Do you know what “tiered access” is? Chances are good that you do not because there has never been a real widespread adoption of tiered access in major areas where it affects the lives of a lot of people. Tiered access essentially means that those who pay more will receive higher quality of service while those who pay less will receive a much lower quality of service.
There’s an interesting article in The New Yorker about how many ISPs are considering a tiered access strategy for companies that use their bandwidth:
Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a de-facto commoncarriage rule, usually called “network neutrality,” which meant that all Web sites got equal treatment. Network neutrality was considered so fundamental to the success of the Net that Michael Powell, when he was chairman of the F.C.C., described it as one of the basic rules of “Internet freedom.” In the past few months, though, companies like A.T. & T. and BellSouth have been trying to scuttle it. In the future, Web sites that pay extra to providers could receive what BellSouth recently called “special treatment,” and those that don’t could end up in the slow lane.
Once again ISPs are trying to make money from both sides — they collect money from the consumer to connect to the internet from their home and now they are trying to charge websites to provide better service. Where’s Googlenet when you need it?
Hat tip to Bob Lefsetz for pointing me towards this story.
This is not much different from the Tiered Access that already exists at the consumer level. If I want faster downloads, I pay more. The traffic moves just as fast to my street one way or another. I just pay a premium to get it into my house faster. The providers under Tiered Access from the other end, would now have the option of paying extra to get their content out into the traffic faster.
How is tiered access a problem? The answer is that it isn't. It makes good sense from a business point of view and it will only help consumers reach sites more efficiently and quickly on a regular basis. The worst thing that could be done on this issue would be to get the government involved to kill internet innovation with the "death of a thousand cuts" as Rick Witt of Net's Edge Consulting recently said in this article:http://telephonyonline.com/home/news/von_lessig_internet_031406/
Aren't we really talking about a problem that doesn't yet exist? Moreover, can someone explain to me why the telcos would consider abandoning its consumers? We pay the rent, folks. The market would quickly take care of a company which did not provide a quality service at a fair price. Until there is a problem to be solved, let's not regulate an industry that has thrived in its absence!
I really doubt that the telcos doing this is going to effect how fast I get my online news or access my email - because they know I'd just take my money somewhere else if I found their service lacking in any way. I'd guess that it involves crucial services (like transmitting medical records) that would benefit from new technologies and that can't afford to get lost in cyberspace. Keep the government's hands out of this and it will work itself out to everyone's benefit.
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