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Verizon Threatens Google's 'Free Lunch' 724

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch dept.
ILikeRed writes to tell us the Washington Post is reporting that Verizon is becoming much more vocal about internet firms using "their" lines to do business without paying extra. From the article: "The network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers," Thorne told a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. "It is enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers." This, as lawmakers are approaching new legislation that could let telcos charge internet companies much more for the use of high speed connections.
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Verizon Threatens Google's 'Free Lunch'

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  • Free Lunch? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mrs. Grundy (680212) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:38PM (#14664713) Homepage
    Free lunch? It seems like it's neither free as in beer nor speech. As all /.ers know, there is no other kind of free. I'm sure Google's network bandwidth fees are neither free nor small and I know I pay for internet access. So who's getting what for free? Maybe the telecoms are using that little-knownrhetorical device called hyperbole. Or perhaps they are trying to say that companies like Google have found a moreprofitable use for bandwidth than they have and they would like apiece of the pie. A free piece of the pie.
    • by grahamsz (150076) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:40PM (#14664752) Homepage Journal
      I know some organizations essentially dodge bandwidth charges by running their own connection to major peer points.

      The bbc [bbc.co.uk] certainly use that approach in the UK to keep their costs affordable.

      However in that case, then they are doing part of the ISPs job so it seems fair.
      • by MikeFM (12491) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:54PM (#14664899) Homepage Journal
        That doesn't mean it's free really. That means that both networks charge to connect to them and so when they connect to each other they cancel out the charges. If the tele companies are giving Google free peer status and they don't think it's a benefit to them then it's just stupid of them. Will they lose business if the network down the street has better access to Google than them? Very likely so if it's a noticable difference. Is it enough of a loss if that happens to justify not giving Google a break on the peering? Probably not. Bandwidth should be pretty cheap for the people that own the network - it costs almost as much to have the lines going unused as to have them in use. I'd imagine that most of the traffic between Google and others, through their network, is to somebody that is in some way their customer so they are making money by having Google there.

        As you said they are sort of being their own ISP and also they are providing a value to their peer network.
      • by racermd (314140) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @11:33PM (#14666472)
        This is exactly why the telcos are (to me) being seen as greedy f'n bastards. They're already getting payment from me (and their other customers) to utilize their bandwidth. Now they apparently want to double-dip and charge the party at the far end to send packets of data to the telco's paying customer. Essentially, in POTS terms, they want both the caller and the callee to pay for the same conversation.

        Google pays for the bandwidth they use from their provider. I, as a broadband connected citizen, pay for the bandwidth I use to connect to Google. Essentially, the telcos are already getting paid twice - once to accept the packet and again to deliver it to it's destination.

        There is *NO* reason why additional charges should be allowed. It's lunacy to think that this could be allowed to happen. Cost of access can do nothing but go up, which will further widen the gap between those that can afford to be online and those that cannot.

        If the telcos aren't happy with how much they're paid to have data travel across their network, then they should re-address their pricing structure with their customers directly.

        Knowing what a price increase would mean to the number of customers they'd retain, the safer alternative is clear - charge the companies that their users want data from.

        Free lunch?! Ha! They've kept their lunch safe and now they're asking for the $50/plate buffet. Greedy f'n bastards...
        • by mozumder (178398) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:05AM (#14667018)
          Google could come back and say "Hey verizon, since you're building an ISP business based on OUR investments, how about if YOU pay US money to provide better service to Verizon customers?"

          It could go both ways...
          • by NoSuchGuy (308510) <do-not-harvest-m ... dot@spa.mtrap.de> on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @04:17AM (#14667815) Journal
            Google could come back and say "Hey verizon, since you're building an ISP business based on OUR investments, how about if YOU pay US money to provide better service to Verizon customers?"


            This is the end of open information.

            The internet will revert back to days where Compuserve and AOL each had their own internet (aka intranet).

            • Nahhh (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Otto (17870) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:29PM (#14670093) Homepage Journal
              The internet will revert back to days where Compuserve and AOL each had their own internet (aka intranet).

              Nope, it'll never happen. It's like the cold war. Each side has too many nukes to lob at each other, and nobody will actually make the first strike.

              Look at it like this: Google and other online providers are building this huge host of services. If any telco/ISP actually tries to charge them for running services over their wire, then Google simply stops running services over their wire, blocking off that section of the network entirely. Suddenly telco/ISP's customers can't access their Gmail, can't do their google searches, etc, etc. Customers bitch furiously, and start leaving ISP in droves, to competing ISP that isn't trying to be such a bastard. ISP repents and Google provides service to that segment of the network again.

              No ISP is actually going to try to charge these major service providers because the end result is simply that these service providers simply cut them off. The ISP has little or no content that people actually want to use. They'd love to be in the content game, but they have proven, time and again, that they suck at it. Customers want the same content that their friends get. If my ISP does something that impacts my access to the content I want, then I'm damn well going to switch ISPs, yeah?

              Google is standing up to the freakin' government to not have to release their search stats, you think they aren't going to shoot the finger to any of these ISP who tells them to buck up for use of their line? The mere fact that Google *will* cut off an ISP is enough to keep that ISP from pulling the trigger on this sort of nonsense, at least until the ISP thinks that it really can replace all the content on teh interweb.
        • by Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:18AM (#14667096) Homepage
          I console myself, given the climate in this crazy world, with knowing that someone crazier than me will start capping Telco Higher-ups in the back of the head if net access becomes unreasonably expensive as a result of these bastard demands.

          You're getting paid already, fuckers. Don't get too greedy. There's a lot of really smart people out there that you REALLY don't want to piss off. Remember the Unibomber?

          Think of a guy like the Unibomber that DOESN'T hate technology. I guarantee there'se someone out there like that who will be looking for Executives of companies that try to fuck the net for their own personal gain.

          Just something that worries me based on my studies of those types when I was in college.

          Smart people with a beef scare the shit out of me.
        • by Nikker (749551) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:25AM (#14667613)
          Actually I think this is an intresting case. If this holds true then can telcos attain compensation for business calls as well. If I call my friend to say hi should I be charged a diffrent rate then if I make a profitable business arangement? Should top execs be charged a premium just to use a network? And if any of this holds true by what means could they be allowed to attain assurance of the severity or amount of the charge?

