Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pay-Per-Net (sell the paper AND the advertising space)

"What if the Internet were like cable television, with Web sites grouped like channels into either basic or premium offerings? What if a few big companies decided which sites loaded quickly and which ones slowly, or not at all, on your computer?"

That's what some of the Internet Service Providers would like to do. Their legal ability to do so is a little up in the air since many of them use Ma Bell's infrastructure to carry their data and that may or not make them a "common carrier." So far ISPs are generally not considered common carriers, but if they push the issue by doing some very uncommon-carrier things like this tiering scheme, that may change.

As a libertarian, the only thing that draws my ire here is that this tiered network would be built on top of a largely taxpayer funded infrastructure. If they were doing this on a privately funded infrastructure, I'd have no problem with this from a political standpoint.

As a compter user, it bothers me that sites who are not in the business of making a profit would be relegated to poor performance. And according to current studies, the Internet is used primarily for social networking. How much of that will cough up the dough for top tier access? Also, what will happen to smaller regions. For example, suppose Amamzon really wants to be a top tier site but can't afford to be top tier everywhere. They're going to pay for top tier in the big markets and settle for bottom tier in the smaller markets. Now the ISP users in those smaller markets are getting fleeced because they're paying for an Internet service that doesn't provide any of the "services" they would like at a decent bandwidth.

As a consumer, it angers me that ISPs are trying to make money at both ends. Now a site that wants a top tier status has to pay for their own server hosting and they have to pay every single ISP on top of that for top shelf service. And that top tier site is going to pass those costs along to me.

What are your thoughts on the issue?


patsbrother said...

First, sites that can still make money off of advertising are not going to disappear. Myspace and other social networking will be there as long as advertisers want to contact idiot teenagers with little time and too much of their parents' money. And as the sites' revenue is tied to hits, they are not going to allow their own to fall to slow-moving hell. The free market economy will keep on keeping on. Or did you not realize most people pay for Internet access already?

Second, you're pissed off this tiered network has been built off of largely taxpayer funded infrastructure? Damn, Georgia Natural Gas, Georgia Power, Bell South, and your current Internet service provider (or their competitors, regional counterparts, or assigns) must piss you off. I also vaguely remember schemes to lay cable out in rural areas. You live in the boonies?

And finally, there is an easy and efficient solution if cost becomes prohibitive or service too frustrating. It's what I have done since I stopped paying for television more than five years ago: something else.

lagnsfit said...

First, to clarify, it's not the ISP's that are imposing this charge but the telecoms that maintain the infrastructure. Websites would not have to pay each individual ISP in the country just the handful of companies that provide the physical networks this all runs on.

Personally I don't like this idea becuase it seems like it would open up the doors for other utilities to follow suit. What if Atlanta Gas and Light (the company that built and maintains the physical gas lines here in metro Atlanta but does not provide the actual service) wanted to do the same thing? Unless your individual gas provider paid extra your gas flow would be reduced and you could not burn more than "X" BTU's per hour. No more cooking that Christmas ham while heating the house and taking a hot shower at the same time!

I know this sounds a bit extreme and it's possible I'm way offbase in my understanding of how this system really works. Companies like Bellsouth, AT&T and Verizon already charge the ISP's and other providers who use their physical lines for that usage. I don't know if they do so at a flat rate or if the ISP's pay based on the bandwidth they use but it seems like the telco's are already getting paid for maintaing the systems. Charging individual sites for "priority" access would only cause them to get paid twice for the same thing.

Dante said...

"The free market economy will keep on keeping on. Or did you not realize most people pay for Internet access already?"

Like I pointed out earlier, if this were a free market economy to begin with I'd have no beef with the proposal. However, that's not what this is. The taxpayers of this country have paid a pretty hefty sum to get Bell to lay out a data transport system. Now the beneficiaries of Bell's handiwork want us to pay for user bandidth, businesses to pay for server bandwidth, and now for business to pay an arbitrary fee to get the the throughput we should be getting based on the bandwidth we've each already paid for. Show me any of those government-funded tierings you mentioned that base their tiering on a completely arbitrary system.

"It's what I have done since I stopped paying for television more than five years ago: something else."

I don't pay for TV either. The "boonies" I live in are too sparesely populated for cable to be worth it. Even if they could sell to 100% of the folks they run a line past, they'd still lose money. I had satellite for a while until I came to my "Dante doesn't pay for TV" epiphany a few years ago. However, it's important to note that the Internet is two way communication as compared to the one way communication that is television. That makes it a bit of a different beast than TV, movies, books, etc.

Patrick Armstrong said...

I don't like this because it will give egghead corporate bureaucrats (and eventually, egghead government bureaucrats like me) the same kind of control over the internet that they currently have over radio and television.

And look at how those two have turned out...

Right now, the internet is the cheapest and most instant information exchange mechanism in the world. It is the one place where you can pay (or not - public computers) to gain access to the net, and then you have literally millions upon millions of information/entertainment/music sources to choose from. If you don't like what you see, you can start your own, for free.