Sunday, January 29, 2006

Welcome to My Walled Garden

Two articles ago I wrote about the RBOC’s desire to charge Internet Application Providers for improved performance through their Internet access service. I waited a couple of weeks before writing this article to collect as much information on their intentions as possible. The problem with blogging is that you can spout off emotionally without justification. I prefer to be measured in my analysis of the issues. I am afraid that the emotions over what is an Internet Service will overtake reason and cause Congress to legislate a solution that will be manipulated by those that can pay the most. There is no diplomatic way to state it other than that. The Abramoff scandal has validated what our political system has become.

Many rational people and organizations are interpreting AT&T’s, BellSouth’s, and Verizon’s statements to charge a premium for premium services as their attempt to cripple services in competition or that do not pay their ransom. Jeff Pulver blogged that if Internet service providers were allowed to do this it would be the end of the net as we know it. Consumer’s Union has even entered the fray against the RBOC stating that it will amount to walled gardens. Of course the RBOC executives are not masters of oratory. They have not adequately clarified their statements.

Opponents are missing the point that all packets are not created equal! Video and voice packets are not the same as e-mail, web browsing, ftp, and other applications that travel over the Internet. I want my video without blocks and voice without it sounding like HAL in a bucket. Businesses have the option of paying for prioritizing certain traffic and so should ordinary residential users. In its fledgling days the applications that ran over the Internet were not time sensitive or even mission critical. Today people depend on the Internet for financial transactions, voice communications, and critical business correspondence just to name a few. Our dependence on this IP medium will continue to grow in the future. We need ways to say that some traffic is more important than others. That is what the RBOC are offering. It is called service assurance.

Now that consumers groups and the mainstream media have sided against the evil telecommunications providers, we are almost assured that a solution will be legislated. Internet application providers like Google and Vonage who have always wanted less regulation will see their efforts backfire. What irony.

Communications companies always seem to be the worst at being able to communicate. The three RBOC should clearly state their intentions for this higher tiered service. As long as it did not violate my Internet User’s Bill of Rights, then there is nothing wrong with them offering it as a service complete with service level agreements. Watch how quickly Google and others jump on the bandwagon to create a superior user experience. I would certainly like to see it on my VoIP service. Let’s have an industry symposium to resolve this issue before it enters the legislative process.

Tags: VoIP, Verizon, Google, Vonage,, BellSouth, Jeff Pulver