odyaws (943577) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:26PM (#14629913)
        Well, except for the fact that MSFT, Google, Apple, and Amazon need the telcos more than the telcos need them. By a wide margin -- and especially true for Google and Amazon (and eBay).
        I'm not so sure about that - which internet provider would you choose, the one with or without Google? The telco's could only win such a battle if they colluded, which would probably bring anti-trust lawsuits galore.
      • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:35PM (#14630015)
        While your listing the things that succeded due to internet freedom, don't forget about the things that failed because of ISP/Telco trickery.

        *Video confencing still has not taken off. Not because of general bandwidth limitations, but because of upload caps.

        *Telecommuting is limited due to blocks, throttleing, or "accidental" outages on ports necessary for telecommuters. (Those of us that do telecommute often pay dramatically more to not have artifical barriers.)

        I'm sure others could add to the list. It is the video confrencing that pisses me off. The upload speeds are always so much lower than the download speeds in just about every package that you need a package with way more download speed than necessary just to get sub par upload speeds.

        I telecommute, and work on projects that very often require team coding. As in two people sitting together looking at the same screen. Screen sharing works, and we are very productive, but sometimes it would be a whole lot easier if I could see the other coders finger pointing at the screen, or piece of paper.

        And, before the trolls come out and tell me I should just move closer to my work, and go into the office, keep in mind. My clients and I are saving money, reducing infrastucture costs, saving air quality, while at the same time improving my quality of life as well as that of my family. I think it is good for me, my son, and society that I get to keep my child home with me most of the time instead of shipping him off to spend more time with a daycare provider than he does with his family. I also have no desire to move myself and my family next to an industrial complex.
        • ISP's want you to pay for Internet access, they just don't want you to use it.

          They'll advertise the benifits of high speed ADSL access with unlimited downloads, but then (at least in Australia) the fine print will show a download/upload speed of 512/128 with a download limit of 10Gb per month (you might get a bit extra in off peak periods). Even the new ADSL2 available in some places is 1500/256, still with a download limit of 10Gb per month and a cost of over $100 Aus per month.

          Those Australians stupid en
      • Re:Fight (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fatboy (6851) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:45PM (#14630119)
        Well, except for the fact that MSFT, Google, Apple, and Amazon need the telcos more than the telcos need them. By a wide margin -- and especially true for Google and Amazon (and eBay).

        Really? Let Google or Microsoft null route Bellsouth's netblocks and see who really needs whom.
      • Re:Fight (Score:3, Insightful)

        by masklinn (823351)

        Well, except for the fact that MSFT, Google, Apple, and Amazon need the telcos more than the telcos need them. By a wide margin

        Not really, the user doesn't actually need the telco per se, the telcos don't add any value to the transaction between MSFT/Google/Amazon and the customer. They don't create the content of, therefore the interest in, therefore the value of Internet. They don't create the need for users to actually use them. Content providers create the need for telcos, if the user can't get the c

      • Re:Fight (Score:3, Insightful)

        by crotherm (160925)
        Well, except for the fact that MSFT, Google, Apple, and Amazon need the telcos more than the telcos need them. By a wide margin -- and especially true for Google and Amazon (and eBay).

        Isn't Google buying up lots of dark fiber? Maybe Google has already started the attck on the ISPs..

    • They already realized the fighting the big guys won't work. So, they are now picking on the little guy.

      But in reality some of the cable providers (or in the recent past) would terminate service for
      using too much traffic.
    • Price Fixing? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by George Michael (467827) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:35PM (#14629368)
      But how can it even be legal for Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to agree to discontinue free service, or reduce output [wikipedia.org] (where "output" is service to the customer, in this case)? Seriously, IANAL, how can this be legal?

      The idea of competition is that, when Verizon does something stupid that punishes customers, I can go somewhere else. It's a real problem if all the gatekeepers can legally get together and decide to give us all the shaft. And not even to try to hide their cooperation against consumers?! Messed up.
      • Re:Price Fixing? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:50PM (#14629550) Journal
        http://www.newnetworks.com/Scandalreslease13006.ht m [newnetworks.com]

        The story of how the Baby Bells FuXx0r3d America is relevant to any discussion involving internet service provided by a telephone company.
        Starting in the early 1990's, with a push from the Clinton-Gore Administration's "Information Superhighway", every Bell company -- SBC, Verizon, BellSouth and Qwest -- made commitments to rewire America, state by state. Fiber optic wires would replace the 100-year old copper wiring. The push caused techno-frenzy of major proportions. By 2006, 86 million households should have had a service capable of 45 Mbps in both directions, (to and from the customer) could handle over 500 channels of high quality video and be deployed in rural, urban and suburban areas equally. And these networks were open to ALL competition.

