Verizon: Screw Mobile Net Neutrality, We Wanna Sell Video

Last Updated Aug 19, 2010 6:39 PM EDT

It was just a week ago that Verizon (VZ) and Google (GOOG) unveiled a net neutrality plan that, for good reason, didn't actually use the term net neutrality. That's because it was the mobile emasculation plan, designed to leave wireless broadband uncovered by any regulation. Now we see part of the reason, as Verizon begins to roll out its TV anywhere strategy, starting with an in-home iPad app and eventually available as an on-demand service over smartphones.

It's not like this was impossible to see happening. For a long time, both Verizon and AT&T (T) were crying "Poor us!" and saying how they'd have to throttle back on bandwidth for users because those consumers were just so greedy. In principle, you might want to give a telecom the benefit of the doubt, knowing that data use is expanding geometrically and the time to improve networks remains slow because communities won't authorize more cell towers fast enough. However, in general, when a telecom says "we can't," it usually means "we won't."

Verizon has just proven that. Mobile video is the monster that has faced the carrier, as well as others. People watching short videos, television programs, and movies mean huge data to carry.

And yet, here's Verizon saying how it plans to bring video to mobile. The big difference is that the company will charge, which gives it an inordinately strong reason to prevent competitive traffic from the likes of Hulu, Netflix (NFLX), Facebook, or any of the television providers. How convenient if there were no regulations to keep the company from blocking competition or at least invoking a premium traffic surcharge.

Currently, Verizon is pushing its new online user interface for existing customers, which includes a way to sign in and watch video. That neatly dovetails with this effort. And because it's web-based, it would presumably walk right around the lock Apple (AAPL) has on media rentals and sales to iPads and iPhones.

If anything, the iPad app is a distraction, because customers can only use it in their own houses. This makes Verizon the current Henry Ford of mobile video: You can see programming anywhere you want so long as you remain home. Clearly, house-bound is this season's black.

This development underscores how imperative control of traffic is for high tech companies to see regulatory issues and lobbying as an intrinsic strategic tool. Nap and you may find giant toll booths on the road to the customer.


Image: Flickr user dan taylor, CC 2.0.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.