Hell No! Higher Fees Must Go!

5:15 PM -- I have been thinking a lot lately about high-speed wireless access. I have also been thinking about Washington, D.C., and not just because of the cherry blossoms and all that spring stuff.

It seems legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives (easily the most technically savvy people on the planet) are being asked to consider a proposal by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) that would prevent charging premium fees to content providers like eBay, Amazon, and Google for using higher-speed networks to deliver their services. Markey apparently believes that charging a higher fee for faster or premium services might lead to censorship if the telephone and cable companies relegate these services to slower and less expensive data highways.

Markey is expected to join musician Moby and others in Washington for a press conference on May 18 as part of the Save the Internet.com Coalition that is committed to a free and open Internet (damn cyber-hippies!). Thus far, the coalition has signed up more than 500 groups and has more than 700,000 supporters, says info posted on Markey Mark’s Website.

The Senator is not alone in this passion to protect the content providers from "censorship by speed" (as The Boston Globe refers to it in a May 17th lead editorial). Reputable groups like Gun Owners of America are also asking Congress to protect the wide open Internet plains. I can hear the sound bites now: “Sure, I’ll pay extra for high-speed Internet when you pry this computer out of my cold, dead hands!”

Let’s get real. We already pay extra to get faster or more convenient content delivery, as anyone who subscribes to home-delivered newspapers or pays for an Internet news site already knows. We join retail buying clubs to get a better price on 50-pound barrels of detergent, and have purchased more than a billion songs from Apple’s iTunes because it is faster and more convenient.

Businesses already pay extra for faster or dedicated communications lines, and soon everyone will be paying a premium to get more effective SPAM and virus protection on their cell phones and mobile devices. You can also get free Skype VOIP or Plaxo address file management, but it will cost a bit extra to throw some options into the mix.

Higher-speed Internet access is going to cost a bit more because someone has to pay for the development and infrastructure. If this were not the case, then a Mercedes would cost as little as a Ford Fiesta. Lower-speed services will cost less or even be given away free as a gesture of good will and subliminal marketing.

What will cost more is the content itself, since content providers will set different rates based on the perceived value of their content. This is why The Wall Street Journal costs more than the New York Daily News, although I don’t think the gun lobbies will be crying content censorship over this point.

— Tim Scannell is Founder of Shoreline Research . Special to Unstrung

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