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  • Walden hears from local e-commerce representatives

    Net neutrality, telecom issues among those shared during a meeting with Second-District Congressman
  • Net neutrality, telecom issues among those shared during a meeting with Second-District Congressman
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  • Companies depending on the Internet to reach buyers don't appreciate the thought of a broken-down beater clogging the superhighway.
    Such is the worry of companies such as Harry & David, whose customers' attention spans might not be long enough to weather even minimal online delays.
    Charles Hunsinger, chief information officer for Harry & David, was among the local e-commerce and telecommunications representatives expressing thoughts about possible net neutrality rules during a session with Rep. Greg Walden Wednesday at Rogue Valley Country Club.
    Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally, and that  broadband providers shouldn't be able to pick and choose which websites consumers can access.
    Hunsinger said everyone providing content or a common service over the Internet has a stake.
    "If you're not a big player who can pay their own way if they need, then you get into a place where there is extra cost to reach your customers effectively," Hunsinger said.
    When formal and informal agreements between carriers fail, trouble pops up. He recounted a scenario involving Verizon and and Oregon-based carrier that slowed Harry & David traffic.
    "Their back-haul stuff wasn't being respected in the same way, so we had issues with that," Hunsinger said. "The Internet is really the collection of all those carriers. When there are lopsided  traffic issues, all of a sudden your ISP may not have a good agreement with one of the big guys and all of a sudden they're not handling their traffic as well and not upgrading their network."
    The answer, he said, is for businesses to band together as well as possible.
    "Basically you've got to use your commercial influence on one side or the other," Hunsinger said. "But at the end of the day if you've got thousands of customers, and many large ones, you've got to vote together and really raise that issue to force the carriers to the table to resolve it between themselves. When you've got one of the major backbone providers and one of the mid-tiers on each side, it's kind of like in broadcast, you've got the big guys and you've got the smaller guys and you know who carries the weight."
    Consumers, in general, he said, want to guard their pocketbooks.
    "As consumers everybody is concerned to make sure they get their services without their cable bills going through the roof," Hunsinger said.
    Businesses, including start-ups, see the potential costs.
    "Netflix is affected by that now," he said. "It's more the emerging threat."
    A new business having to allocate more capital for Internet services, or unable to come up with the money, will be at a distinct disadvantage to a firm capable of carte blanche spending.
    "Consumers decide very quickly, they're going to pay for the fast lane versus the one that's not," Hunsinger said. "Nobody says, 'Please slow down my Internet.' "
    While some companies pay fees and taxes up front and then pass along the cost to consumers, others simply avoid the extra costs, said Sam Ackley, contracts manager at Hunter Communications.
    "As a provider we have to assess different fees or taxes on our service we are providing to customers who pass that along," Ackley said. "But there are other companies or providers who are using our services to provide their services to the end user. They sort of get a free ride without paying any of the fees or taxes."
    A case in point, he said, was Vonage, a global firm whose clients use the Internet for phone conversations and data transmission.
    "Vonage provides voice service over our Internet service." Ackley said. "We're paying municipal franchise fees or other taxes for the services we're providing and they don't have to charge anything to their customer. They sort of have an unfair advantage over us for the services we are providing."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.
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