          Could this be a new cash cow? Imagine making even 1% on a company like IBM, HP or GE for each multi-million dollar deal made through means of telecomunication(pots, IP, cell,...).

          This could either create new accepted business methods or bring each company into the telecom game by buying a part of, or the whole "wire".
        • by CaptainZapp (182233) * on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @04:43AM (#14667916) Homepage
          Well, you see: Mr. Bronfman (also known as the 25Watt bulb of the entertainment industry) believes that he should get a cut on every IPod sold. So I can understand where Verizons inspiration is coming from.
      • by Shelled (81123) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:03AM (#14667556)
        Looks like a new and novel application of the word 'dodge'. Let's take it for a spin:

        I dodged taxi fare by buying a car.

        I dodged restaraunt bills by cooking my meals.

        I dodged cleaning bills by doing laundry

        No, sorry, not working for me.

    • Re:Free Lunch? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MikeFM (12491) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:46PM (#14664813) Homepage Journal
      I hate to imagine what their bandwidth expenses are. I can chug through $100 of bandwidth a day sometimes (at $.50/GB) and i just run a few small websites. I'd be shocked if Google isn't moving hundreds of TB's of bandwidth a day at least. Their bandwidth and electrical fees must be unbelivable.

      And I certainly am paying for Internet access. For home, office, and mobile access I spend a couple hundred dollars a month. All so I can use ssh and a web browser and expect to get shitty service. When they offer me gigabit DSL to my home and office (not to mention servers) then we'll talk about raising the prices.

      With the shitty connections we get here in the US they should be glad we're willing to pay at all. Some third world countries have better net access. Pitiful.
      • Re:Free Lunch? (Score:3, Insightful)

        No third world country has better net access. Now who's using hyperbole? :-P

        Seriously though, the US has horrible internet access, even in college.
      • Re:Free Lunch? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kmeister62 (699493)
        Google runs an OC-48 and an OC-12 pipe at each of its sites. Rumor has it there are four of them. Two in Virginia and two out west. I don't know what the price of an OC-12 let alone an OC-48 is but I can guarantee you that it sure as heck isn't free.
        • Re:Free Lunch? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bob9113 (14996)
          I don't know what the price of an OC-12 let alone an OC-48 is but I can guarantee you that it sure as heck isn't free.

          T-1's are a couple hundred dollars a month - OC-48s are about 1350 T-1s. Assume a big break for buying the big pipe, and that comes out to... several buttloads of cash per month.
          • Re:Free Lunch? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by bhiestand (157373) * on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @07:08AM (#14668323) Journal
            T-1's are a couple hundred dollars a month - OC-48s are about 1350 T-1s. Assume a big break for buying the big pipe, and that comes out to... several buttloads of cash per month.

            It's rather different. To begin with, T-1s are essentially leased lines from a telco. They're pretty shitty and cost a lot more than they should.

            OC-x connections are a bit different. When you get up to the level of OC-48 you're probably paying for your own fibre to be run. In google's case they're probably not paying so much for bandwidth since they have so many peering agreements. Why should they pay for bandwidth when they can just hook up a bunch of fibre to AOL's network? I hope you see where I'm going with this...

            I'm not in the proper state of mind to really explain it, and I'm no expert on providers of OC-3+ connections. That's way above my damned level. But it's a whole different playing field from the shitty T-1s being offered by ISPs. A few meters of fibre and a router will dwarf the cost of something like T-1, but the price/bit ratio is much better.

            All of that, and the fact that google probably pays a lot less for bandwidth than you'd think, aside, I think this's just more FUD from Verizon. I wish Google had some GHenchmen to go take care of those bastards...
    • Mushrooms (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:49PM (#14664847)
      Let's have some metaphorical fun. Suppose you're a mushroom farmer. You sell your mushrooms wholesale for $1 a bushel and life is good; you're not rich but you get by. One day you notice that Mario Batali is using your mushrooms in his restaurant and on his show and making a bundle. He's selling dishes which prominently feature--no rely on--your mushrooms for far more than you thought they were worth. Do you think you have a case to extract a fee from Chef Batali? Is he getting a free lunch from your hard work or does the mushroom farmer just have business-model-envy? I encourage equally metaphorical and perhaps dubious responses.
      • Re:Mushrooms (Score:5, Insightful)

        by inertialmatrix (675777) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:22PM (#14665165)
        I'll play..

        Suppose you are an electric utility, and you have many millions of paying customers. Life is good; you're a super rich mega corporation, but you would like to make more profits (after all you owe it the shareholders) and have your sites on once again taking the throne back and becoming an honest to goodness monopoly. One day you notice that Sony is selling products that require your electricity to work, and that Sony is making a bundle. Their products absolutely rely on your electricity, and you realize that your electricity is worth more than you thought! After all Sony is getting a free lunch; forget the fact that Sonys customers are already paying for the electricity. You decide that in order for Sonys products (and by extension their customers) will have to pay another fee for the access to electricity that up until now they thought was already paid for. After all, the infrastructure needed to grow the electricity business is not cheap, and you are not interested in giving out a free lunch to anyone.
        • Re:Mushrooms (Score:5, Interesting)

          by coolgeek (140561) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:52PM (#14665440) Homepage
          I'll play along too. =) Let's say a major corporation owns major streets in a variety of shopping districts in a variety of cities. Then they send out advertising to various shops, telling them of the opportunity to pay a fee and in return the corporation will go dig up the sidewalk in front of competing shops. Hell, they'll dig up the entire sidewalk except in front of yours and even provide teleportation services to customers of your shop. Of course, your competition can avoid all this if they pay the same fees.

          This bears striking similarities to a small enterprise I observed when I lived in an Italian neighborhood in New York during the late 70's/early 80's. There was a social club on the block, and the wise guys maintained an armed presence in the neighborhood 24x7. This made our neighborhood very very safe, which helped local businesses. No burglaries in over 20 years we used to brag. One time there was an attempted burglary. When the cops finally showed up 90 minutes later, the wise guys from the social club handed him over, bloody from head to toe. Poor skel apparently fell down the stairs while trying to escape. Anyway, this enterprise was financed by the shopkeepers in the neighborhood. To avoid having their windows broken every 3 weeks, they would pay a small stipend to the social club.

