The Senate Commerce Committee is holding a meeting today to consider whether Web access providers — the phone and cable companies behind broadband networks — can charge content providers like Google and Yahoo for speedy delivery of content.
The former, led by the like of Verizon and AT&T, claim Google is getting a free ride (free registration required) off the infrastructure they spend billions of dollars to build and maintain. They charge other companies are stifling the development of better networks by sucking out profits from the middle.
On the other side, consumer advocates have suggested that allowing network operators to charge for certain traffic might restrict the open flow of content and information — and lead to higher costs for consumers. Vinton Cerf, a founding father of the Internet and now a VP and “chief Internet Evangelist” at Google, shot back at Verizon execs via the Washington Post: “My big concern is that suddenly access providers want to step in the middle of create a toll road to limit customers’ ability to get access to services of their choice even though they have paid fo access to the network in the first place.”
The debate raises a number of questions about restricting access to information, limiting consumer choice, and so on. Do you think access providers should be rewarded for their infrastructure investments or will their sense of entitlement lead to an Orwellian future?