        In order to pay for these upgrades, in state after state, the public service commissions and state legislatures acquiesced to the Bells' promises by removing the constraints on the Bells' profits as well as gave other financial perks. They were able to print money -- billions of dollars per state -- all collected in the form of higher phone rates and tax perks. (Note: each state is different.)
        I honestly wouldn't put anything,/i> past the telcos & cable companies.

        They've paid for their legislation & regulation and they'll keep paying up as long as it is cost effective to do so.
      • Re:Price Fixing? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Em Adespoton (792954) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:58PM (#14629617) Homepage Journal
        It seems to me that this level of discrimination should automatically cancel their status as a common carrier... after all, they're looking at the actual data they're carrying now.
        • Re:Price Fixing? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lynx_user_abroad (323975) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:34PM (#14630013) Homepage Journal
          It seems to me that this level of discrimination should automatically cancel their status as a common carrier...

          Common Carrier, per FCC rule, only applies to voiceband channels less than 64Kbps. You can have all the Common Carrier you want, so long as you go back to Dial-up.

          Telecommunications companies don't like Common Carrier restrictions. They agreed to them, years ago, because the Public offered them something in return which they would have been fools to pass up: access to public rights-of-way. (Public. That's right. Stuff you owned that got handed over to Private Companies by the Government; that's a tax. In return, you got the Internet. Fair deal?)

          We (the People) could impose Common Carrier rules on broadband providers using public right-of-way facilities through a simple FCC rule change. Companies which own their entire network could still discriminate as they want (as would you, as the owner of all the ethernet in your house) but companies running packets through FCC-controlled spectrum (that's everything) or along public rights-of-way (poles, underground cables along roads, etc) would be required to follow the same rules the phone companies have had to follow for 150 years.

          Will that happen? Never. Too many slash dotters who still can't think past the FCC is part of the Government, and everything the Government does is bad, so there's no way I'm going to let the FCC impose their laws on my beloved Internet...

          Now, where did I put my remote control and bag of quarters?

      • Well if you RTFA you would have noticed that they're lobbying for congress and the FCC to lift restrictions which refers to telephone service providers as "common carriers." The common carrier thing essentially means they can't discriminate on the kinds of traffic they carry, they must carry all traffic and offer all services to everyone. They want these restrictions lifted so they can peek at what we're trying to do on the internet and limit it if they see fit or unless we pay a fee or a per download rate
      • Re:Price Fixing? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:31PM (#14629977)
        This isn't a commentary on your personal knowledge/understanding of the subject, but I just find it amusing that this is the second Slashdot story today (along with Verizon Hog) where people are shocked...SHOCKED...that these big Ultra-Mega-Form-Devastator corporations that have been forming over the past decade might actually be bad for the consumer.

        What the hell do you expect to happen when you let these companies conglomerate all this power without so much as a "Remember Ma Bell"? Of course they're going to screw us over, they're corporations. If it was legal and made them money they would feed kitten entrails to school-children.
    • by guildsolutions (707603) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:44PM (#14629474)
      Also dont forget encryption, If you can encrypt your stream then your ISP has no real clue what it is. I can foresee encryption becoming a major hurdle for this scheme.
    • Re:Thankfully... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cavemanf16 (303184)
      Exactly. I'm thinking the communications companies are betting on one of two things happening, either of which is a 'win' for them:

      1) Get tiered Internet pricing with big profits and big control over their customers.
      2) Get regulated (again) by tons of government rules and tariffs about how much they're allowed to charge subscribers when constituents start bitchin' and whinin' to their congresscritters. Again, virtually guaranteed profits with less incentive to beat each other up constantly as they have to d
    • by s20451 (410424) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:56PM (#14629597) Journal
      The telcos may own the pipes, but the internet is more a series of protocols than the infrastructure that supports them.

      If the worst case happens and the telcos "destroy" the internet, why couldn't everybody with a wifi card get together over a metropolitan area and create an internet-like ad-hoc wireless network? It would be a little more complex because the nodes would be constantly moving around (so the routing tables would be hard to handle), but in principle it could work, and there would be no "pipe" for anyone to "own". Maybe this afternoon I will do some cocktail napkin calculations to see if this could work, but if anyone has a reference to something similar I'd like to hear about it.

