Phone, Cable May Charge Dot-Coms For Internet Speeds

This is like killing the golden goose! If these companies start to go on this path – then what stops from a low end entrepreneur to start a Wi-Fi across the city? In fact, the countries like Mauritius – which have nation-wide Wifi will be much better off!! I am sure this “tollbooth” writ wont run in other countries.. so these Senators better be sure as to what they are upto!!

Toll booths might start popping up on the information superhighway.

As Internet traffic starts to clog, the telephone and cable companies that control the nation’s telecommunications networks are considering charging dot-coms such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. extra to make sure their data gets special treatment — zooming along faster and more reliably than anyone else’s.

The idea has ignited a sort of online road rage in the technology and entertainment industries and in Congress. Although differential pricing is widespread — think first-class airline tickets or box seats at the theater — it defies the Internet’s egalitarian tradition.

“It is one of those debates that has a world war sense about it,” said analyst Blair Levin at investment banking firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. “Everyone is implicated and billions of dollars are at stake.”

Right now, data on the Internet are generally treated equally, like cars outside the carpool lane on a freeway. But like a freeway, the Internet can get congested, particularly as data-heavy applications such as movies and music gain popularity.

You see that congestion when streaming video stops streaming or when the download bar on your computer slows down. So phone companies, which have limited capacity on copper lines, are proposing special tolls on Internet companies to, in effect, set aside a special lane of fast-moving traffic. Cable companies also would benefit.

For instance, online film sites like CinemaNow Inc. might have to pay a premium to send movies uninterrupted, or Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store might tack an extra fee on a song download to guarantee instant delivery.

That worries heavy Internet users like Chad King.

“If they start charging Google and Yahoo to deliver movies and other things to me, that opens the door for all sorts of things,” said King, a 32-year-old Gilroy resident who pays $40 a month for high-speed Internet access from his cable company, Charter Communications Inc. “There would be surcharges for uploading photos and home movies to my website, for blogging and buying things on the Internet, for movies I download from the Internet.”

In Washington and Silicon Valley, the debate is over the long-held tenet of network neutrality — the notion that access to all the Internet’s offerings should be free from interference from the companies that own the vast fiber-optic and copper-wire networks linking the world’s computers.

Those companies — phone and cable companies, mostly — counter that they are entitled to offer expedited delivery services because the growth of online video, music and games is jamming their lines. Already, they charge companies for premium offerings such as private networks.


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