          It's funny, what the social club was doing could have gotten them prosecuted under RICO statutes. Actually, I'm pretty sure even conspiring to do what they were doing is probably illegal under those laws, but IANAL.
          • Re:Mushrooms (Score:4, Interesting)

            by saleenS281 (859657) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @11:48PM (#14666584) Homepage
            I'll play along as well. Imagine all those sidewalks were in fact paid for by the government, and installed by the government, and the people of the city were actually paying for those sidewalks to be in place. On top of the fact that the customers were paying the government fee's for those sidewalks, they were also in fact paying the company directly for the sidewalks... really you could say they were paying for them twice.

            To top it all off, the shops are already paying a third party for that last inch of sidewalk between their shop and the main one's... getting confused yet? Now the first company decides they should get paid not only by the government, and the people, and quite possibly the company that the shops pay for sidewalk access, but also the sidewalks themselves. I mean, after all, it costs a lot of money for the government... er... to put up those sidewalks and maintain. It's only right they get paid 4 ways for the same thing right?

            If you're at all confused by this post, perhaps you now realize why we should only have informed people deciding the future of the internet, and those "informed people" best not be part of the ones who stand to profit.
      • Re:Mushrooms (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:11PM (#14665574) Homepage
        In this case what Verizon has to realize is that all their networks become useless if there is no content on them. It's a symbiotic relationship. Google needs the networks, and the networks need Google. I don't see why one would want to impose any kind of restrictions on the other.
    • Re:Free Lunch? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ann Coulter (614889)
      Perhaps it would be nice if Google started their own communications network to directly compete with the likes of Verizon. That is not a stretch since Google is expanding to all sorts of endevours. If "Google utopianism" actually works, and Verizon gets pounded by a 10^100 pound garilla, I wonder what other companies would do in response.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:12PM (#14665085)
      This isn't about a "free lunch" or "free ride" or anything like that.

      This is about Verizon realizing that providing the pipeline is a good, solid revenue stream ... but the REAL money is in controlling the bottleneck.

      So, they attempt to frame the debate as "free lunch", but the reality is that they're looking for a way to get some of Google's revenues by building a bottleneck.
      • by dpilot (134227)
        Isn't just about the whole modern American business model about building bottlenecks? Not the first, but today's shining example is that Microsoft has positioned itself as the bottleneck in buying a PC. (the PC "tax"?) (single highest profit part, only part unfettered by competition) The whole patent system has been perverted to where it's no longer used by business (and run by the government) to foster innovation, and everything about creating bottlenecks and tollbooths. Look at the number of things we pay
    • by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:12PM (#14665090) Homepage Journal
      The speaker must have omitted the part about Google headquarters tapping into their next door neighbor's open wireless LAN, right? When will those people ever learn....
    • Re:Free Lunch? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ao_coder (898070)
      I'm sick of verizon freeloading off of all that free content that they can resell through their ISP services. If there weren't an internet to connect to, all those pipes they own (and lease out for profit) would be dark fiber. Google is paying for more than "cheap servers", they are leasing the bandwidth that they are accused here of freeloading, and WE are also paying for that bandwidth, so that we can access google. Verizon just wants to be able to tax google more for their success.

      Changing the nature
    • They are trying to slip legislation not to get money from Google but to stop Voip which is making them into dinosaurs.

      Same ploys as SCO.

      They are dying and will do anything.
  • by Kittyflipping (840166) * on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:38PM (#14664720) Homepage
    Customer: I'm having trouble with my DSL connection. I paid for broadband access, but google.com took an hour to load and vonage.com took 3 days...
    Verizon: I see that you don't have call waiting on your line. I'll go ahead and add that for you, ok? We're also running a promotion that adds no value to you but will extend your contract with us. Would you like to hear about it?
  • by SeanTobin (138474) <byrdhuntr@h[ ]ail.com ['otm' in gap]> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:38PM (#14664723)
    Just like DMCA-takedown notices that Google uses to highlight the fact that you are missing content (and additionally direct you to the content you are missing), simply put a banner on the search results for any Verizon customer that says something similar to:
    Your Internet Service Provider has intentionally degraded the speed at which this page loads. If you would like your search results at full speed, please contact Verizon at 800-483-4000.

  • by freelunch (258011) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:39PM (#14664730)
    Funny, I don't feel like a victim.
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:39PM (#14664736) Homepage
    ...and here I thought Google paid for their bandwidth like everybody else.

    Google isn't getting any more of a "free lunch" than anybody else; all that makes them special is that the service they provide with the bandwidth they use is insanely popular and valuable.

    Imagine for a moment that Verizon provides natural gas utilities instead of communications utilities. Google pays 'em for the gas they use to bake the big, juicy pies that everybody loves. Google makes a fortune from their pies. Is Verizon somehow due something extra because their gas was used to fire the oven?

    All that Verizon can see are the nice, fat pies Google has cooling on the windowsill. This isn't about free lunch; this is about grabbing a piece of Google's pie for themselves--by crook or hook.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......google pie.
    • by TallMatthew (919136) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:50PM (#14664857)
      ...and here I thought Google paid for their bandwidth like everybody else.

      More likely than not, Google and Verizon are peering with one another via a private line (which Verizon as a LEC would purchase for exactly $0). I seriously doubt either of them purchase transit via a third party. If anyone on Verizon could do a traceroute to google.com, that would shed some light.

      Verizon's probably worried that Google's on-demand video is going to usurp their own offering to their customers and that all the hard-earned cash they're putting into HDSL and video delivery systems is going to go to waste. If I can watch such-and-such on Google for $5, then why would I buy it from Verizon for $10? Google will likely follow Microsoft's lead here and price gouge, being they already have a superior delivery infrastructure that can service customers on all networks while Verizon's market is just their own.

    • by DaveJay (133437) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:24PM (#14665193)
      You, sir (or ma'am), have captured the issue perfectly: the telcos charge a fixed rate for access to lines, and they want the freedom to jack up the rates on a case-by-case basis for those services that are enjoying enough success to be able to afford it.