      Co-operatives could get together and arrange for microwave links between cities (or, they could buy some of the "dark fiber" that we keep hearing about).

      No central servers, no routers, no single points of failure, no central logging facilities, no closed ports ... maybe the internet has to be destroyed in order to save it.
    • by iendedi (687301)
      The big technology companies (such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple, etc..) will erect alternate backbones and most likely will cover metropolitan areas with wifi. Expect major wars between the tech and data carriers if this were to occur.

      Information will always get cheaper. it is inevitable.
    • Chicken and the egg (Score:5, Interesting)

      by techstar25 (556988) <techstar25 AT cfl DOT rr DOT com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:31PM (#14629971) Homepage Journal
      It sounds like a chicken and egg argument. The CEO of AT&T doesn't think that Google should benefit from using AT&T's pipes. But if there was no Google, Yahoo, Amazon, etc, then nobody would want to use the pipes(or use it less). What the carriers don't realize is that consumers are paying these ISP's upwards of $50/month to get to Google and Amazon. AT&T should be thanking Google for giving consumers a reason to pay $50/month. Back when the internet sucked and you couldn't find anything, pre-google days, it was only worth $19.95 month and dial up was good enough. Now that we have P2P, Google, high quality streaming media, it's worth $40/month. You take away P2P and watch how many people drop back to dial-up.
      I see a future where people don't have "free range" web access or email at home at all. You want the news? Subscribe to it. You want porn? Subscribe to it. Don't be surprised when email and web browsing becomes something you use at the office in a closed inTRAnet system.
      • What the carriers don't realize is that consumers are paying these ISP's upwards of $50/month to get to Google and Amazon.

        The carriers realize it perfectly. They're just selling their line of BS to the politicians and public. Make no mistake, it's not about "paying for the pipes", it's about gaining control over content and making money hand over fist off it.

        In other words, they want to turn the internet into AOL.
    • by cagle_.25 (715952)
      Ya know, I teach my students about evaluating sources.

      TFA is from "The Nation", which has a particular slant ... antiBigCorporation, TheSkyIsFallingBecauseWalMartIsTakingOver. Which has some merit, but can occasionally (and in this case definitely) be overly alarmist.

      TFA furthermore makes references to white papers, but the link takes you NOT to primary source white papers, but to "democracticmedia.org", which links to "white papers" that are ... kept on the same site.

      In other words: No primary source mate

    • Re:Thankfully... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rben (542324) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:32PM (#14630515) Homepage
      If we want to keep the Internet as open as it is, we're all going to have to fight. We can't count on corporations to do it for us. We should be calling and writing our representatives.

      Verizon, back when it was GTE, wrote most of the Telecommunications Act. I don't think that most of the legislators who voted on it knew what was in it. More and more that's the case. It's the companies that write the legislation. The people we send to congress simply don't have the technical expertise and apparently don't make sure they have the staffers that do.

      If you ever wonder why you don't have the government you want. You should ask yourself when was the last time you communicated your desires to your elected officials and when did you last vote.
    • Switch! There's plenty of independant ISPs out there that have NO intention of charging for crap like that. The telcos can't control bandwidth when the bandwidth isn't purchased from them. So why don't we just buy bandwidth from non ILECs....in otherwords, buy from OTHER places. SCR can service almost all of CA and we will never pull this kind of crap. Nor will our upstream providers. The customer pays us for the bandwidth, the sites they go to pay for THEIR bandwidth. I don't see the problem. I'm m
  • Maybe it's time to create the Othernet where the rest of the world is networked.

    I'm quite surprised that out of so many competitions, like GPS, satellite, Space program etc., which cost huge amount of money, no country is yet to create another internet.

    On the other hand, if all service providers band together, we might finally see the feasibility of micropayment, so that a penny is charged to your broadband bill every time you access Slashdot.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:17PM (#14629171) Journal

    Is this possible proposed policy to establish equity? If so, I'm okay with that. I've often wondered that for the same $30/month as my neighbor I can download five of the latest linux distributions, sample 20 or 30 trial software packages (large).

    What would bother me, and bother me greatly, would be if they established pricing baselines the cheapest of which match what people pay today. In other words, a money-grab.

    People have long paid more money to make more long distance calls, that only makes sense. Why not for heavier internet usage? It makes sense that heavier users pay higher fees.

