Balkanizing the Internet
Reading an article by Dvorak in this month's PC Magazine reminded me of how ignorant and selfish many old powerful telcos and cable monopolies are. One of my first blog posts was dealing with this very topic, and it seems that the only thing that has changed is that they have gotten worse.
Cable companies seem to be the biggest transgressors. They want to tax, of course, everything that crosses their pipes. That means that if I have a small blog site and I want to make it accessible to say, Comcast customers, I'd have to pay comcast a tax to carry their subscriber's request to my site. That may not be the fine print of what they are trying to do, but it is the gist.
You might find yourself saying right now, “How could they do that? No one would continue to use their service if they cut out most of the internet.” That unfortunately is not true. Here is how they could and probably will do it.
They first begin to offer sweet services over their services for paying cable TV and cable internet users. They offer VoIP service for nothing, they offer IPTV for nothing, which would basically be access to all of their cable content over the net, they offer the ability to use some proprietary software for DVR on the user's computer. They would offer something ridiculous like 10 GB of personal web storage space for email / files / whatever. They would develop some sort of free really cool video / text / audio blogging service and they would license someone's search technology, probably MSN, to search the net.
Once they have enough subscribers to this service, and they notice that traffic to sites outside of the Comcast network, oh did I say Comcast, I meant cable company, drops to practically nil they would figure out which sites still were carrying significant traffic from their internal subscribers. They would then approach these companies, if they liked what their political and religious message was and offer them some sweet deal to allow comcast to carry their content on their internal network.
The cable company, and you can substitute whatever ex-bell system company here as well, would then effectively have 90% of all their traffic in network. They would announce some much more convenient navigation system that would use their own internal DNS system. They could then dump DNS lookups outside of their own network and then stop allowing connections outside of their WAN.
Sites that would want to be available to the cable company's some 30 million subscribers would then have to pay them, or be fortunate enough to be selected by them for premium placement in their network. The internet itself would become a super toll highway just like BBSs long before it. ICANN would be irrelevant because no one would try to get a DNS since every little feifdom they wanted to be accessible to would give them a different format.
Dvorak is right. The only real hope is that Google uses its money and clout to buy all the fiber, start GoogleNet and keep the service free. They would also have to offer super-high speeds for something reasonable like $19.99 per month. The content would take care of itself as it is currently on the internet. The internet will be Balkanized. It has only been free for this long because the monopolists didn't understand it for 10 years, and it took them 10 years to figure out how to make money using it. Now that Apple has shown them the way, the road is clear for them to destroy it like they destroyed local phone service. Please help us Google-kenobi you're our only hope!