TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: The High-Speed Money Line

The High-Speed Money Line

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 6 Mar 2006 01:05:01 -0500

The New York Times
March 6, 2006

Are consumers going to start having to spend a lot more to surf the

Phone and cable companies have stoked those fears recently by
floating plans that would have Amazon, Yahoo and other Web sites
paying new fees to ensure that their content will be delivered to
customers faster.

This possibility has raised the prospect that consumers may end up
having to pay twice for access to the Internet -- once to the phone or
cable company that sells them a dial-up or broadband line, and again
to Internet companies that pass along new charges for fast access to
content from their sites.

Late last year, the Bells proposed to share the burden of upgrading
their networks -- particularly as big video files, which take up a lot
of bandwidth on the networks, become more common -- with the companies
sending out that data. The plan quickly drew fire from consumer
groups, technology companies and lawmakers eager to preserve open
access to the Internet and fearful that the Bell companies have too
much power.

Those worries were highlighted yesterday when AT&T announced plans to
buy BellSouth for $67 billion, a merger that would create a
telecommunications giant with $130 billion in sales and 70 million
local phone customers in 22 states.

If a plan like the one the Bells are proposing were to come into
effect, consumer prices might not increase immediately, consumer
advocates, industry analysts and telecommunications executives say.
But one way or another, consumers are likely to shell out more in the
future for Web content.

The reason, they say, is simple. As Internet traffic booms and
competition intensifies, the phone and cable companies are spending
billions of dollars to expand their networks -- and they want someone
to help them foot the bill.

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