    There also could be additional benefits (assuming this is a fair and balanced idea) -- that being a more moderated approach to internet usage. I don't doubt a significant slice of internet bandwidth is absorbed by indiscriminate downloading and uploading, and streaming. I know I don't think twice about downloading Photoshop Elements to trial for a couple days (~300MB) just because I can. I'm also just as likely to stream my music to whereever I am in the country from my server at my home, again, just because I can. How many others approach the internet in the same way? I'm guessing "many".

    If users used the internet as a finite resource (which it is, by the way) the usability of the internet would improve almost immediately and expansion costs and needs would attenuate (my opinion). All of this would help keep costs and increased charges down (again, assuming businesses are here to charge us a fair price).

    But, based on everything else I see in business, this may not pass the smell test. Sigh


    • People have long paid more money to make more long distance calls, that only makes sense. Why not for heavier internet usage? It makes sense that heavier users pay higher fees.

      This only makes sense if you do not believe in competition between companies. Its competition now that allows many of us to make long distance phone calls for one flat low rate. Yes, this argument makes sense from a cost stand point to the company. But by allowing competition in these market places, we the comsumers reap more b
      • by dup_account (469516) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:29PM (#14629947)
        But you assume there is competition between companies. For example. Where I live I can only get comcast. I can't even get DSL. And it really looks like the communication companies want to band together and set a pricing scheme.

        If you are lucky enough to live in a big enough market you might see some competition. But the majority of us, especially people not living in large markets, aren't going to see any competition.

        Now so that you can moderate me down, I'm going to posit that internet service (the pipe) should really be considered an utility and should highly regulated to provide maximum access at affordable rates to everyone (again, not just people in large markets).
    • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:34PM (#14629356)
      I'd be willing to pay more monthly for access to a real time network with guarantees about latency. I would not like to see my current service degrade so that this happens. This would require service providers set up networks to end corporations providing real time services such that latency could be managed end to end. The technology for this exists, but it's screwed up by carriers being hard to deal with.

      But the bottom line is this: ATT/Verizon/etc. do not get to establish these contracts. Their job is to run the network. I want a group of 3rd party ISPs to each independently build their own real time networks and sell the services to customers who can chose amongst ISPs to get the best service. The ISPs will then give the carriers instructions about how the network is to be set up, and pay them for their troubles. The INTERFACE to customers, and to the network, must be public, non-proprietary and transparent, like IPv4 is. Customers must be able to monitor and ensure their contract is being upheld. No proprietary set top boxes or any premises equipment, period.

      The guy who owns the wire must stop being the guy who provides the service. That model doesn't work. Further we need to see more REAL competition as much as we can. We can't ever see competition over wires, two or three wires does not a competitive market make. So reduce their role by force, and abstract it.
    • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:38PM (#14629402)
      If users used the internet as a finite resource (which it is, by the way) Um, no?

      It's a renewable resource. True, bandwidth is limited (total divided by users), but each completed packet restores that same amount of bandwidth to the network.
    • by laughingcoyote (762272) * <barghesthowl@NospAm.excite.com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:38PM (#14629405) Journal

      But no one pays extra to make hour-long local calls, if they like, and this procedure has worked very well for quite some time too. Everything, so to speak, is a "finite resource", but with the amount of unused bandwidth floating around there, and the low levels ISP's cap it at (Japan and many European cities see 20-100 Mbps as a matter of course), there's no excuse for this. I expect to pay for bandwidth at a flat rate, and I expect to use it. If all I wanted to do was occasionally look at webpages and check my email, I'd use the $8/month dialup ISP here. I pay $50 a month for broadband because -I expect to use it-.

    • by CustomDesigned (250089) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:40PM (#14629421) Homepage Journal
      On Cox cable, my "home" account has silver, gold, and platinum levels which vary how high the bandwidth cap on the cable modem is set. Furthermore, there are usage limits (total upload bytes and total download bytes per month), which vary with service tier. And for only $25/mo more (for "business" account), you can get a static IP plus no usage limits and port 25 to the world is no longer blocked.

      The problem with the proposed schemes is that they want to meter *applications*, not bandwidth and usage. This is just wrong for any application. But it especially burns for email given the spam problem. I just installed an authentication filter for a client with a business class Cox cable account. He was getting 65000+ emails per day per domain for 20 domains, eating 3MB download bandwidth (they were just getting appended to a rotating log file since he couldn't even begin to try to find the legit mail in all the crap). All but 20 emails per day per domain are forgeries (and now get rejected in SMTP envelope thanks to the filter). Imagine the ISP charging per email SYN packet. Talk about unjust. Most of the 20 are still spam, but at least those spammers will say who they are (and so are closer to a "cold call").

