Mac Musings

AT&T Proposes Extortion

Daniel Knight - Oct. 11, 2000 -

Perhaps you saw one of the articles in the newspaper (it was in USA Today) or on the Web, such as AT&T Mulls Web Charges on CNNfn. It seems that AT&T is no longer content to charge people for Internet service; now they want retailers to pay a kickback for every purchase made over AT&T's lines - and even a fee for each visitor to their site who comes in over an AT&T connection.

As an AT&T @Home subscriber, I'm appalled at this. I'm checking into EarthLink and other DSL options. There's no way I want a retailer to have to pay money to AT&T just because I buy something online, let alone simply because I visit their site to check pricing. I'm already paying AT&T @Home $40 a month for Internet access; surcharging retailers because I use AT&T is preposterous.

It's got to be even worse from the retailer's perspective. Even if they're not using AT&T for their Net connection, if this asinine proposal goes through, they will somehow have to track which visitors and which transactions come through AT&T connections. Then they'll have to pay a kickback to AT&T for letting their subscribers visit their online store.

So much for a free Internet.

If I were a retailer and saw this coming, I'd find a way to globally block AT&T Internet customers, rerouting them to a page not on their site that explains why they won't be held hostage by AT&T Internet Services. Either that or charge AT&T customers more to cover the surcharge.

Of course, the bookkeeping will be a lot easier for businesses that already use AT&T as their ISP. They get to pay a fee for every visitor and every sale. Much simpler accounting - and much more costly. It would also mean higher online prices, making these retailers less competitive than those not using AT&T for Net access.

Even the U.S. federal government has backed down on taxing ecommerce; what makes AT&T think they could ever pull this off?

If I were a retailer using AT&T Internet Service today and understood the implications of this extortion, I'd find another ISP in a hurry.

If AT&T doesn't back down on this scheme, they can count on losing me as a customer. I'm sure I'm not alone in that sentiment.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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