I'm seeing more and more articles about Network costs and possible Internet tiering - ranging from P2P costs and BitTorrent (courtesy of slashdot) to the "free ride" the "New Media" conglomerates of the Internet are getting on other people's backbones.
In general, the Internet has thrived on a settlement-free model across the interconnected nodes of the 'Net (remember why they called it the "Web"?), and I'm generally an egalitarian, meritocratic technologist kind of fellow, so may the best products and services win - an Internet where content and application providers pay to access consumers seems like a barrier to scale and success. That is, I think a rising tide lifts all boats, so let's not open the drain :)
That said, I also think these discussions are not just the result of "old media" greedily eyeing the profit structures of companies like e-Bay, Amazon, Yahoo, Google, etc and wanted a piece of the pie. One of the ugly truths of the Internet is that we (royal Internet "We") really don't how to scale it (yet) cost effectively (read: pay for and maintain the cost structure for high quality media delivery through advertising alone).
Robert Cringley (of PBS fame) discusses this quite a bit, in terms of technology implications - we're not even close to Broadcast TV at scale, for prime-time numbers, and falling further behind as HDTV and the like catch hold. Cable pipes are shared (traditional cable works because its essentially a multicast model), and DSL pipes don't/won't hit the scale required. Peer to Peer technologies (P2P) are a promising answer, but there's a lot of work there to pay off the Long Tail for high quality rich media content and applications, especially when you consider streaming, and not just delivery.
Of course, this also leads me to wonder (no point here - just thinking aloud):
(a) Why do most videos I watch on my laptop look like Quicktime demos from 1993?
Conversely, when I buy or download a "DVD" quality video, it takes forever - I can get it from my Cable Company's On-demand service in real-time... and is being a better TV really where this ends? Which then makes me think....
(b) its not clear to me that the Internet is ultimately a content medium - only, or even primarily. Perhaps this trend towards tiering is the first thrashings of separating "tools" from "distrubution" (or something) - or maybe we're running headlong into "economy of scale" meets "economy of specialization".
The good news is, its all just getting started - heck, we're only up to 2.0. Everybody knows it won't be any good until version 3.