    • by meisenst (104896) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:42PM (#14629451) Homepage

      Internet access has been marketed to the better part of the world for years as an infinite resource, full of promise, that can solve all of your problems, tie your shoes, start your car and julienne your fries. All this for a low, low rate of $xx.yy per month.

      Is this possible proposed policy to establish equity? If so, I'm okay with that. I've often wondered that for the same $30/month as my neighbor I can download five of the latest linux distributions, sample 20 or 30 trial software packages (large).

      Why should I have to pay extra to download trial software packages and Linux distributions simply because my neighbour does not wish to do so? That's horrible. That's like saying that if my neighbour buys a car and doesn't use it as often as I use mine, I should have to pay more money. He can drive just as much as I do, I simply choose to do so more often, or to take different roads, or to take the longer way home. It costs me more gasoline, but one could argue that using my computer more often costs me more in electricity.

      If we saw a lobby group advocating mass tolls on our roads so that we could tax those who drive more often (I'm not talking highways), there would be mass hysteria. Why is this any different?

      I don't doubt a significant slice of internet bandwidth is absorbed by indiscriminate downloading and uploading, and streaming.

      This is where a lot of people will disagree. What you call "indiscriminate", most people will call "my right". Granted, all of the providers that I've ever been with "reserve the right" to modify their access agreements at any time. I guarantee you, however, that if my ISP imposes this garbage on me, I'll simply find another. And there will always be others.

      Businesses, by the way, are not here to charge us a fair price. They are here to make money.

  • by christian.elliott (892060) * on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:19PM (#14629198) Homepage Journal

    I can see this being attempted, no doubt. However I simply cannot see it being accepted by the public. You can't take away something that was free from the public without causing a revolution. I don't think these people have as firm a grasp on the concept of the internet that they think.

    It bothers me that the government is having such a field day with all these search engines, blasting them about censoring for China. Yet that same government wants to completely try to contain the internet for the capital gain and exploitation of certain telecom companies?

    The internet is the biggest creation of our time, I really hope people won't lie down and let this happen. Use your voice people, do something, I know I will.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:20PM (#14629211) Homepage
    Guess I'm over my slashdot article limit...

    Seriously, we in Europe have finally gotten rid of the Pay Per Minute system with cable/adsl. You that have had it for so long, want to move to Pay Per View? You're not evolving, you're degenerating...
  • by XorNand (517466) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:21PM (#14629212)
    Way back in the day (think Compuserve), this is how things used to be. However, eventually competition forced providers to offer flat-rate service because that's what the market demanded. How is this any different? Any provider that abandons flat-rate pricing risks losing customers in droves.
    • Any provider that abandons flat-rate pricing risks losing customers in droves.

      Maybe I live in an area with too many ISP options, but I have to agree with you. The only way something like this could happen is if either every ISP made this change simultaneously, or if the tiered stuff offered something so wonderfully attractive that I would have to take it (and I could not even begin to imagine what that would be).

      I know I have already sent messages to my (small) telco saying that if they attempted someth

  • By demonstrating they are willing to control the delivery of content, they will lose their common carrier status and be subject to penalties for what they carry depending on violations of local laws.

    This is a non-starter.
  • Brace yourself... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:21PM (#14629215) Homepage Journal
    ...and prepare yourself for finding ways to avoid the major providers. A few months back, I was messing around with finding ways to provide a wireless network within my community mostly for file sharing but also for finding ways to minimize our reliance on the pipes coming in (Comcast, SBC and 3 WiFi high speed providers) so we won't have to worry about it in the future.

    Then it occurred to me that these minornets could very well be linked to one another -- microwave or other wireless connections. Sure, the latency goes up, but the reliance on the communications cartels (there is definitely a collusive conspiracy theory there!) is reduced greatly. You tie into the main Internet at a few points, set up your routing to get everyone into the main Internet in the fastest fashion, and you're set. It might be complicated initially but the software and hardware is out there to make it happen, IF NEEDED.

    I really think that the whole idea of relying on the big boys' land lines might not be necessary. I was a endpoint on Fidonet, and got along just fine as technology progressed -- some people used X.25, some used landlines, some used ISDN lines, but we all got along. It was slow, but it worked, and it became better over time.

    We have to thank the big providers for really being confused for so long as to how they can take advantage of the net. Now we have many ways to stay connected -- I connect to the web via my PDA (and my laptop) through my Samsung t809 with a Bluetooth connection. I'm using it right now, and I get 150kbps downloads -- more than enough. If I didn't have T-Mobile's great package, I know I have about 5 other wireless providers I could buy bandwidth from.