      They could jack up the rates for everyone, but then nobody would use their system, because most people couldn't afford it. They could leave the rates as-is, but then they have to watch the line be leveraged by successful businesses to make tons of money.

      To suggest that Google, for instance, gets a "free lunch" with "cheap servers" is ignorant, and completely ignores the expense of employees, infrastructure, code, and other costs of doing business. You might just as well say that the telcos get a "free lunch" with "cheap copper wire", ignoring every other aspect of their business. It suggests that this telco representative at least is confusing companies like Google with a retro image of backyard programmers in a suburban garage -- probably intentionally.

      This is not unlike the pricing model that record companies adopt; when an artist is hugely successful, they jack up the price of their CDs. The difference here is that the telcos are providing a service similar to the CD pressing companies, not the record labels -- and can you imagine how long a CD pressing company would stay in business if they tried to charge BMG Music twice as much for pressing Britney Spears CDs as they did other artists? (disclaimer: I have no idea if Britney Spears is distributed by BMG Music)

      It's all about greed, pure and simple. Either the telcos will get away with it, or they won't, but don't look for "reasonable" or "appropriate" here -- it's a grab for cash, always has been, always will be.
  • by 8282now (583198) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:39PM (#14664737) Journal
    - Do the Verizon customers who access Google's content pay for their network connections?
      - Does Google pay their network provider(s) for the access they're using?
      - Does Verzion derive an economic benefit by having access to Google's services for it's paying customers?

      Therefore:
      - Does Verizon believe that they're not charging their customers enough for the services the customer uses?

      It has not escaped my attention that I'm reading Slashdot on a free day pass paid sponsored by Verizon... :)
    ~
    • To Whom It May Concern:

      I am a Verizon residential DSL customer. I am writing to register my anger towards the comments John Thorne, a Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel, made on February 6, 2006 concerning Google's alleged freeloading for gaining access to people's homes using, in part, Verizon's network.

      I am your customer. I pay my Internet bill with an expectation that you will allow me to transmit and receive IP packets to and from arbitrary Internet hosts without undue concern fo
    • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:48PM (#14665404)
      Dear Verizon Communications,

      It has come to my notice that you as a company are dissatisfied, and are complaining that content providers are unfairly stepping on the toes of bandwidth providers without sharing the profits. It has also come to my attention that you as a company are seeking ways of extircating fees from these content providers in order for them to use your network.

      I would like to remind you that the bandwidth that these content providers use is being paid for. No, it's not being paid for by the likes of Google, Microsoft, or any other content provider, for that matter, but by your subscribers. That's right, subscribers. You know, those people who send you a check for $39.95 every month in exchange for their 256K downstream, 128K upstream that they use in order to get from their computer to the content provider's services. These hard working, paying customers are sending you their hard-earned money to ensure that that you give them access to the sites and the content that they want.

      If you decide to cut back access for subscribers to reach the content on the public Internet that they want you will find yourself losing subscribers. Should you try to enforce disconnect fees on these subscribers, or try to enforce any other end-of-contract requirements, you will undoubtedly find yourself in court from a number of subscribers who would challenge such fees due to your failure to provide services. It could even reach the level of class-action status, which would make your position even worse.

      Do consider what you're thinking about doing. Your services are already being paid for. If you don't like the profitability of the enterprise then you should get out of it, not look for ways to extort money out of others.

      Sincerely,
      TWX
    • Well, you're missing part of the point.

      Verizon is interested in becoming a "cable company"--like Time-Warner, Cox, Comcast, Cablevision, etc. To do this, they have to "build out" their connections to your house in order to provide more bandwidth. While they'll certainly sell that extra bandwidth to consumers, they also want to get into the business of selling content like HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central, etc.

      So, ideally, what they'd do is sell you a 5Mbps Internet connection and--to pull a number out of my
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:39PM (#14664741)
    Ok, can someone explain to me what the problem is? Here's how I see it. You (whoever you are, oh smart /. reader) tell me where I got it wrong.

    Google has a bunch of servers in a datacenter. That datacenter is hooked up to the Internet somehow, through some ISP, probably a big one (though clearly not Verizon or they wouldn't beaking off about it so much), because if it wasn't hooked up to _someone_ it'd just be a bunch of servers in isolation and Google would be worth nothing. So, Big ISP has run fiber to Google's datacenter(s), and charges Google a fee each month to carry their data. I mean, Google doesn't get free Internet access, do they? Big ISP collects their money, based either on a 95th percentile deal or a byte count deal, depending on the contract. Big ISP doesn't live in isolation either, or they'd be called AOL. So Big ISP probably has a peering agreement with other ISPs, like, say, Verizon. So Google's traffic goes out Big ISP and over to Verizon when a Verizon customer wants it, and some company hooked up to Verizon's backbone has their data go over to Big ISP when a customer at Big ISP wants it. I've just described peering in its most simple terms, haven't I? So, don't peering agreements work such that if more data goes from Big ISP to Verizon in a month, Big ISP gives Verizon money, and if more data goes the other way, Verizon gives Big ISP money. So if Google is such a massive bandwidth hog, they are not in fact getting a free lunch, because Big ISP has to give Verizon money to meet its commitments for the peering agreement, and Big ISP turns around and collects that money from Google in their monthly fee, and if Google is costing Big ISP more every month, then they (simple economics here) charge them more money. So, my question is, what the HELL is the problem? Isn't Verizon already getting paid for Google traffic?
    • No no no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grahamsz (150076) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:50PM (#14664850) Homepage Journal
      Since this arrangment works both on the Google end and the Customer end, Verizon ends up getting paid twice for the google traffic.

      However Verizon would like to be paid three times for the Google traffic. You can bet if they win that, then they'll start charging customers extra for "faster" access to google. Their accountants would be thrilled if they could charge 4 times for the same product.
      • Re:No no no (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:04PM (#14665009) Journal
        "Their accountants would be thrilled if they could charge 4 times for the same product."

        I'm an accountant, you insensitive clod!

        No way in hell the accountants will be happy when they have to track additional revenue streams with a less than adequate increase in resources (as happens with big companies constantly). It's the shareholders, and the executives with lucrative bonuses written into their contracts, who would be happy to see this. It's not gonna make one iota of a difference to their accountants.

