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Why we need net neutrality: TeliaSonera to charge mobile users for VoIP calls

April 23, 2012

Network neutrality, also known as net neutrality or Internet neutrality, has been an intensely debated issue in the media over the last few years. For those of you who haven’t heard about the concept, net neutrality opposes the restriction by ISPs or governments of the consumers’ free access to the Internet.

In other words, a network neutrality law would prevent your Internet provider from charging you extra for accessing, say, YouTube, than it would charge you for visiting Facebook or some other random site. As the image above says, all bits are (or should be) created equal.

Unfortunately, net neutrality has not been enforced in law form in most parts of the world, at least as far as we here at Android Authority know. This means that, at least in theory, an Internet provider can decide at any moment to throttle access to specific websites or charge users extra for the “privilege” of accessing a specific Internet destination.

If you thought that no Internet provider or carrier would dare to ignore the principles of net neutrality, we have some bad news for you today. TeliaSonera, one of the largest carriers in Europe, has decided to charge its Spanish users extra for using Skype and other VoIP (Voice over IP) services, starting from next month.

“We have been early in introducing tiered pricing of data, lower costs for data roaming and recently openly communicated that we will start to charge for mobile VoIP.” announced Lars Nyberg, the company’s CEO, taking pretty much the whole world by surprise.

TeliaSonera’s decision will affect its customers first and foremost, but, in the long haul, it could create a dangerous precedent that can potentially affect mobile customers from all over the world. Just think about the ripples this move will create when carriers worldwide realize that they can get away with charging for VoIP calls!

The “mobile VoIP offer” will be launched in Spain next month, while Swedish mobile users should prepare to pay extra for VoIP services starting later this summer. “The customers will have the opportunity to either choose a subscription which includes mobile VoIP or one without. When the need arises, this service can then be bought separately”,  explained Nyberg.

TeliaSonera’s CEO also explained the “reasons” that led to this change, saying that “if all our customers suddenly decided to switch over to making internet calls, and we charged them only for the data traffic usage, we would lose about 70% of our revenue.” So, if it’s all about revenue, why not charge more for data traffic usage, I might ask, without hoping to ever get an answer.

How about it, folks, do you think that we will soon see other carriers trying to enforce this policy as well? Also, would you ever consider paying extra to use VoIP on your mobile device? Hit us with a comment and let us know your opinions!