    Give it time. Those who try to control you will not realize that there are those who know they can offer less control at a better price. Don't like the monopoly tiered service in your community? Go get a T1, and run a WiFi provider in your area. 3 of my neighbors pay me US$10 a month to get on my megapipe already. I could probably get another 20 of them if I really went out to try.

    Tiered service MIGHT be what the average household wants, though. If the monopolies try it and no one comes in to offer a cheaper/less controlled service, the free market will have answered that question. I'd like to hear what the more authoritarian slashdotters here have to say about how the free market could fail the individual user in this case.

    Just remember one thing -- if MegaCorp X is a monopoly provider of high speed bandwidth in your town, it isn't MegaCorp X's fault. Go blame the government who gave them the monopoly. If MegaCorp Y created their connections over previous monopoly status, don't ask MegaCorp Y to give you back what you gave them originally -- the right to be a monopoly. This is why I am against government licensing and regulations -- it creates these monopolies which come to affect us decades later.

    It isn't the monopolies' fault that you let your local government give up your rights in exchange for bad service. In the old days, maybe it was OK -- it was either bad service or no service. Yet we see the slippery slope and how it affects us in the future, and we need to carefully think about the programs we're asking for today that might become bad monopoly services in the future.
    • Re:Brace yourself... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dwandy (907337)
      from TFA:

      For example, in a series of recent white papers, Internet technology giant Cisco urges these companies to "meter individual subscriber usage by application," as individuals' online travels are "tracked" and "integrated with billing systems."

      makes me laugh ... how are they gonna tell what I'm doing when everything gets run encrypted on random/non-standard ports? If it wasn't coming from persumably 'techie' companies I'd think this as funny as the porn port [slashdot.org]
      Not that I bother today, but let's fac

    • Re:Brace yourself... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Then it occurred to me that these minornets could very well be linked to one another -- microwave or other wireless connections. Sure, the latency goes up, but the reliance on the communications cartels (there is definitely a collusive conspiracy theory there!) is reduced greatly. You tie into the main Internet at a few points, set up your routing to get everyone into the main Internet in the fastest fashion, and you're set.

      The internet works because of the massive pipes criss crossing the whole world - a

  • Spam (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WizADSL (839896) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:22PM (#14629231)
    If spam could be eliminated look at how much bandwidth would be saved. When my ISP (BellSouth) stops all the spam entering their network, then they can talk to me about how they need to prioritize my traffic because of limited capacity.
  • by BoredAtWorkWhatElse (936972) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:23PM (#14629232)
    I hope this isn't the platinium quality service ...
  • Unless the fcc steps in and screws this up, this is the perfect opportunity for companies like speakeasy to become more competative... simply by offering the same services they offer now. or for communities to pool their resources, get fiber, and set up a wifi mesh network to provide access to everyone.

  • ..US wasnt giving up the "internet-ownership"?
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:25PM (#14629257)

    Ok, the industry goons look at the current model and say "we could make more money if we installed limits."

    But wouldn't everyone have to do the same thing on the same day in order to make this work? If my cablemodem suddenly had these idiotic limits put on it I'd move to another service that very day.

    How in the world could the industry get paying customers on a less capable model than what we already have? And how could they eliminate every single other alternative?

    • All the small ISP's have gone away due to illegal moves by the big carriers who owned the last mile.

      Now there are only a handfull of players left with a financial interest to screw you. Why not?
  • My ISP has already done this. Fortunately, in the new tiered system I was at a bracket that already met my needs. So there was no 'net' disadvantage for me, and I can now get more that I would have ever been allowed under my existing agreement by electing to go to the higher tier.
  • I'm not worried (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Schlemphfer (556732)
    Broadband service (DSL anyway) has gotten cheaper rather than more expensive. And upcoming wireless technologies will go a long way toward handling the last mile problem.