        Please don't associate accountants with corporate greed... we measure the wealth, we don't take it home with us.
  • This is ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kasracer (865931) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:40PM (#14664748) Homepage
    The companies like Verizon are already paid for their pipes. This would be like me charging someone for hosting their server and then getting upset that they're making money off my bandwidth and wanting to charge them more.

    I hope this doesn't become law, otherwise this is going to hurt the entire internet in more ways than one.
  • by sych (526355) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:40PM (#14664750)
    *I* as a subscriber am paying a fee to use the *network* to access anything that *I* want to! If that happens to be Google, then that's *my* choice!
  • 3d candle burning (Score:3, Insightful)

    by caffeination (947825) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:44PM (#14664799)
    To endulge in the time-honored Slashdot tradition of the stretched analogy, isn't this kind of like inventing a whole new end of the candle to burn? The consumers pay for their bandwidth, the content providers pay for theirs. Where is the freeloading?
    Normally these ideas make me fume with rage at their sheer evilness. This is odd. I can't actually fathom the logic of this one.
    Can somebody help me out so that I can move on to righteous hatred of Verizon?
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:45PM (#14664805) Homepage Journal
    It's not like Google, Yahoo, et al are sending this data unsolicited.
    The are replying to requests made by paying customers of Verizon.
    And they're saying they need this to complete their FTTH buildout
    in a profitable way?

    Hey Verizon! Didn't you do an analysis to see if FTTH would be
    profitable before you began such an ambitious program?
    If you can't do it profitably, then don't do it. Don't be
    disingenuous by saying that now you need Internet Portals to pony
    up for some share of the buildout.

    And hey, Vince Cerf! You of all people shouldn't be doing the
    "imminent death of the Net predicted (film at 11)" bit. If Verizon
    or others start providing "tiered access" to the Internet Portals,
    paying customers will complain. Let market forces decide the
    outcome.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:46PM (#14664816) Homepage Journal
    Gentlemen! Set your routing tables to stun.

    Verizon doesn't want to carry traffic? FINE, we can arrange that.
  • by melted (227442) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:48PM (#14664834) Homepage
    I'd be all for it, if Verizon wasn't charging me $45 per month for my DSL connection. You can't eat with two spoons, folks. Either you take money from me, or you take it from content providers. When you start doing both I'm terminating my subscription so you ain't getting a dime from me ever again.
    • Either you take money from me, or you take it from content providers. When you start doing both I'm terminating my subscription so you ain't getting a dime from me ever again.

      I've got some bad news for you...

      Content providers, including Google, pay for access to the internet through ISPs, who pay money to the telcos in order to hook up to the internet.

      They are already getting paid for the same data twice. Now they want more?

      What the telcos don't understand is that the consumers (you and me) don't care whose
  • by geekee (591277) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:48PM (#14664838)
    "ILikeRed writes to tell us the Washington Post is reporting that Verizon is becoming much more vocal about internet firms using "their" lines to do business without paying extra."

    So a telcom spends enormous sums of cash laying fiber, and you have the gall to imply they don't even own the backbone. What a bunch of socialists.
    • The scare quotes aren't there to question Verizon's ownership of its lines. The scare quotes are there to mock the laughable "rights" Verizon apparently believes that ownership conveys. Google pays out the wazoo for bandwidth, and Verizon believes that just because Google is able to use that resource in a way that makes money, their ownership entitles them to a cut of those profits.

      I saw nothing socialistic in the story. But when faced with such a plain display of corporate greed, it's not surprising tha
      • I saw nothing socialistic in the story. But when faced with such a plain display of corporate greed, it's not surprising that a capitalist ideologue might get a bit touchy.

        As a capitalist ideologue, I look forward to the free market administering well-deserved thrashings to any telcos foolish enough to attempt this extortion.
  • Next: socialization (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:51PM (#14664864)
    Telcos have always been prime candidates for socialization. They're really pressing their luck pursuing this ridiculous idea.
  • by carribeiro (952204) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:51PM (#14664865)
    Disclaimer: I used to work for a telco. A small one but a telco nevertheless.

    Working for a telco is a unique experience. I learned a lot, and believe me, most of it was good. I've learned a lot, both technically and from a management POV. I had some opportunities that a small company could not afford. Even with all problems, it was a good time.

    The basic problem with telcos is that they still think in terms of their cash cow service, that is voice. They still think in terms of how much the user will pay per transaction, or minute. They have a huge structure, a huge legacy that can't simply be buried or thrown out the window. They have fear of cannibalizing their own products. But worse, they don't get it, and that's not because they're not intelligent, or bad at what they do. They don't get it because most of the time, people are busy running what pays their wages, and that's the legacy services. There's little incentive inside the company to do something else, specially when it means that it could make a lot of people lose their jobs. There's little incentive for people that talks about cannibalizing revenue.

    In the end, telcos are like big animals who are threatened by the changing environment. They may have a lot of power, but in the end, guess what? Evolution is inescapable. Verizon (and other big telcos) may even win this battle, and a few other ones. But in the long term, they can't win the war. Bandwidth is doomed to become cheaper and cheaper. People just want to communicate with each other, and Verizon can't control what people do. It's market at work.
  • by Bill Dimm (463823) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:52PM (#14664876) Homepage
    There is more info about the legislation proposed to stop this sort of thing in the article Congress mulls Internet-freedom bill [marketwatch.com]
  • by sommere (105088) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:53PM (#14664886) Homepage
    Google should just stop serving Verizon.

    Simple solution, Verizon thinks google is getting a service from THEM?

    Google shuts them off and 24 hours later every verizon customer will think their internet connection is broken.
    • by aachrisg (899192) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:09PM (#14665059)
      Google should do exactly that. Issue a public "so sorry for using your wires" to verizon and start blocking all verizon addresses. Chances are within 24 hours, verizon would be offering to PAY GOOGLE to start using their wires again. Verizon is the one leaching off of the internet content providers..they get $40 (or whatever) a month to sell google et al to their customers without having to pay anything to the content providers.
  • by defile (1059) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:53PM (#14664890) Homepage Journal

    are through collusion or law.

