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News Editor

AT&T’s Whitacre whiffs

Feb 01, 20062 mins
AT&TData CenterRegulation

Pity the poor telecom executive who has to try to sell the riotously unpopular idea of two-tiered Internet service: Those companies that pay extra get top-shelf transport, while those who can’t or won’t get plain old best effort, no matter how pokey that may prove to be. It’s not an easy sell and the carriers are getting hammered from all corners (for just two examples from this publication, try John Gallant’s Vortex blog and Scott Bradner’s ‘Net Insider).

Nevertheless, AT&T boss Ed Whitacre was out there taking another swing yesterday.

“We have to figure out who pays for this bigger and bigger IP network,” said Whitacre in an interview with the Financial Times. “We have to show a return on our investments.”

Yes they do … and fair enough.

But then Whitacre veers into what can charitably be called fuzzy logic:

“I think the content providers should be paying for the use of the network – obviously not the piece from the customer to the network, which has already been paid for by the customer in Internet access fees – but for accessing the so-called Internet cloud,” he said.

Content providers will be surprised to learn that in Whitacre’s world they have been getting a free ride to the cloud. But the far more puzzling aspect of that pitch concerns us little ol’ consumers. Who knew that our Internet access fees were covering only the piece of pipe from our homes to the ISP? Could have sworn we’ve been buying round-trip tickets, but maybe I didn’t read the fine print.

News Editor

In addition to my editing duties, I have written Buzzblog since January, 2006 and wrote the 'Net Buzz column in Network World's dearly departed print edition for 13 years. Feel free to e-mail me at