BellSouth: Cyberextortion Pays Off

BellSouth's new business model, a slightly more polite form of the kind of extortion practiced by Tony Soprano, is starting to pay off. The company says it is in negotiations with several Web sites willing to pay extra fees to...

January 18, 2006

2 Min Read
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BellSouth's new business model, a slightly more polite form of the kind of extortion practiced by Tony Soprano, is starting to pay off. The company says it is in negotiations with several Web sites willing to pay extra fees to BellSouth for more bandwidth than it provides to other sites. BellSouth says that it shouldn't have to bear the cost of providing bandwidth for big sites like Google. Instead, the sites should pay for them. But BellSouth ignores an inconvenient fact --- it doesn't bear those costs; its customers do. So BellSouth gets to double-dip.

BellSouth now says it's talking to several sites willing to pay the extra fees. The film-download MovieLink, it claims, is in talks to fork over cash. BellSouth will also target gaming sites. It says Apple may be willing to spend five to ten cents a download for iTunes music.

Increasingly, I believe there's a growing conspiracy of sorts between big telecoms like BellSouth and Verizon, and big sites like Google.

Why would Google and others be willing to pay these fees? Because they can afford to, and their smaller competitors can't. If smaller competitors can't pay up, they get less bandwidth, and people will be less willing to visit. In essence, the big Web sites would be paying BellSouth and Verizon to be enforcers.

This is, of course, bad news for the Internet. Bandwith is the oxygen of startups, and without it they die. Remember, there was once a day when Google was a startup, and Yahoo and other search sites ruled. Google delivered better results --- and it delivered faster results. If Google had been denied bandwidth, it would have died.So let's hope Congress steps in and stops the move to a several-tiered Internet. But Jack Abramoff and his kind don't pay off Congressmen to help the little guys, so don't expect Congress to help any time soon.

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