As carriers are exploring new methods for pricing access to the Internet from your cell phones–from pay-per-use pricing to tiered pricing–a leaked webinar slide from Alot Communications and Openet–both of which represents AT&T, Verizon, and Vodafone–highlights the importance of the net neutrality discussion as it pertains to the mobile Web. The premise is that services offered through your carrier would be free, but carriers can charge and enforce a la carte monthly pricing to access services outside of the free bucket, sort of like premium channels on your cable bill.
For instance, Verizon subscribers who want to access a YouTube video would pay a monthly nominal premium for the privilege. Want to get on Facebook? As the service may not be on the AT&T basic bucket of the future, AT&T users would have to pay a slight monthly premium charge for using that.
The idea would move certain carrier-controlled services, mainly via a home access page that links to news, weather, and other services, be available in a basic bucket. That bucket would be included in whatever monthly or pay-per-use data plan that users have signed up for.
Premiums may include popular Internet destinations, like Facebook or YouTube, and that may help carriers drive added revenues on top of basic mobile web subscription costs.
Carriers can charge based on usage or as a monthly allotment for the services. For Facebook, a slide shows a hypothetical $0.02 per MB usage charge–so that means that if you’re a frequent wall poster or upload videos or photos to Facebook, you could potentially spend as much as what you’re paying in Internet fees on Facebook use alone–and that’s on top of what you’re paying just for the privilege of mobile Internet. YouTube, in the hypothetical presentation, was charged a $0.50 premium for monthly access.
A model as such, as proponents of net neutrality had feared, may place a disadvantage for other services provided over the Internet, such as bandwidth-intensive applications like Netflix or VoIP apps, which not only uses a lot of data, but also may require a faster data connection.
With carriers’ vision for the future of the mobile Web like this, we all should be pressing the FCC to include the mobile Internet into its decisions on net neutrality–some of which will be adopted come this Tuesday, though none of those provisions would apply to the mobile Web.