    Because the first company that tries to implement internet tolls alone is going to be at a huge competitive disadvantage. So they'd all have to do it at once. But this kind of collusion is illegal.

    But law isn't. :(

  • Freeloading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Varitek (210013) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:00PM (#14664970)
    Verizon are freeloading on Google's (and Yahoo's, etc) content to sell Internet connections to their subscribers.

    Now wasn't that easy?
  • by Wolfstar (131012) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:03PM (#14664988)
    All the content providers have to do is charge a "Bandwidth Recovery Fee" to any provider who charges them a "Bandwidth Usage Fee".

    For example, BellSouth and Verizon (the two biggies on this one so far) start charging Google for the "right" to provide content to their customers. In return, Google begins charging BellSouth and Verizon for the "right" for their users to access Google's service over Google's upstream bandwidth.

    The end result is that Google breaks even (because they can charge a small amount per customer for a massive total income) or pulls ahead on the deal, and Verizon either stays at the same spot they're in now, or they start losing money - either through losing access to one of the premier search engines on the internet, causing customers to start leaving in droves, or because they pass the "Bandwidth Recovery Fee" onto their consumers, causing everyone's bills to inflate noticeably, also causing customers to leave in droves for cheaper access to the same content.

    And while the above article mentions cable and telephone network providers, I've yet to hear Comcast, Cox, Charter, or Time-Warner start making noises in this direction. Mayhap the telcos need to look into cheaper ways to bring all the dark fiber out there online?
  • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:03PM (#14664998)
    This is the problem of monopolies. Do you notice how Verizon suddenly forgot about all their damn customers that pay them $ 30 - 50 per month for internet access. I mean, they are the ones using their precious pipes. And they PAY for it. Furthermore, Google also pays to send data through the pipes. So you have pipes at each end of which there is a paying customer, Verizon is making billions off of them and at the same time they are bitching that their customers are cheating them.

    But of course Verizon can pretend their customers do not exist because they are part of an oligopoly and their only "competitors" are the cable companies which are doing exactly the same thing.

    Now imagine if this think happened in an actual competitive, free market industry. Imagine for example if GM starts complaining that all those people keep using "their trucks" for profit and try to extract payment from everyone that purchases a Chevy truck and uses it haul things for money. It would be ridiculous. It would laughable. And of course GM do not do that. In fact they would actually try very hard to get you to buy their truck and use it for profit without reimbursing them.

    But of course GM are part of a competitive industry, while Verison are monopolists.

    It is obvious now that a company that obtains a secure monopoly will use it to screw over their customers and everyone else. The big orgy of telecom mergers of the 90's should have never been allowed. But now that it has been allowed, the government or the courts should step in or bar monopolistic behaviour.

    PS I hope Verizon do not succeed in making internet access more expensive (either in temrs of fees or adds) because then I will have to stop using their cell phone and they do have a pretty decent network.
  • by klui (457783) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:07PM (#14665035)
    The only way we are going to attract the truly huge amounts of capital needed to build out these networks is to strike down governmental entry barriers and allow providers to realize profits
    What about the accusations that the U.S. telephone companies have conned the government and its tax payers out of US$200bn, and 50Mbps symmetric connections should already be available? http://blogs.siliconvalley.com/gmsv/2006/02/the_un ited_stat.html [siliconvalley.com]

    I find it interesting that SBC just lowered their 3Mbps/512Kbps price to $17.99 or some price like that. But that is pathetic compared to what others in the world can get today.

  • I could get crippled internet service from Verizon for some odd $30 a month.

    Instead, I pay about $60 a month for much better TOS (static IP, servers within reason, etc.), though Verizon still provides the pipe.

    See, my DSL connection to Verizon's CO get's shunted onto the ATM fabric and shows up as a PVC to my ISP. They in-turn pay Verizon big $$$ for the fat pipes to whereever.

    Now, Verizon charges for both the ATM PVC I use and the fat pipe my ISP uses. They get paid coming and going.

    Verizon is free to charge my ISP (Blarg! in case anyone cares) whatever they want for the fat pipes and the DSL PVCs that get resold to me, at least whatever the market will bear. In fact, they price things so that, compared to their ISP service, they get more money from the likes of me. Used to be, I had to pay Verizon directly for the PVC -- "Advanced Data Services" they called it, but they found out that it was easier to sell those in bulk and let the ISP nickel and dime them out (which put more $$$ in my ISP's hands as well as reducing my overall bill).

    So, what's the problem here? Verizon can price their pipes at whatever level the market will bear.

    I suspect the real issue is that Verizon does not realize that it is competing against itself: their ISP division has to compete with all the other ISPs for bandwidth on it's own network. So what? They get paid either way. But, from the Verizon ISP perspective, they cry foul that so much more money is made by selling bandwidth to and through third-party ISPs and not them -- one division loses while the other division gains.

    Note to Verizon: if it is more profitable to lease bandwidth to ISPs than it is to be one, get out of the ISP business!

  • They can buy shares like anyone else.

    -jcr
  • by Halvard (102061) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:45PM (#14665385)

    Perhaps Verizon should look at their business practices first. First the basically laughed at the TCA of 1996 but not opening fully their network as they other ilecs squeezed the 1st generation DSL providers out of business, their $15 per month DSL service that they lose money on and no competitor can match because that's around what they pay for dry copper, and their FIOS service for which they are losing a fortune on to try and force their competition to price match and drive themselves out of business (cable and DSL).

    So the appearance is that they are intentionally driving their revenue down in a blatant anti-competive move. Then they blame an entity that's got nothing to do with it, Google, for their poor performance. That's the old game called misdirection. In some circles it's call lying.

  • Congressman alerted (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ByteofK (952750) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:50PM (#14665423) Journal
    I have already quizzed my local congressman as to why I can't (a) separate landline phone service from DSL [guess who my provider is] and (b) get the local area code on a service such as Vonage. While I await the reply I sent him this. It serves as my comment on here too.

    Further to my recent letter about the Verizon/Vonage VoIP vacuum that is Muskegon, I am now presented with this:

    Verizon wants to start charging Google and other major web sites for using their bandwidth!
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/07/22 27257 [slashdot.org]

    FACT 1
    ------
    A) Google's local service provider already gets a fat load of money from Google for their bandwidth.
    B) I already pay $80 per month (see previous letter as to why it's 80 and not 30) for my internet service.

