30 December 2005

Two Tiered Internet

I just read an article by Michael Geist about network neutrality.

Don’t get me started.

Not good news but it’s inevitable that companies with low imagination that have survived for years by screwing their customers will continue to try to use the same strategy when they are faced with competition and shrinking profits due to commoditization of their products. Hey, it has worked for them so far, so it will continue to work, right? Wrong. People increasingly have more and more choices about where they spend their money, and more importantly, where they direct their attention. And we remember when companies rip us off and as soon as the technology allows we will switch.

The telephone companies used to force us to rent our phones from them. Then when we were finally allowed to purchase a phone they forced us to pay for every line into the house. Then they forced us to pay outrageous amounts for long distance. We haven’t forgotten that.

Cable companies have screwed us for years with their television channel bundling, charges for individual TV hookups and poor service and support. We tend to remember this sort of thing.

Cell phone companies have held us hostage for years by charging us for every little conceivable feature so that our communications costs at the consumer level have skyrocketed. They do this by keeping us locked in to plans and charging us outrageous amounts to get out of the plans, and by holding our phone number’s hostage.

The basic business model for all of these companies is… because we have a monopoly we will screw you with our old outdated technology as long as possible as long as you keep paying us way more than it costs us. It's nothing personal, it's just business.

News flash. Your monopoly might not last forever.

We won’t hesitate when the next disruptive technology comes along that causes these dinosaurs to become extinct. Nothing personal, it's just business.

Now middle level internet service providers, who also happen to be into telephony, cable and cellular, are lobbying to get the right to restrict certain types of traffic to prop up their old business models. Some of them are already doing it! This is outrageous, not only from the perspective of being manipulated by corporate greed but, as a friend of mine pointed out, from the privacy aspect as well. How do these companies have the right to listen in on users' internet traffic? Do they have court orders?

Innovations such as Skype are being lablled as 'parasitic' and sometimes data is even being blocked! How about the Telus decision to block their opponent's web site during a recent labour dispute this summer? (Not to mention the 600 additional sites that were inadvertently blocked). Where does that right come from?

Good question. Do ISPs have the right to block IPs and ports? It's bad customer service, to be sure, but since they don't have to evesdrop to do that, is it OK? I don't know. I know am opposed to the practice but I don't know who has rights in this area. If anyone reading this does please enlighten me.

In any case, I am all for innovation and freedom to choose.

Goodbye outrageous long distance charges… hello Skype!