The growing popularity of video on the Net has driven a traffic increase thats putting strains on service providers, particularly cable companies. To deal with it, they have had to change the way they convey Internet data.
And they’ve done this in secret, raising concerns — by Web companies, consumer groups and the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission — that the nature of the Internet is being altered in ways that are difficult to divine.
But as traffic grows, there are signs that these subtle and secret controls are insufficient, and will give way to more overt measures. For instance, we could find ourselves paying not just for the speed of our connection, but for how much we download. Already, some ISPs are hindering file-sharing traffic, and AT&T Inc. is talking about blocking pirated content.
The issue is coming to a head this year, as the FCC is investigating complaints from consumer groups and legal scholars that Comcast Corp., the countrys largest cable ISP, secretly hampered file sharing by its subscribers. [...]