Internet service providers (ISPs) want to change the law to begin extracting money for quicker access to their sites ["Executive Wants to Charge for Web Speed," Business, Dec. 1]. Charging the sites more for this access is wrong. The amount of bandwidth available to handle Internet traffic is always limited. Giving one company's site a guaranteed high level of access for visitors means that companies that cannot afford to pay for preferential treatment will suffer. Customers visiting non-preferred sites also will get slower access than they would have had otherwise.

One might argue that allowing ISPs this new source of revenue would reduce prices for broadband and dial-up services, but consumers always end up paying one way or another -- whether being billed more for a book at, enduring more advertising at Web sites or experiencing slower service at sites that aren't ponying up.

It seems more than coincidental that this issue is coming to the fore when new Internet-based phone services (called VOIP, or voice over Internet protocol) are beginning to threaten the local services that have been the cash cows for most of the larger ISPs, such as Verizon and BellSouth.

The fair way to deal with this issue is to continue the "network neutrality" that has been required by law thus far. If increased demands on the network -- from more customers, more video downloading or VOIP services -- result in a need for expanded capacity, the ISPs should look to their customers to cover the cost. Either raise everyone's rates or create a tiered structure in which those who use the most bandwidth pay a premium.


Great Falls