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Jeff Pulver vs. BellSouth

Big-time kudos to Jeff Pulver for his decision to challenge BellSouth's decision to try and impose tollgate fees on Web services and applications on its high-speed network. Pulver is encouraging Google to call BellSouth's bluff by boycotting the carrier if it proceeds with its ridiculous tollgate scam/scheme, and directing consumers to Cox's rival high-speed service. “Given the market power that Google has today, they are more relevant to the Internet community than BellSouth,” Pulver said, adding he's willing to “wager that by Q3 2006, BellSouth's DSL group will feel the effects of their grave error in judgment”. It's encouraging to see someone with Pulver's profile get involved in this issue, particularly given his willingness to lobby and educate legislators about technology issues and trends. The battle over net neutrality may currently be confined to telecom executives, investors, analysts, etc. but it has huge implications on how the Internet will operate, the ability of Web-based services and content companies to innovate, and ultimately the consumer, who may have to pay for many services/content they've been receiving at no cost as these companies attempt to recoup fees paid to carriers. As I've said before, the tollgate strategy endorsed by BellSouth and SBC is a misguided and uncreative attempt to recoup the loss of local telephone revenue as consumers leave for cablecos and VoIP service providers such as Vonage. If the carriers were smart, they'd realize the “pipe” to consumers has plenty of room to be leveraged financially. It's okay if carriers don't get a piece of every single piece of action because the more consumers rely on broadband service, the more open they will be paying for higher speeds and quality of service. As well, carriers can sell their own services and work with partners on a revenue-share basis. It makes the tollgate strategy seem extremely short-sighted.
Update: You can read a long feature I wrote last month for the Financial Post on net neutraility here, Slate.com has waded into the debate as well – albeit with a carrier-friendly story, Michigan Telephone highlights an NBC report that BellSouth lobbyists are courting members of Congress, while InfoWorld has a story based on a survey in which two-thirds of respondents say the carriers and cablecos should abide by the current net neutrality rules. For its part, Google says it won't cough up any cash to carriers because consumers are already paying to access the Web.

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  • Anonymous

    The challange with dealing with Bell South is that they believe that google is stepping on their turf. As far as they are concerned all of the revenue that google earns is money that should be paid to Bell South. It is very hard for carriers to understand that they are not standing at the center of the universe.

  • Rob Hyndman

    What a strange piece in Slate. It speaks volumes about Google “consuming” bandwidth, but if you didn't know it already you'd have no clue that it's the end customer who's “consuming” it, and that the end customer is also already paying for it.

  • Anonymous