Friday, January 06, 2006

Phone Companies Set Off Battle Over Internet Fees

Large phone companies, setting the stage for a big battle ahead, hope to start charging Google Inc., Vonage Holdings Corp. and other Internet content providers for high-quality delivery of music, movies and the like over their telecommunications networks.

Historically, network providers have agreed to deliver Internet traffic on a "best efforts" basis without guaranteeing various levels of quality of service. That hasn't been a problem for the most popular Internet services, like email and Web surfing, because they aren't dependent on uninterrupted streams of data. Real-time videogames, phone service and video, however, demand more reliable quality, and network operators are trying to prioritize Internet traffic to meet increasing demand for those services.

Under a two-tier Internet system, the phone companies would be under pressure to provide an even higher-quality of service because paying for premium access would demand more than a "best efforts" guarantee. Cable and phone companies have already started offering multitiered pricing of broadband for consumers. And some cable companies have looked into ways of curtailing individual broadband customers from using too much bandwidth.

What surprises me is the immediate and loud complaints about the telco ISPs "locking out" small or new Internet services. Not so. Internet 1 -- the 'Net since inception to date -- has absolutley no quality of service built in. That's one reason why Internet realtime video, even with broadband, has been problematic -- the packets don't flow one after the other like data does on a dedicated phone line. Internet 2, as implemented in IP SEC v2, supports the ability of network providers to offer quality of service that will quickly drive video, teleconferencing, and other realtime demands over the 'Net.

You'll pay for that superior service if you want it. Hey, standard FedEx is two days. You pay extra to have it there tomorrow before 10am. Right? Why shouldn't the ISPs get paid for providing higher service levels at the buyer's option? Akamai, for instance, has built an entire business around this premise. If you don't want the better services, you don;t have to pay for it -- although the "free" Internet is apt to get slower and more choked over time.

So, I take the griping from those who want something for nothing with a grain of salt. If you want a better, high-bandwidth Internet experience, let me be the first to say "it's gonna cost you."


  1. Anonymous12:25 AM

    you miss the point! companies like verizon are advertising "unlimited access" and rolling out services like fiber to the home which is supposed to give you speeds of over 10 Megs/second. What's the point in paying for this service if you can't use it?bottom line: let people use the bandwith they pay for the way they want to.

  2. No, I did not miss the point. It is the source of traffic that will be paying more -- the content providers. You won't need T1 bandwidth (except for HDTV) if the QOS is there to deliver the packets promptly. If you want random arrival (e.g., lousy realtime service), you won;t have to pay more.


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