    FACT 2
    ------
    If this becomes law, what is to stop cable companies from turning around and charging HBO, Fox and ABC for the TV "bandwidth", rather than paying them for the content they provide! This in turn would put a massive hole in TV networks' accounting which would be made up with? More advertising, and less quality programming.

    As the lines between internet, phone and TV
    become more and more blurry, [snip/] this could set a precedent that would completely turn the TV industry upside down!

    This is a ridiculous situation and needs some federal legislation to ensure it will never happen. If only to protect local [snip] service providers [/snip] and to protect the consumers.

    What is Verizon doing with all their assets if they are ripping me off for $50 extra a month and also wanting to flip the directional switch on the entire information/entertainment industry?
  • by tokengeekgrrl (105602) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:56PM (#14665472)
    Voice Over IP is cutting into Verizon's and SBC's revenue from phone products. SBC already has to deal with cell phones taking away the standard landline but long distance and business voice accounts have always been their real cash cow. Losing that is what I think is really eating them, especially when you add video conferencing on top of it.

    If more businesses start following the adoption of private VOIP networks like Department of Defense [ecommercetimes.com] is doing, the telcos know they're screwed but since they can't stop the DoD, they're flexing their monopolistic leverage to blackmail content providers instead.

    I'm just speculating, I could totally be on crack.

    - tokengeekgrrl
  • by Klanglor (704779) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:09PM (#14665555)
    wow! i for the first time i fell i wasted my time reading a thread (even if by vertu, it means wasting your time in a somewhat constructive way by reading slashdot) you know, usualy there is some sort of debate or something. so far its all the samething. Verizon Sucks, Google still has to pay. (totaly agree) now we just need someone to let Verizon know about it. lol.
  • by ozbird (127571) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:17PM (#14665602)
    Pure genius! Think of all of the money being made by stock brokers, stock exchanges etc. - surely Verizon will want a slice of that pie, too. Then there's all of the on-line shopping sites, eBay, gambling etc. etc.

    1. Extort money from customers for using your bandwidth.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    It would seem that step 2 is "Lose your customers."
  • by GaryPatterson (852699) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:22PM (#14665634)
    Verizon gets paid by both those hosting sites and those accessing sites.
    But they want to get more money for no actual effort on their part.
    Their justification is that Google is getting a 'free pass' on their pipes.

    The RIAA member companies get paid when customers buy iTunes music.
    But they want to get paid more for no actual effort on their part.
    Their justification is that Apple are selling iPods on the back of the RIAA content.

    Gary's New Laws of Business:
    * If your customers are happy and you're making a solid profit, look for ways to screw them to the wall so that they can leave you in droves.
    * If your products are selling well and you've got nothing in the pipeline, rework the pricing structure to screw your customers over so that they can leave you in droves.
    * Make everything look as though you're hard done by, and call your customers 'freeloaders', 'scum', 'thieves', 'pirates' and any other names you can think of.
    * Lobby your government to make everything you do nice and legal, where previously it was unethical, illegal, immoral, bad for business and just plain dumb.

    I await my honorary economics degree.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @10:06PM (#14665941) Homepage
    Have you ever calculated what we in the U.S. have actually paid for internet access in the last twenty years? I don't mean "per month". I mean, draw back, and think.

    Let's go for this year. Lemme see. Guess 20 million, figure from nowhere, with broadband. Just at home. Costs 45 a month on average. 45 X 12. 540 a year, for 20 million homes. 10,800,000,000 a year. Just one year. And it's probably a lot higher; please bear with me here. I'm just making a point.

    Ten billion, eleven billion. How much for the last twenty, in toto, business and residential, have we paid? Twenty? Thirty? Forty billion bucks? Keep the idea of the magnitude in mind as I add tens of billions in free money granted by federal and state and municipal governments, in tax breaks, in granted monopoly access to customers, in deregulation calulated to permit the telcos to bring fiber to the door.

    HOW MUCH HAVE THEY SUCKED US FOR? A hundred billion? How about the lost opportunity costs because we've crap bandwidth for maximum profit?

    And now we'll have two-three companies left after all the merging, in an easy-to-maintain price fixing circle.

    Let's call it a hundred billion they've charged, with much more to come. And we've got what for connections? For how much each? How much will it take to pound home the point that the way we've gone about it has failed our people, our economy?

    It would have been cheaper for the Federal government to have laid fiber to the home in an Apollo type project over the last 20 years. Private businesses are too fast, too well financed, for any sort of meaningful regulation. They pull simple stunts like placing their best lobbyist, Powell, at the head of the FCC under Bush, where he granted them their wettest wishes. He'll of course go back to work for them after he's done and become a squillionaire for his loyal efforts.

    Sigh.

    and then there's this: http://muniwireless.com/community/1023 [muniwireless.com] Oy.
  • by nysus (162232) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @10:49PM (#14666218)
    Power companies have also finally awoken to the fact that Google has been getting a free ride on the power they are supplying to customers. "We've invested billions of dollars in the world's most stable electrical grid system. Without us, Google's dead."
  • by danwesnor (896499) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @11:29PM (#14666438)
    Dear Verizon Customer,

    We are sorry to inform you that you will no longer be able to access Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, and other high-bandwidth commercial sites through your Verizon internet connection. Due to the loads that these services place on Verizon's network system, Verizon has instituted a new policy which states that high-bandwidth commercial web sites must compensate Verizon for their usage of our network. The companies listed above, and others, have elected not to do so. Therefore, we have no choice but to discontinue the availability of these and other web sites on your internet connection.

    We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

    Sincerely,
    Verizon Customer Service

    ------------------
    Dear Verizon,

    Pbbbbbtttthhhppp.

    Sincerely,
    A Valued Soon-To-Be Ex-Verizon Customer.
  • by ONU CS Geek (323473) * <ian@m@wilson.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:29AM (#14667163) Homepage
    Doesn't common carrier status still exist?

    The minute they start 'bitpooling' traffic to specific hosts, they should lose their common carrier status. End of story. It's already been said a hundred times in this particular discussion that it's like the telco's trying to charge for the same thing again...it's typical telco ideology.

