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The Digital Skeptic: World's Web Won't Like Our Detroit Gas-Guzzler Data Use

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Sergio Tagliapietra figured out the dirty little secret of global, Web-based, software-as-a-service companies.

And he did it while shopping for an Italian cellphone for his American wife.

"When we travel together to Italy, I have to get her an in-country SIM so we do not spend a fortune on the cellphone bill," this trim 30ish Italian told me at a damp Venetian bar last month. "This year I am getting amazing prices. But she still can't go nuts on the Internet usage. It still easily runs out."

Investors should trust Tagliapietra's sense of the true cost for people and businesses to communicate all over the digital world. He's the IT and business process manager for Donghia: Donghia, a Milford, Conn., super-lux home furnishings and textile company. He juggles the tech needs of a global staff of about 150 who serve a demanding global clientele in such far-flung markets as Venice, England and China -- not to mention the firm's design studio here in Manhattan.

"There are many parts to this company, and they work in many parts of the world," he joked. "I sometimes don't sleep as I should."

The two of us were comparing notes on a surprising trend in global telephony: dramatically lower costs not only for international voice and messaging, but for access to the Web on cellular network in international markets such as Italy and beyond.

These lower prices were not just from hip, disruptive global access entrants including the U.K.'s Truphone or San Diego's XCom Global. Oh no. This was discounts from the likes of AT&T (T), T-Mobile and Telecom Italia Mobile -- also known as TIM.

Tagliapietra pointed out the simply awesome TIM-advertised Italian domestic phone and data prices -- in Italian, of course: 1,000 minutes of talk, 1,000 text messages and 2GB of Web data access for about $5.50 a bucket depending on the euro/dollar exchange rate. After that, data access stops and plans needs to be re-upped.

That, of course, made it sound like the global Web software-as-a-service market might thrive in a new world of low-cost cellular data plans -- until I actually tried global Web software as services, such as my company's Google (GOOG) Apps for Business account, on TIM. Never mind that 2GB a month in data limit; 40GB a month would probably not be enough for even an average data-hungry cloud-based business services.
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