    It seems to me that there are plenty of contenders out there vying for the home broadband market, and with upcoming wireless standards more contenders will emerge. We're not going to be stuck choosing between cable and DSL. Unless the main providers can create an illegal cartel (and evade government prosecution for doing so), I can't s

    • Unless the main providers can create an illegal cartel (and evade government prosecution for doing so)

      Kind of like the Republican party?
  • Price Fixing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wasexton (907707) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:26PM (#14629276)
    My wife is in the Real Estate industry and I am in the Banking industry. Both have, in recent years, been the target of legal action for price fixing, which, as I understand it is fixing the price of a product or service in agreement with another individual or business, which is illegal. The general rule provides that a vendor may not in combination with another vendor agree to set a certain price thereby creating a fixed price within a certain market. The original article appears to be down, of course, but the summary sounds a lot like price fixing to me.
  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:27PM (#14629281) Homepage Journal
    if i get a dial up modem, or a cable modem, or a t1, i have different levels of service

    if you are saying they are going to offer me less bandwidth for the same $, then we have a problem, but i'm sure a competitor has something to say about that

    but if you are saying if i pay them 2x$ what i am already paying for a significantly bigger pipe, i don't exactly see what the problem is.
  • Curse you and your inevitable betrayal!
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:30PM (#14629312)
    ... that was when Internet connections were subject to the per-minute charges levied by the local phone loop owners.

    Am I missing something, or does this just smack of wanting to roll back time?
  • by DaedalusLogic (449896) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:30PM (#14629315)
    The cat is out of the bag and competition will keep it that way.

    Saying that they will charge per e-mail or download is as unrealistic as the electric company charging you per piece of toast, or load of laundry that you wash. What they can charge you on is the bandwidth that you use. Similar to how the electric company can charge per kilowatt hour... Also... They could only ever charge you for what you downloaded. Can you imagine how pissed you would be to find out that all the responses to incoming zombie requests to you computer racked up a $400 "Internet" bill. Even then, people will not be happy with the idea that they have to pay $15.00 extra dollars this month because a Microsoft error led to a giant ass patch they HAD to download.

    It will not happen, the die has been cast and you can't repurpose this airplane as a clown's scooter.
  • The tiered model is what brought down the old Prodigy service. For a while, when they started out, there was one basic fee for Prodigy when I used to use it. Then after a year or two, they added a fee for every minute you looked at a bulletin board and some other fee for every e-mail over 15 sent that month.

    This business model is exactly what killed it, everyone split shortly after the changes were made. You can expect people to not happily go along with it this time either.

  • Propoganda at work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Azreal (147961) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:32PM (#14629328)
    [i]"Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment, and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"[/i]

    Two thoughts here.

    Why should L3 allow at&t's backbone to route traffic across their pipes or vice versa? Are they idiots or would they seriously rather have no interconnects and have the internet break down to multiple WAN's?
    Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Google or Yahoo! or basically any other web site out there pay for their bandwidth and on top of this, the consumers pay for essentially the same thing on the other end. Basically they're double dipping and still complaining that they aren't making enough.
  • by webzombie (262030) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:32PM (#14629339)
    Screw AT&T and all the other so-called bandwidth providers if they think I'm going to fork over any more money then I am currently paying.

    Ya see, here in the Great White (as in snow) North Canada, I pay a premium price for unlimited downloads. Regular and basic plans have capped monthly limits.

    I just can't see how the US government or more importantly the rest of the planet would allow these modern day robber barrons to create this tiered system. That would be like my cable company charging me $10 a month because I watched 100 more reruns last month.

    And speaking of my cable company, how would local telcos charge for this "extra" bandwidth? Their pipe isn't going to get any bigger so its not a quantity issue or are they simply going to be tollgates for "priority traffic". Which is probably the case which means its NOT a bandwidth issue, its a money grab.

    I think its rather timely that the $200 Billion Broadband Scandel is being released.

    http://www.newnetworks.com/broadbandscandals.htm [newnetworks.com]

    $200 Billion Dollar Broadband Scandal, is a powerful critique that outlines a truly massive case of fraud. The Bell Companies (Verizon, SBC, Qwest, and BellSouth) used trickery and deceit to swindle the U.S. out of a promised 45mbps internet connection. They collected billions of dollars in regulatory fees, and now they are attempting to commoditize the Internet. Kushnick's book uses stunning detail to expose this treachery with accuracy and thoroughness.

    You silly Murickans....
  • by Dzimas (547818) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:40PM (#14629417)
    Both of the large local broadband providers in my region (Western Canada) currently offer tiered service, capping download and upload speeds arbitrarily to allow them to offer "lite, regular, and extreme" service at siginificantly different price points. One of them even charges a $10 monthly fee to ensure "VoIP quality" service if you're using a third-party internet phone system (that one makes me wonder).

    In reality, the sweet spot is still the standard service. If I ever find myself needed an extra two or three Mbps of downstream transfer, it seems appropriate for me to pay an extra $10/month -- I'd obviously cease to be a typical "browsing and emailing" user.

