Survey Sparks QOS Fee Debate

A new survey released by a consumer coalition says Internet users fear network operators will “block or impair” some types of online content or services. And the Bells have immediately gone on the defensive. (See CFA: Bells Will Block Packets.)

The survey, commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CNA), the Consumers Union, and Free Press, says more than two thirds of the Internet users it surveyed believe network operators should adhere to network neutrality principles. Only 47 percent expected them to actually do so; and over half termed this a “very serious problem.” (See Net Neutrality Goes to Washington.)

Likewise, a Light Reading poll shows that many of our readers believe operators will impair certain services, and should be able to charge “QOS fees” from Internet companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). (See Light Readers Favor QOS Fees.)

The voice and video services being rolled out by companies like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) could face competitive pressure from the Internet voice and video services like those of Google and Vonage Holdings Corp. (NYSE: VG) (See Google Goes to Wonkytown.) Telephone companies and cable operators, which own 93 percent of all U.S. broadband lines, say application companies should have to pay to make the quality of their services comparable to what the network operators can deliver themselves. (See QOS Fees Could Change Everything .)

The Bells and their lobbyists wasted no time reacting to the survey, which was released Wednesday. “The Internet is the success it is today because the government has maintained a vigilant but hands-off approach that has allowed companies to innovate in direct response to the evolving wants and needs of their customers,” says Ed Merlis, VP of regulatory affairs for the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) .

Sources in Washington say the net neutrality discussion will make its way into legislation soon. (See New Telecom Bill Draws Raves.) And, to further the discussion, the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a net neutrality hearing on February 7.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

Duh! 12/5/2012 | 4:08:39 AM
re: Survey Sparks QOS Fee Debate In Beltway speak, I believe this is called push polling.

Hello? May I speak to Mr. or Mrs. Smith?
This is John Doe from the xyzzy polling company. Do you have a few moments to answer a few questions about this November's campaign for US Senate?
Are you aware of Senate candidate Steve Doaks?
Are you aware that Senate candidate Steve Doaks has been accused of beating his wife?
Do you think that Senate candidate Steve Doaks should stop beating his wife?
Is your opinion of Senate candidate Steve Doaks generally positive, generally negative or neutral?

Come on!! Washington interest groups can get whatever results they want to out of this kind of sleazy, unscientific polling. Especially on an issue which hasn't received any significant amount of press coverage, "geek" and "wonk" websites excluded. Oh, and one OpEd piece in the New York Times. The public has not heard a reasonable debate on this subject, the issues get deeply into hard problems in economics, technology, business and public policy, and the telcos have honestly done a terrible job of making their case.

In principle, what the telcos want to do is entirely reasonable on many different levels. It is certainly supported by decades of research in networking and network economics, by numerous precedents in similar kinds of service offerings, by the well understood problems of congestion control and resource allocation in the Internet and by the evolution of the entertainment video market. In practice, it could be made pro-competitive or anti-competitive, depending on how it is regulated.

I think this is going to need a lot of thoughtful analysis by NTIA, leading to carefully targetted legislation and regulation by the FCC. Preferably after the post-Abramoff reforms take hold.

The sky is not falling, folks. There are many, many bad things going on inside and outside the Beltway, and this is not one of them.

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