Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tiers of Tears

Don't we already hate tiered cable tv services enough? I just read an article at about the plans of the telecom giants to develop a tiered internet. Owners of websites who pay additional fees will receive greater bandwidth, allowing their sites to load faster and deliver smoother streaming content. Those who do not pay up will become the slow drones we all remember from our dial-up days.

The article notes that wealthy, established companies will have the advantage over start-ups with this type of system. The potential impact on the public in general and bloggers in particular is also noted:

"Google and Amazon and Yahoo are not going to slice those payments out of their profit margins and eat them," says Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press, a nonprofit group that monitors media-related legislation. "They're going to pass them on to the consumer. So I'll end up paying twice. I'm going to pay my $29.99 a month for access, and then I'm going to pay higher prices for consumer goods all across the economy because these Internet companies will charge more for online advertising."

Worse still,Scott argues, the plan stands to sour your Web experience. If, for instance, your favorite blogger refused to ante up, her pages would load more slowly on your computer than would content from Web sites that had paid the fees.

Under this system, surfing the web might go something like this: check the news at, check the scores at, stop over at to plan for the morning commute - no problem, you cruise on through, since the wealthy parent companies of these sites have paid for top-tier delivery. Next, try to stop over at your favorite blog, or visit your neighbor's fledgling online cottage industry. Suddenly, you're back to the days of the World Wide Wait.

It seems to me that a tiered system would allow the telecoms to charge for their services twice. It would allow them to charge the consumer for faster access, but only to sites owned by corporations or individuals who had also paid for faster delivery. Pretty sweet deal for the telecom giants, if you ask me.

Personally, I see this as an affront to those of us who pay through the nose for broadband. The selling point with broadband is faster access to the internet, not to select, highly commercial parts of the internet. This is not the web as we know it now, and tiered service is not something I'd take kindly to. No thanks. I'd opt out.