SBC to Internet: We own you

Ed Whitacre, CEO of SBC Telecommunications, tells Businessweek magazine that as far as he’s concerned, telecoms and cable companies get to control the Internet:

“Q. How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google, MSN, Vonage, and others?

A. How do you think they’re going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. 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!”

That’s a nice try, Ed. You may not be the only one to try that kind of thing, but let’s see you try to block access to Skype or Gmail unless someone pays up. And don’t large bandwidth users pay for traffic carried on a cable or telecom network already? SBC’s new business model sounds a little bit like extortion to me. Former Release 1.0 editor Kevin Werbach says we should be afraid. More discussion on the Interesting People list.

Update: The Washington Post has a story criticizing Ed, in which an SBC spokesman does some serious backpedalling on the whole arging-chay for andwidth-bay thing.

Debate over Google Print

Cory over at points to a great discussion of Google’s library book-scanning project that was conducted on computing guru David Farber’s invitation-only “interesting people” mailing list. Tim O’Reilly, who took part in the discussion, has a description on O’Reilly Radar. For example, Sid Karin notes that lost a lawsuit launched by the record industry after the company set up a CD library that would let you listen to streaming digital music files, provided you could prove you owned the original CD they came from. The suit was fought in part on the principle that was violating copyright simply by making digital copies of the CDs, much as publishers are arguing that Google is infringing on their copyright simply by scanning books, even though it will not be making the full text available online. Also on the list, Seth Finkelstein points to a wide-ranging discussion about the subject over at the Scrivener’s Error blog.

Revenge of the blog-o-sphere

If Forbes magazine was looking for some attention from the Internet, they certainly got what they were asking for. Unfortunately, it isn’t coming because of some fine-quality, well-written journalism, but because of what bloggers are taking as a drive-by-shooting style rant about how bloggers are dirty, rotten, lying scumbags. The piece by Daniel Lyons is more or less about a battle between one man whose company and stock were hammered by a blogger who pretended to be someone else, but along the way Lyons casts some aspersions against bloggers as a whole. Reaction (not surprisingly) has come from far and wide, including Dan Gillmor at Bayosphere, Steve Rubel at MicroPersuasion, the guys over at We Break Stuff and Paul Kedrosky at Infectious Greed. Is it a deliberate attempt by Forbes to get some coverage in the blog-o-sphere — even if it’s negative? Perhaps. Or it could just be that publisher Malcolm Forbes got a bee in his bonnet about blogs for some reason. Meanwhile, Chris Pirillo notes sarcastically that magazines also suffer from some of the same problems. But Om Malik (who used to work for the magazine before he moved to Business 2.0, says he is reserving judgment for the moment.

Update: In a great piece for, Michael Malone — former editor of Forbes’ ASAP technology magazine and long-time Silicon Valley observer — talks about blogs and notes that the business magazine is the “one of the best technology counter-indicators I know.”

Column: Best of luck, Jerry…

Here’s a column I just posted to the website, about Jerry Zucker’s $1-billion bid for Hudson’s Bay Co.: “To U.S. investor Jerry Zucker, who has just launched a takeover bid for the oldest company in North America — The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading Into Hudson’s Bay, otherwise known as Hudson’s Bay Co. — we have just one thing to say: Best of luck.

Way back when, this legendary company may have controlled more than a third of what is now Canada, and part of the northern United States, but here in 2005 it barely controls anything. HBC may be the largest remaining department store retailer in Canada, but it has achieved that title mostly by default, since Simpson’s went out of business decades ago, Eaton’s went bankrupt (not once but twice) and eventually ceased to exist, and Sears has shrunk to a shadow of its former self and is on life support.”

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Let the Web 2.0 pile-on begin

Whether it’s fear of a new bubble or just a desire to be contrary, the backlash against Web 2.0 continues to grow — or at least, a backlash against the hordes of companies that have emerged offering a variety of Web-based services using Ajax and other interactive technologies, and against some of the acquisitions and valuations that have been tossed around in the wake of deals for companies such as Jason Calcanis’s Weblogs Inc. The latter got a lot of people doing some back of the envelope calculations , to see how much their blogs or sites might be worth. Meanwhile, others such as Nicholas Carr at Rough Type have been protesting some of the assumptions that seem to underly the Web 2.0 movement, including the worship of sites such as One of the latest to add his reasonably well-argued criticisms to the fray is tech blogger Russell Beattie, who dismisses most of the existing Web 2.0 companies as scrapers, mashers or lame copycats of Flickr.