Friday, January 15, 2010

AT&T and Verizon Don't Think Net Neutrality Should Apply to Them

Coming right on the heels of Verizon and AT&T's winks at each other to collude on tiered pricing to limit and manage customers data use, they now want the FCC to allow them to violate the principles of net neutrality:

See how this works? First, you charge extra for extra data use, something that traditional internet providers don't do (or didn't until they were sucked up by giant telecoms). Then, you start offering free or lower priced content through your own channels.

With any luck, in ten years people will be forced to watch an AT&T channel because it's too expense to watch anything else, and a Verizon channel, and once again, big business will be in control of content.

You shouldn't have to pay extra for access to the full internet. That's a key principle of net neutrality. Big corporations shouldn't use customer's money to subsidize access to content they favor, that's another key principle. This a seriously slippery slope.

Cell phones are rapidly becoming one of the key ways people access the internet. If big telcoms are allowed to start favoring content on it, they could destroy the internet as we know it very quickly.

Here's one example. Maps. Several companies, including Google, offer free maps and directions to anywhere. These worked great on the big internet (your home computer) but work even better on the iPhone. For free you can find out where you are and how to get to where you want to go. This is a standard free feature. And if you don't like Google maps, there are alternatives that are also free, or charge a one time app fee. Great.

But AT&T tried to offer an iPhone mapping service and wanted customers to pay $9.99 a month for it. As far as I can tell, no one was interested and reviews on the iPhone app store were horrible. So it was a no go.

But bring in tiered pricing and allow cell phone companies the right to violate net neutrality and the game changes. First, AT&T starts charging per data bit. Maps are a lot of data and your bill goes up every time you use them. No more free maps, maps cost money suddenly.

So AT&T offers their own mapping service for "free" with no extra data charges. People use it to save money. Then what happens to Google maps and other free services? Well, they no longer are free, and worse, the money being charged to customers that use them doesn't go to Google but to AT&T. AT&T's free mapping service not only gets more and more customers (and market share) but also money from anyone that doesn't use them. Google and other map companies can't offer a "free" service that AT&T charges people for forever. So they stop offering these services.

Once that happens, guess what? Once the completion goes away, AT&T can start charging for it's own mapping service.

It is important for people to really understand that there is a war going on right now for control of the internet. And big telecoms, like AT&T and Verizon, want to completely control it. And seriously people, they have to be stopped.

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