  • Let them try... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:44PM (#14629475)
    Wireless will be so cheap that we'll just make our own wireless freenet. People won't even need to understand why. "Just put this thing on your roof, and you can have free Internet for life." "Sure, OK!"
  • by Geekboy(Wizard) (87906) <.spambox. .at. .theapt.org.> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:56PM (#14629600) Homepage Journal
    if they should go tiered, I think they should lose their 'common carrier' status, and be liable for any and all illegal activities that occur on their networks.
  • New Tiered Market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:00PM (#14629636) Homepage
    At first I was angered by these companies trying to charge twice for internet connectivity, once for the connection and again each time you use it.

    But now I'm having second thoughts. Perhaps this tiered market is a good idea. I'm thinking that I'll introduce tiered service levels for access to the easement on my property, and I think as a citizen I will request a new tiered system for corporate access to public property. Perhaps something like this would work:

    Silver Level, for a minimal fee of say $100 USD per foot per year I'll allow telecom's to lay cable through my backyard.

    Gold Level, I'll actually let the telecom's use their cable they laid in my backyard for a minimal licensing fee of 20% of all revenues related to any data which traverses the lines in my backyard.

    Platinum Level, for a minimal fee of $10 per connection I'll allow the telecom company to make data connections from their cable in my backyard to cables in the neighbors backyards.

    The tiered program for public property will be similar but will require that all revenue from the program is paid back to all tax paying citizens.

    This is just my first rough draft, it will need much more refining, but you know I really should have more control over how my property is used and I should be allowed to participate in the capitalization of said property.

    burnin
  • by Belseth (835595) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:02PM (#14629662)
    Once they exhaust every other avenue of revenue the last thing to get attacked is always service. If they are expected to increase profits 5% well the simpliest way is to reduce service 5%. It's what's happened with helath insurance and even food. Try to buy a pound of prepackaged name brand coffee. They are all less than a pound for a reason. Most prepackaged foods went through a similar contraction. Instead of 50 olives we load 49 and change it to weight rather than number. Petty? With high volume items or services it can be millions a year. A friend that worked at Universal was given a raise that was calculated to the half cent. When he complainted to accounting that it was rediculous they calmly explained given the number of employees over the course of a year it saved them tens of thousands of dollars. Reductions in service are unavoidable as execs turn to bean counters to find the next profit increase so they can justify their new raise. Who looses? The consumer.
  • Simple Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by booch (4157) <slashdot2010@NOsPam.craigbuchek.com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:02PM (#14629668) Homepage
    This is an easy problem to solve. If the telcos want to provide tiered access to their lines, let them. But if they base their service on the content of the traffic, they're no longer a common carrier, are they? So take away their common carrier status, leaving them liable for all the traffic that traverses their network. I don't see any reason to allow them to have their cake and eat it too. But I think they should get to decide which side of the fence they would like to operate on.
  • by thpdg (519053) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:03PM (#14629679) Journal
    The article makes use of the ATT/SBC quote of "Why should I let them use my pipes?"
    Well, when someone like Google pays their hosting bills, they're paying for access to that pipe. Isn't that why we PAY hosting bills? What did I miss?
    If you don't want to sell access on your backbone, then don't. The Internet and its open access system made ATT/SBC its money, as well as many other companies. Do they seriously intend to turn it around and shut down the system that made them rich? Do they intend to create a private online service, like AOL? If that could work, then why are people concerned about AOLs future?
    I hope all of this talk is just people over reacting, but some how, I suspect it's more than that.
  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:29PM (#14629939)
    This is just like the mobile companies. One byte of email information costs x, but one byte of jpeg information costs y. etc. Complete nonsense. Just vote with your feet when they try it.
  • by camperslo (704715) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:35PM (#14630534)
    Let's do what we can to push for community-based fiber and wireless projects.

    It's critical that we are represented fairly when it comes to making use of the spectrum to be given up when analog tv broadcasting shuts down. Think of spectrum as our atmosphere to breathe and speak electronically.
    Don't let them sell our "air" to the monopolies.
  • I am not worried (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HairyCanary (688865) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:30PM (#14631948)
    The market can deal with nonsense like this quite easily. I work for a CLEC, and doing something like this is not on our radar -- nor will it ever be. We have a focus on customer service, because ultimately that earns us more business than exceptionally good prices or any type of coercion. I have a lot of experience that indicates that this kind of policy would truly piss off our customers like very few other things could, and they would start looking for another provider.

    So, instead ... WE will be the "other provider." And because we are a CLEC, we are very enthusiastic about taking customers away from Verizon and Qworst.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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