30 January 2006

Telcos vs. Google - Who Feels Lucky?

With SBC/AT&T and BellSouth making noises about charging large providers like Google, Yahoo and others a fee for "expedited" service (a.k.a. "protection money - it would be's a shame if sometin' should happen ta yas latency time"), it seems like those bright lights at Telus are deciding to play monkey-see-monkey-do (with my apologies to the monkeys). You remember Telus's Internet service, right? They were the ones who suddenly decided to pull the plug on certain websites for their customers. Of course, by attempting to block access to their then-striking union's website by IP address, they forgot that they were also clear-cutting a wide swath through a stand of innocent websites who shared the same virtual subnets. Not too bright, and as it turns out, not too apologetic to those who were knocked off the air.

This is shaping up to be a battle of the titans. Michael Geist comments, and today's Star has a mention of the issue half-way down this article. Many telcos have not yet forgotten their monopoly days, from which grew arrogance and complacency, the deadly duo of today's market. Besides lobbying efforts in the U.S., and a possible reference to the CRTC - either move possibly making what the telcos want to do illegal - there is the obvious question: Do any of the telcos really want to take on the likes of Google in the marketplace? Or how about Google, Yahoo and MSN combined? Imagine the competitive ads:

"You can access the sites you want when you want them...

...or you can get stuck with Telus (SBC/AT&T, BellSouth).

Worse for the telcos would be Google offering its own access, say through municipal WiFi/WiMax, giving the telcos a run for their money in Internet access, as well as mobile and long-distance voice.

But then again, there seems to be a bit of a "cowboy" (def.3) mentality at work here: Telus, BellSouth, and SBC. I'm just sayin'...

Update (3 Feb 2006): A friend of mine who is a relatively senior tech strategy type at one of the tier-one ISPs shakes their head at this nonsense from Whitacre. While "Quality of Service" bits could be set for one company's network, it would only improve service for that one section of the 'net. Once you cross a peering point, you're back to regular service. It's unlikely that any content provider would pay protection money to every single ISP in the world, and without doing so, there would be no point to pay extra to anyone. As for ISPs getting together to negotiate a collective, cartel-ish arrangement? Well my friend's response was, "Ever sit in on a peering meeting? Ugly, ugly, ugly." (Peering meetings are intercompany meetings where they attempt to negotiate terms and access to each other's networks at peering, or crossover, points around the world.) The assessment was that Whitacre just realized that his latest prize acquisition isn't quite the cash cow that he anticipated, and now he's looking for "free" revenue.
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