Why The ITU's Plans To Divert Money To Lazy Telcos Will Slow Internet Buildout, Not Increase It

from the damn-history dept

We've noted that among the proposals being pushed this week at the ITU's World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) are a few that are solely designed to divert money from innovative internet companies to stodgy old telcos who haven't adapted. The ITU has defended such proposals as being about sharing revenue more fairly, which tends to be a warning sign for most folks that failed organizations are about to take money from successful ones. Indeed, a number of proposals have suggested a form of "sending party pays" infrastructure for peering, claiming that such a system was successful (via the ITU) for telco buildout, and so they could do the same thing for the internet. Of course, this leaves aside the vast differences in how the networks work and where they came from -- and how a "sending party pays" internet system would almost certainly lead to a balkanized and fragmented internet.

But, it's even worse. A new study by Eli Dourado looking at how well "sending party pays" actually worked in the telco system found that it tended to hinder growth, rather than accelerate it:
The possible extension of the telephone system’s “sender-pays” rule to the Internet is a contentious international political issue under consideration at the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT). This paper examines whether higher international telephone rates support or impede telecom sector growth in the receiving country. It uses data on international telephone rates from the US from 1992-2010 to explain growth in foreign telecom sectors during the same period. I find that higher international calling rates are correlated with slower growth in the telecom sector, which suggests that countries are not primarily using higher charges to finance additional expansion. These findings cast doubt on proposals that would extend sender-pays to the Internet sector.
In other words, the key argument the ITU likes to make for this diversion of funds... isn't actually supported by the facts. Instead, it's what we expected: about helping big telcos (often either state-owned, or formerly stated owned with still close connections) get a bunch of money for nothing... which they then won't invest in expanding the network (why should they?). And, oh yes, the implementation of such a system might just also make it easier to limit internet access and/or spy on nearly everything people do (how else do you charge if you're not monitoring activity?).

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  1. identicon
    steve, 4 Dec 2012 @ 3:50pm

    "Sender pays" is a different concept in phoneland vs. in internet

    In the case of phone calls, "sender pays" seems fair because the caller has the choice to initiate the call or not, while the callee has to answer in case it is important or someone he/she needs to hear from, but may not have solicited it.

    In the case of internet, what ITU is calling "sender pays" means the server answering the client's request. This is almost the opposite situation: the client initiates the connection, and under the ITU plan his ISP would get paid!

    If the concept is "one who initiates the data transfer" then it's the caller in the phone case and the client in the internet case. If it's "whoever transfers more data to the other" it's about equal in the phone case (dedicated connections) and usually the "callee" in the internet case.

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