The telecom payola gang strikes again

They’re at it again. As Om Malik reports, a story in the Wall Street Journal (which is now behind the pay wall), says the big U.S. telecom players are continuing their campaign for a multi-tiered Internet in which Google and Yahoo and Microsoft pay for their bits to get better treatment than someone else’s bits. Best quote: “During the hurricanes, Google didn’t pay to have the DSL restored,” said BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher. “We’re paying all that money.”

What are the big telecom companies smoking? They charge people $40 a month or so for high-speed Internet service, then put caps and download limits on them, or use “traffic shaping” to give some services priority over others — or even prevent some online applications from working at all — and then argue that Google and other companies should pay extra. Russ Shaw calls it a “shakedown.”

As John Battelle points out, this is all something that Internet users are already paying for, something Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron also mentions in the WSJ article. Former Wall Street brokerage analyst Henry Blodgett says he wonders what all the fuss is about, but to me it is clear: the telecos want protection money from the big Net companies. I think Jeff Jarvis is right to call them “robber barons,” and of course the inimitable Doc Searls has written a treatise on the subject as well. Fred calls it a simple matter of jealousy.

Update:

Larry Page of Google and the chairman of the FCC both comment on the disturbing trend towards a tiered Internet in this Register story. And I also came across an excellent (and long) discussion of the issue by Mitch Shapiro over at IP Democracy.

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