Thursday, May 18, 2006

Skype not Aftraid of Net Neutrality?

According to an article over at ars technica, a Skype executive mentioned that he has no worries about ISPs charginga premium to carry Skype traffic over their pipes. He believes that the Skype user base will cause an uproar with the ISP(s), such that the ISP(s) will have to reconsider their decision to cash in on Skype's hard work. To quote the article:

Skype's battleplan is simple. If their user base is large enough, companies will think twice about tampering with Skype traffic. When Brazil's biggest telecom pulled the plug on Skype, the outcry in the country was big enough that the decision was soon reversed. Bilefield said, "The community has the power to change things."
While I don't know whether or not that is a sound strategy, it got me thinking about this whole "net neutrality" argument.

As I posted on the thread at Digg that referenced this article, I believe the ISPs are in a bit of a pickle if they think they can do whatever they wish with content providers. Unfortunately for them, the relationship between ISP and content provider is symbiotic. The ISP needs them to provide compelling, rich, bandwidth-hungry applications as much as the content providers need a pipe over which to provide the service or application. Would anyone really need a 6 Mbit connection (my current RoadRunner connection) if all they were doing was emailing and surfing CNN.com? As with most established monopolies, the ISPs will never innovate and/or change over time to stay relevant. Instead, they will focus all of their efforts on fighting the inevitable and piss off a lot of customers along the way, never giving thought to what was best for those customers.

Since the big Skype announcement this week of free Skype Out calling services, I have been trying to convince everyone I know to drop their land lines in favor of a Skype solution. I really hope it catches on in this country as it has in others and that we can, as Mr. Bilefield said, "have the power to change things".


1 comment:

galets said...

just wanted to share some of my own experiences with you... As it's often happening is our politicized society, when someone is talking about making the game fair to consumers, it might just mean the opposite. When I hear about consumer protection acts, I actually think: here comes some more legal base to protect big company FROM consumer claims.

but enough observations, just facts: I recently received a message from Skype, which read: "our free calling services to USA and Canada has ended, if you want to call USA and Canada for free, subscribe to a yearly plan". I thought: this is pretty neat! Plan seems to be fairly cheap and I have a wife in Moscow, Russia. Why not get an unlimited calling plan so that she can be calling me on the cellphone whenever she wants? So, I went to the Skype website and read terms. I felt a little uncomfortable when I noticed that offer is only valid in USA and Canada, but I thought: okay, she might not physically be here, but I am. So as long as I sponsor her purchase, we're fine. In the end, how will they determine where one comes from - by ip address? No way in hell this is going to happen.

guess what - it DID happen. I started noticing that regardless the unlimited calling plan on account, all of her calls were charged per minute anyway. I contacted the customer service to have charges rolled back and received an answer: "you're calling from a foreign IP address, we are not providing this service to outside IPs". This was not mistake - they were dead serious - you can call USA phone for free, but only if your IP is based in USA

Why would that be a case? Skype doesn't incur any additional costs by connecting call coming from an IP in Russia, nor any other one for the same argument. We're not in China. Skype has no pressure from government to limit the freedom of communications. There is no geography in the internet - it's supposed to be one big network where any node freely accesses any other node free of additional cost. So, why is the convenient calling plan being blocked from non-USA ip addresses? The only reasonable explanation is because Skype doesn't want to allow people use discounted rates when they can charge them full price. When it means revenue, it's ok to bend concepts to your own advantage.

Now you should see why I take the struggle of "fair" Skype with "wrong" providers with a grain of salt. Skype is as wrong as they are. It just uses our support to bet a bigger piece of pie and once a piece of pie is received it would exploit consumers with the same unfairness as every other big corporation does