ACTION ITEM: Coordinated Attack on Net Neutrality is Underway

[Cross-posted everywhere I can]
Just yesterday I posted a diary about a story about Time Warner rolling out 'metered' internet usage that has received a decent amount of coverage. Some of the commenters were very skeptical that it directly correlated to Network Neutrality. To them I now ask that you drink a big glass of STFU.

Via Wired:

Comcast will begin testing what the cable concern has described as a "protocol agnostic" approach to managing bandwidth traffic during high-peak periods, Comcast said Tuesday.

Selected customers in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Warrenton, Virginia, are expected to receive e-mails on Wednesday highlighting the program. The 30-day tests are expected to begin Thursday.

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UPDATE There's a lot of resistance in the comments over at my DailyKos posting to the idea that metered usage and bandwidth caps directly relate to the issue of network neutrality. My point in sounding the alarm about these policies is that until we have solid regulations protecting net neutrality in place, we should view any attempts to cap or meter usage as the trojan horse that will be the 'slow lane', which goes right to the heart of net neutrality. Once these caps and limits are endured by the public long enough, without NN regulation, the broadband providers will be free to allow content providers of their choosing to bypass these caps and meters. It's really not that hard to see the logical conclusion of these telcos actions, absent any legal obligation to remain common carriers.

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It simply CANNOT be a coincidence that two of the major telcos are rolling out drastic changes to how we access the internet in the same week. This may not be the knockout blow to net neutrality, but it is certainly the opening bell of what will be a bloody fight.

And for those of you who are unfamiliar with Time Warner's latest move against NN:

On Thursday, new Time Warner Cable Internet subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, will have monthly allowances for the amount of data they upload and download. Those who go over will be charged $1 per gigabyte, a Time Warner Cable executive told the Associated Press.

Metered billing is an attempt to deal fairly with Internet usage, which is very uneven among Time Warner Cable's subscribers, said Kevin Leddy, Time Warner Cable's executive vice president of advanced technology.

Just 5 percent of the company's subscribers take up half of the capacity on local cable lines, Leddy said. Other cable Internet service providers report a similar distribution.

"We think it's the fairest way to finance the needed investment in the infrastructure," Leddy said.

Metered usage is common overseas, and other U.S. cable providers are looking at ways to rein in heavy users. Most have download caps, but some keep the caps secret so as not to alarm the majority of users, who come nowhere close to the limits. Time Warner Cable appears to be the first major ISP to charge for going over the limit: Other companies warn, then suspend, those who go over.

The caps they are proposing will be tiered at monthly limits of 5GB and 15GB, which may sound like a lot, but when you consider the explosive growth of video streaming, which is nowhere near its peak, this is a ridiculously small amount of bandwidth. Now a lot of people actually think it's reasonable for ISPs to start charging subscribers more due to this increased strain on the network. As far as this strain goes, I call bullshit. These networks have MAJOR plans in the works to rollout HD streaming content and other VOD services. Do you really think they're going to limit you from purchasing these services by their arbitrary bandwidth caps?

That's where net neutrality comes in. Once they've rolled out 'metered' usage and everyone starts having to keep a constant close watch on their usage, we're going to start see 'preferred partners' hook up with the major bandwidth providers whose content will get to bypass the meters. We as consumers will have absolutely no say in which sites are now off the meter and which ones will stay on, but I can guarantee you that none of them will be the little guys, the independent producers, people I hope like you and me.

I think anyone who's been paying attention to the current landscape of entertainment and news media would agree that it has been nothing short of a sea change in the power of our media oligopolies. Every major distribution-based media industry is in decline, as people-powered and decentralized distribution means have soared. The point is the media monarchy is scared shitless and it should be, because as long as the Internet remains the true meritocracy that it has been, then they will eventually lose.

Can anyone deny that this medium has proved absolutely vital to the health and vitality of our democracy considering the historic candidacy and campaign of Barack Obama? I could understand these upcharges if these companies were drastically improving service or improving our telecommunications infrastructure, but that does not appear to be the case. Not to mention the fact that they have been making money off of the use of what I consider to be the commons (considering the fact that cable does run under and over public property) and most U.S. residents do NOT have a choice when it comes to broadband. Some may be able to choose between two of the telecom giants, but there don't seem to be ANY middle or small market ISPs anymore. Not like when I first jumped online in 1996. Just look at the mobile market, there are competitors sure, but they all seem to offer the exact same rate packages. Much like other oligopolized (new word!) industries such as mobile, oil, and pharmaceuticals, there is a revolting amount of collusion to keep prices high so that everybody wins--except the consumers.

Here's the good news, the end game is still a few years off and we can preempt the telecoms efforts to stifle the true creative, independent spirit of the Internet by contacting our representatives in Congress and demanding that they enact legislation to prevent any violation of 'network neutrality' through the conferring of any 'preferred content provider' status--EVER. This means that if the telecoms want to roll-out metered usage, they can, but they will not be able to use this as a means of bludgeoning out the competition by allowing a select few to bypass the meter.

I recently learned that when you contact your representative, they tend to go by a ratio of 1:13000. That is they assume that if you care enough to contact them about something that there are 12,999 other voters who care just as much but for whatever reason have not taken the time to make their opinion known. If I've inspired you to act, you should also know that the best and most effective means of influencing congress is to fax them. Phone calls don't leave a paper trail, and letters don't really get read so much since that anthrax bullshit a few years back. Just take the time to write out why you believe that the Internet should not be fucked with and demand that laws be passed to ensure that our broadband providers remain 'common carriers', in much the same way as the post office.

For more information on this topic, visit Save The Internet. And if you are a user of Current.com, please vote up my article.

Please call or fax your representative in Congress today and ask them to support The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008 (HR 5353).

Tags: Comcast, Common Carrier, HR 5353, net neutrality, People Powered Media, save the internet, The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, Time Warner Cable (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Rec'd.

Bloggers should keep themselves constantly up-to-date on internet regulation and Net Neutrality.  I hope others will take a break from primary diaries to give this some spotlight.

by Shem 2008-06-05 08:28AM | 0 recs
Yet another reason to vote Obama

He's 100% pro-net neutrality, from what I can gather.

by Dracomicron 2008-06-05 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: ACTION ITEM: Coordinated Attack on Net Neutral

crap, I'm in Chambersburg, .... and I have comcast ... bastards

by Ashen Shard 2008-06-05 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: ACTION ITEM: Coordinated Attack on Net Neutral

Make sure this gets out in your area.  Go over to DSL.  Send a strong message to stop this early.

by rf7777 2008-06-07 01:09PM | 0 recs
ACTION ITEM: Coordinated Attack on Net Neutrality

If they impose such a cap on my service I will cancel the service and move to DSL or any service that is reasonable.

Don't roll over, kill their profits.  This is the only thing they understand.

by Why Not 2008-06-05 08:50AM | 0 recs
Yeah

I was considering keeping my Comcast when I move to a new apartment this summer; I'm not in an affected area, but I'm inclined to drop it anyways in sympathetic protest.

by Dracomicron 2008-06-05 09:19AM | 0 recs
Net Neutraility

Comcast will begin testing what the cable concern has described as a "protocol agnostic" approach

Protocols only determine how the traffic is transferred, not what is transferred.  I think you are right to be alarmed.  It would be different if they claimed "content agnostic", but the way they are wording this leaves the door wide open for what you suggest.

by edg1 2008-06-05 10:32AM | 0 recs

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