The single player thing makes me sad, as far as i know me/my brother had the highest legit single player character pre lord of destruction, which basically means we played a metric shit tonne of D2 in the early days. (okay okay so some guy may have had higher but not posted in forums). I won't go into it at length here as there are some pretty obvious reasons why offline / local multi was better. I think it's also worth noting that the longest active Diablo II community, was/is the single player forum community over at diablo.incgamers.com(diabloii.net).
I did have hardcore characters on bnet also (didn't know about SC), but never really got into it because even like 4-5 years later when I had ADSL I would get 2-3k ping spikes. DII also being such a super fast paced game, I usually found I could simply play to a much higher standard in single player, particularly notable on stuff like a sorc.
My issue with the real money AH is a bit different. I never traded much in D2 anyway because the online economy was a hacked shambles, and a guy me and Chrien knew made quite a bit of money doing meph/pindle/baal runs and ebaying the items. (he got like $700 alone on a windforce I think). I even sold my own SWG account to help pay for RL medical bills.
However as Demandred said, essentially Blizzard is making money off you playing the game if you participate in the online economy (even the non RM AH). Sure they can regulate the shit out of it, but I would actually be interested to see if it any governments ban the game based on the implications of all this.
Sadly the only way to play DIII without a real money auction house will be as a hardcore character based on what they have announced so far. I appreciate them including hardcore mode, but actively avoiding dangerous encounters and having a huge amount of play time left up to the whims of lag/disconnects/crashes isn't really my thing.
edit: also beta info pages is up here http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/ev ... ml#summary
, doesn't look like they have a date yet.