Fire SBC!

SBC is buying AT&T. Let the monopoly begin! 🙂

Yesterday, BusinessWeek had an interesting interview with Edward Whitacre (CEO of SBC).

It was normal chitchat tech stuff — how’s the merger going, what about Cingular, what about BellSouth — until he was asked about companies like Google, MSN, Vonage, etc.

His reply?

Well, basically he launched the first salvo in everytime-you-click-someone-pays. His view seems to be that since SBC has built the infrastructure for broadband to his customers, other companies shouldn’t have access to that customer base and infrastructure for free. Those companies should pay for the portion that they are using. The threat there is that Whitacre could block access to those businesses and sites that don’t pay his network’s “access tax”.


One of the NetworkingPipeline folks got it right in their blog. If it weren’t for those services, folks wouldn’t want or need broadband. Folks don’t buy broadband just to help Whitacre’s balance sheet. They get it so they can do internet shopping, research for school, and enjoy broadband content from many sources, along with many, many other common and esoteric tasks.

To essentially tax those companies to allow them access to SBC customers is ludicrous. He is literally biting the hand that feeds him. Actually, he’s biting the hand, gnawing on the foot, reaching for the spleen and all the while trying his hardest to get to the corporate wallet.

And what of censorship? If he starts to block CNN, for example, because they don’t pay the tax, but does allow access to Fox News, doesn’t that put him in an amazing position to dictate the news experience for folks? Stretch that to shopping. Let’s say he blocks all shopping except to companies which he or SBC has some interest in. Would he also block access to competitors sites — Nextel, T-Mobile, and anyone who sells a landline or long distance connection? How about cable companies’ sites?

He could even go so far as to sell his customer base. Pay SBC enough money, and yours will be the proferred site for internet-based sprockets and widgets. Next year, it could be someone else who paid enough, which might even force customers to buy new widgets and sprockets every time SBC wills it.

To be fair, there are folks out there interpreting this as merely a VoIP conversation point, but from the interview, it seems clear to me that this question was launched in a vacuum, and answered as broadly as it was asked. And, of course, the examples I’ve run above are really out there, but… who knows?

This is dangerous folks, really dangerous. Hopefully, this doesn’t become The Next Big Thing, with service providers playing the role of class moderators, and deciding what we see, hear, and buy. There’s enough folks out there with no real power who would try to do that on a daily basis — if someone with the means to accomplish that were to start pushing those buttons….. Ugh!