Thursday, March 16, 2006

Quest Says They are 'Net' Nutral

The concept of net neutrality has become an issue of increasing debate and concern in recent years as users seek guarantees they will have ready access to the global Internet unfettered by government censorship or by unreasonable service charges imposed by service providers driven by the profit motive.
This has raised calls for Congress to pass legislation that would protect net neutrality and for the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to enact and enforce policies that prevent services providers from blocking traffic or imposing new fees for Internet access.
Qwest Communications CEO Richard Notebaert on March 15 voiced his company's commitment to "net neutrality," saying his company would never block traffic or degrade network performance as a way to maintain competitive advantage.
But with the next breath Notebaert said that government regulation shouldn't prevent service providers from negotiating "commercial agreements" that allow them to deliver different types or grades of service at a specific price. The market should be allowed to determine how it will package and charge for network services, he said.
"My job has never been to degrade service or to give any customers less capability than they asked for and paid for," Notebaert said, speaking at the VON (Voice Over Network) Spring Conference here.
However, Notebaert's position raised questions in the audience about Qwest's commitment to net neutrality if these commercial agreements might tend to restrict the public access or raise the cost of accessing Internet services or content. Jeffrey Pulver, founder and chairman of Pulvermedia, the host of the Spring 2006 VON Conference, said Qwest's approach amounted to nothing less than "payola" for access to Internet content and services.
Paying for different Internet service levels would eventually cause the "Balkanization" of the Internet in which users would have limited access to different classes of content or quality of service based upon their ability or willingness to pay.
This would occur just as users are getting access to more sophisticated services, such as voice and video, he noted.
He said he didn't believe that Internet users would accept any business policy or service-level agreements that limit their access to Internet content.
Over the past year, VOIP Service provider Vonage Holdings and other VOIP service providers have complained that some high-speed Internet service providers were blocking its IP telephone traffic.


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