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European carriers want content companies and smartphone makers to pay network usage fees

Nilay Patel
12.08.10
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How do you start a net neutrality debate without ever saying "net neutrality?" If you're a European wireless carrier like France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, or Vodafone, you do it by just getting straight to the point: you say companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook need to start paying for continued network access because their devices and services use too much bandwidth. Yep, that's a straight-up network neutrality issue, but the carriers are framing it like it's an accounting problem -- and they're not being shy about wanting more cash to even out the books as they invest in next-gen networks. "It's necessary to put in place a system of payments by service providers as a function of their use," says France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard, while Telefonica CEO Cesar Alierta says that Google and Yahoo's free use of his network is a "tragedy" that "can't continue." (No, we're not making this up.)

In addition to shaking down service providers and device makers, European carriers are also following AT&T and Verizon to tiered data plans -- France Telecom is will move from unlimited pricing to something "more sophisticated," and the other networks expected to follow. What's most interesting to us is that the carriers are appearing to conflate bandwidth-heavy services like Facebook and YouTube with devices that customers use to access those services -- does it really make any sense to charge Apple or Google a fee for making good phones that encourage more network use, on top of charging users for tiered data? That's an unexpected -- and unfortunate -- twist on the standard net neutrality debate, and we're not so sure we want to see where it's going. Read the whole article at the source link, it's a good one.

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