Imagine that your wireless carrier started charging you a monthly rate to access YouTube or use Skype. Sounds like the end of Net Neutrality, doesn't it?
However, if this report via Engadget is correct, that's exactly what might be on the way.
At a marketing webinar hosted by Allot Communications and Openet, it was suggested that carriers could earn additional profits by charging users for access to services that are generally free to use. Allot Communications and Openet are companies that sell subscriber management tools to various wireless carriers around the globe. A slide taken from the webinar details how this might work.
According to Allot's director of marketing, their tools have the capability to scan packets of information sent by your phone — even if encrypted — to determine which services you're trying to access and then charge you for using those services.
Here's a direct quote taken from the webinar:
[We use] a number of different methods to accurately identify the application — methods like heuristic analysis, behavioral and historical analysis, deep packet inspection, and a number of other techniques. What's key is that we have the best application identification available on the market, which means that even applications that are encrypted or use other methods to evade detection will be correctly identified and classified… We essentially feed this real-time information about traffic and application usage into the policy and charging system. Each subscriber has a particular service plan that they sign up for, and they're as generic or as personalized as the operator wants.
Well, what about getting the FCC involved?
The FCC is expected to meet on December 21, 2010, and on the agenda is rumored to be the subject of net neutrality. FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski is scheduled to give a speech detailing his proposal about the issues. The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of Genachowski's speech, and in it he states that wireless providers would be required to disclose how they manage their networks and that carriers would be prohibited from blocking access to websites or competing services, such as VoIP. However, wireless carriers would be given additional leeway to manage data on their networks since data networks have more bandwidth limitations than do wired networks.
It seems to suggest that while carriers can't block your access to certain websites or services outright, they do have the option to 'manage' their traffic in whatever way they see fit, and charging you additional fees for access to high-bandwidth services like YouTube might be how they decide to manage traffic.
Genachowski's proposal is facing tough opposition from Republicans and his hope is to have this issue voted on before the recently elected Republicans take their seats in the House.
The real issue here seems to be one of nickel and dimming. The argument goes that since carriers are already charging users for the data they consume the users should be free to use that data without having to pay extra for access to a service that may use extra bandwidth.
What do you think? Would this move by the carriers be fair or foul?