    Even when I was a phone guy (a few years ago), I remembered that we billed by the minute to our clients, but were charged by the second. We handled 1-800 traffic on the same page...even taking the campus that makes outgoing 1-800 numbers and putting them on a different T-1 where we were given a 'payphone' tarrif for handling the traffic a different way (that paid for the T-1 and associated linecard).

    If they're saying that their current infastructure can't handle this and they need the money for 'capital improvement,' I find this very blurry. When we installed a digital phone (D-Term for you NEC phreaks), we billed that specific department *up front* the cost of: the D-Term phone ($100), 1/16th of a line card ($1200 for a line card), then charged them an additional n dollars a month because of the limited upgradability of a D-Term (you couldn't assign the LENS to a spot in a different cabinet if you wanted the ability to pick up that line or see that specific status, and since the cards take up analog line space, blah blah blah). If a small college can have the insight to do this in 2000, why couldn't a major telco do it in 2006?

    Maybe they're seeing this from a different way:

    What happens when all of our subscribers already are subscribing to a high-speed package and we're getting the maximum amount of market saturation that we can allow? We've already laid off enough of our workforce that we can't really afford that to take one too many hits, and we (middle management/execs) don't want to lose our jobs or take a pay cut, so, let's bill them for something again! Cha-Ching!

    Freakin Greedy Bastards, anyway.

  • by thejynxed (831517) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:25AM (#14667618) Homepage
    It's also SBC/AT&T pressing this issue. You don't hear the cable companies pressing this issue, because in most places (in the USA), they already provide the best internet connections available to the end consumer. They already have bandwidth, etc provisioned for VoIP, movies, games and the rest.

    It was interesting to note, that it was mentioned during the Senate committee meeting that Verizon has spent exactly $250,000,000 since the 1996 Telecom Act to upgrade its infrastructure (it was also noted, that Verizon and the other Bells promised at that time to have us all 45 mbit MINIMUM symetrical DSL lines into the home by 2005, and were given tax-free government-funded taxpayer dollars to do it with).

    Assuming Verizon has 1 million paying customers for DSL at an average price of $45 per month:

    $450,000,000

    Multiply that by 12 months (this is not taking into account any paychecks, taxes, fees, etc Verizon has to pay).

    Now, tell me again how they aren't making hand-over-foot profits while still not keeping their promises NOR paying back the tax-free loans the government gave them (using OUR taxpayer money)?

    Maybe they should try improving their infrastructure even more before they go traipsing about trying to provide VoIP and video on demand.

    As it was said during the hearing, "There is plenty of bandwidth out there, if you turn on your dark fiber instead of letting it gather dust." - a reference to the telcos laying alot of fiber line willy-nilly about the countryside, but only lighting up a small fraction of it.

    Senator Stevens wasn't very pleased to learn that we are 16th in the world for broadband. He was also not happy about the fact that other nations have 100 mbit access and in some cases gigabit symetrical access to the home, while we are piddling around with 45-100 mbit asymertrical tops for home users and small businesses (fiber lines, and 100 mbit is exorbitantly expensive, unless you are a small business who can pass the buck onto your paying customers). He made note of how a certain telco ISP had blocked their customers from signing up with 3rd party VoIP, by not allowing traffic to go to that company's site from their network. He was proud of the fact that under certain laws passed within the last few years, it is ILLEGAL for telcos to do that. He also implied that for telcos to drop competing VoIP services into a low QOS queue would also be to their detriment if Congress catches wind of it, due to 911 emergency issues, etc.

    I will reserve judgement until I see what kind of law Congress passes in this situation, but from what I witnessed today, the telcos are not making a very strong argument in their favor, and Google and the rest of the bunch are.
  • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @04:30AM (#14667866)
    I'll tell you folks roughly the same thing I told the CPUC at the public hearings about the SBC-AT&T merger:

    Telecom and Internet is a part of our national infrastructure, just as surely as are our roads, the air we breathe, and the radio frequency spectrum. Do we let the construction companies that build and maintain the roads OWN the sections to which they've contributed their efforts? Do we let the corporations who lease segments of RF spectrum own them outright? Do we allow the contractors who build our NASA spacecraft and military equipment continue to own what they've built?

    No, we don't; those roads, those radiowaves, those spacecraft and tanks and jets, being part of the common infrastructure and used for the common good, belong to all of us.

    So why is it that we've allowed telecom companies, beginning with AT&T, to own the sections of common infrastructure which they've constructed? Shouldn't that infrastructure also be recognized as a commonly shared resource, one owned by all of us?

    It's my contention that a grievous mistake was made more than thirty years ago, when AT&T was deemed a monopoly and partitioned. It was indeed a "monopoly", because the infrastructure which they helped create was a monolithic and commonly shared resource, exactly in the same fashion as is our system of roads.

    The mistake that was made was allowing that resource to be privately owned in the first place. In partitioning AT&T, that shared resource was still privately owned but now by multiple corporations rather than one. What should have happened all those years ago is that AT&T should have been required to become some form of non-profit and truly public entity, perhaps a government agency or contractor - in the same vein as defense contractors - or a non-profit corporation with public oversight. It should not have been sectioned-up, along with our shared electronic resource.

    I suspect the logic behind that mistake extends back even further in our history, to the time of the railroads. Rather than recognizing that the railroads would become part of the common infrastructure and funding their construction with that understanding and with public funds, we left it to greedy ambitious entrepreneurs to do it, and retain control of what they had built. We repeated that mistake again with the telegraph system, and yet again with the first telephones. As a nation, we should never have allowed this to happen.

    Fast forward back to here and now, and this looming threat of these corporations - which still own the pieces of this national infrastructure - setting up the equivalent of toll booths at all the major intersections and deciding who has to pay and how much. The immediate problem isn't the root problem, it's a mere symptom of the much older problem.

    We had the chance - multiple chances - decades ago to make the correct decision about the long-term ownership of our shared national telecom roadways. We made grievous errors then, in our capitalistic zeal; I see little likelihood those errors in judgement will be corrected now. They will be further compounded, unless we the true owners of that infrastructure finally revolt and take back the deed.

    Mark

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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