Open access to the Internet isn't affected if the capacity provided to users is determined by the capacity they pay for.
In the early days of the Internet's development and deployment, most residential users accessed the network through dialup modems. While the speeds were modest, the Internet access service was highly competitive. At one time, there were as many as 8,000 dialup Internet service providers. In today's terms, high-speed Internet access is far less competitive, with only one or two providers available to any residential user.
As Larry Roberts points out in his blog, applications on the Internet have become more diverse. It is quite common for laptop or desktop users to have many connections operating at one time: several instant messaging windows, open Web pages, a streaming video, a video chat, an email window, and perhaps an interactive game. Some of the peer-to-peer (P2P) applications open multiple connections to achieve faster results, as Roberts indicates.
Several of the broadband Internet access providers have tried to respond to demand that has exceeded their statistical overbooking by shutting down P2P traffic and, in some cases, using fairly blunt methods to do so. That has led to a good deal of noisy debate and accusation.
I think Roberts has the right idea that capacity provided to users should be determined by the capacity they pay for. If I purchase a 10-Mbit/s service, I should be able to transmit data at that rate; and if my demand exceeds that capacity, the system should shape my traffic so it does not exceed the capacity for which I have contracted.
Essentially, this assures users of a fixed price for their access and assures providers that demand will be moderated to conform to the capacity purchased.
There are some suggestions that pricing should be based on total bytes transferred without regard to bit rate. I disagree with this idea. I believe such a policy would be a serious mistake. For one thing, it produces great uncertainty in the monthly cost of service. Consumers are less likely to try new services if there is uncertain cost. New product and service development would be suppressed for lack of market, and innovation would diminish.
The limiting factor is, and should be, data rate.
Having paid for access to a given capacity (i.e., data rate) to reach the Internet, users should be free to use it as they wish, within the limits of the purchased capacity. Interference with the freedom to reach any network destination and to use any network protocol is unacceptable.
This does not mean that Internet access providers should be prohibited from protecting users and the network from denial-of-service attacks. On the other hand, filtering viruses and worms from email, for example, should be a distinct application service and should only be engaged if the access user also contracts for this kind of service from the access provider.
Internet application services can be separated. Users should not be forced to purchase value-added services from the same party that provides access to the Internet. This separation is important to promote competition on a broad scale.
— Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google