Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The End of Free

'Theme week' is turning into 'theme fortnight.'
Last week, I commented on the Google-Verizon thing (death of net neutrality) and the Pay-walls of Jericho (wrong subscription model for the times, sorry, the Times)

Next: the end of the free internet.

If net neutrality is dead, then traffic shaping, bandwidth caps and premium service will be the norm. If you want YouTube high def video, online gaming or real-time social networking, you pay. Your flat-rate monthly fee to your ISP will no longer be enough...

Advertising rates are down everywhere. There's a recession. Nobody is spending money, the consumers as well as the corporates, so the click-through is down as well. Netizens are getting nervous as the money isn't coming in through the natural process of browsing and content consumption. So the content custodians (not necessarily the creators) are looking at other revenue routes, as we've seen from those other two stories. Once the pay-walls and premium services are up, they're not going to come down after the recession. 

If someone can come up with the micro-payment rate-card that works and persuades enough people to plug into the micro-payment infrastructure, then it will create a band-wagon which no-one will want to get off. All that's holding this back right now is the lack of infrastructure for tracking service entitlement.

The telco's think they've got it, PayPal, E-Bay, Amazon and Apple would like to think they have it. These are big platforms but not universal and not inter-operable. Only if enough deals can be struck to make a coalition of platforms viable, then it will happen. We're not talking about the old AOL flat-fee-for-the-network model.

The BRIC nations are going to have to enter the fold if they want a share of the revenue. And they will. Russia, India China et al. maybe be in the copyright Wild West right now, but that's not going to last. Once the telco's threaten to traffic-shape them out of existence as the price of non-compliance with DCMA, then BRIC entrepreneurs, never mind governments, will fall into line.

Those of us in the FLOSS community may cry foul and continue to create content for the love of it – as will the home writers, musicians, film-makers. So we will. But our stuff will be frozen out of the premium channels. There will be a class hierarchy of paying netizens and the rest of us.

Don't expect national governments to intervene at anything other than the lowest PBS level for schools and colleges. Governments have other things to worry about, not least because the telco and media lobbyists are either nagging or urging them to look the other way.

It was good while it lasted.  RC

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