[Chtechcomm] Charging for Content delivery
tbuckner at ibiblio.org
Sat Dec 3 09:59:34 EST 2005
Executive Wants to Charge for Web Speed
Some Say Small Firms Could Be Shut Out of Market Championed by
By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 1, 2005; Page D05
A senior telecommunications executive said yesterday that Internet
service providers should be allowed to strike deals to give certain Web
sites or services priority in reaching computer users, a controversial
system that would significantly change how the Internet operates.
William L. Smith, chief technology officer for Atlanta-based BellSouth
Corp., told reporters and analysts that an Internet service provider
such as his firm should be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for
the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.
Or, Smith said, his company should be allowed to charge a rival
voice-over-Internet firm so that its service can operate with the same
quality as BellSouth's offering.
Network operators can identify the digital "packets" of content moving
through their wires from sites and services and can block some or put
others at the head of the stream.
But Smith was quick to say that Internet service providers should not be
able to block or discriminate against Web content or services by
degrading their performance.
Rather, he said, a pay-for-performance marketplace should be allowed to
develop on top of a baseline service level that all content providers
"If I go to the airport, I can buy a coach standby ticket or a
first-class ticket," Smith said. "In the shipping business, I can get
two-day air or six-day ground."
Smith said his company supports the latest draft of a House
telecommunications bill that would prohibits network operators from
impeding Internet content but allow the type of marketplace Smith envisions.
Several big technology firms and public interest groups say that
approach would enshrine Internet access providers as online toll booths,
favoring certain content and shutting out small companies trying to
compete with their offerings.
"Prioritization is just another word for degrading your competitor,"
said Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights
advocacy group. "If we want to ruin the Internet, we'll turn it into a
cable TV system" that carries programming from only those who pay the
cable operators for transmission.
In a recent letter to Congress, a coalition of technology companies
called on members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to
strengthen the draft bill's "network neutrality" provisions, some of
which were recently changed in response to lobbying by telephone and
"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 Amazon.com Inc., eBay
Inc., Google and IAC/InterActive Corp.
Consumer groups wonder, for example, how any Web start-up that might
want to challenge an incumbent could expect to outspend it to get top or
even equal performance over a network charging for the privilege.
Smith, echoing recent sentiments by AT&T Inc. chief executive Edward E.
Whitacre Jr., responded that network operators must be free to control
the type and quality of service on the system in which they have
Legislating otherwise "would be the same thing as saying to Google, 'I
think we ought to have regulation on Google that says when I enter a
search term, the top search result is always a random event,' " Smith
said, claiming that Google allows clients to pay to influence the
ranking of search results. In fact, Google does not allow payments to
influence general search results, although advertisers pay for top
billing on the lists that run on the right side of Google's pages.
Smith said the ability to prioritize traffic would benefit consumers,
such as with online services providing medical alerts. And he said his
company wants to be able to assure vendors such as online-gaming firms
that their subscribers will get top performance even when there is heavy
network traffic, which can slow a system.
Smith said BellSouth is especially concerned about new-generation
television services it wants to provide via the Internet that would
require large amounts of bandwidth.
Allowing it to give priority to TV traffic would ensure that television
quality does not decline when other heavy-bandwidth applications are
Sohn said claims of bandwidth scarcity are overblown. The real agenda,
she said, is to put rival services at a disadvantage.
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