You’d think AT&T Chairman Ed Whitacre might be a little reticent about talking publicly about charging for content delivery through AT&T’s pipes given the ruckus he raised with similar comments not too long ago. You’d be wrong. Whitacre, whose company had to accept two years of net neutrality in exchange for approval of the recent merger of SBC and AT&T, told the AP: “There seems to be a mentality that they can put more and more through our pipes for free. We’re the ones who built the network. You cannot make that sort of investment if you can’t make a return on the capital. They’re more than welcome to use our networks, but if they do, they’re going to have to pay. It’s not free.”
What about the subscribers who pay AT&T for internet access? “They only pay for a broadband loop from a central office to their home” — not for the “huge (network) backbones to get across the country.”
In essence, it sounds like he’s transferring the telephone billing philosophy that separated local from long distance and relied on area code calling zones to the internet. Users could end up paying more for dense data or for long-distance internet; content providers who don’t pay could wind up with second-class access. Those are the kinds of comments that send those who want/need open pipes to their lobbyists for help from Congress or the FCC.
But BellSouth CTO William Smith says the marketplace will rule. “We have no intention whatsoever of saying ‘You can’t go here, you can’t go there, you can’t go somewhere else. … We have a very competitive situation with cable. If we start trying to restrict where our customers can go on the Internet, we would see our DSL customers defect to cable in droves.”
But he also recently told reporterd, “If I go to the airport, I can buy a coach standby ticket or I can buy a first class ticket from Delta. I’ve made a choice as to which experience I want.”
Reuters: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said at a Washington luncheon Wednesday that he doesn’t see an immediate threat. “I’m hesitant to adopt rules that would prevent anti-competitive behavior where there hasn’t been significant evidence of a problem. … That doesn’t mean people don’t have a lot of concern about potential problems, but there’s a significant difference between potential problems and problems that occur.”
Related: SBC CEO: Pipes Can’t Be Free For Other To Use
– SBC Does a Backtrack on CEO Comment