Friday, February 08, 2008

Benedict@Large: "Like your broadband? Just wait."

From: "Benedict@Large"
Subject: Like your broadband? Just wait.
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2008

    Like your broadband? Just wait.
    If you're anything like me, you love your broadband connection. Not that your provider is perfect, but isn't that speed great? So much in so little time.
    At first, you either had broadband or you didn't. One size fits all. Then, the providers got together and started offering "tiered" broadband. Want a little more speed? Pay a few dollars more a month. But that didn't matter much because waiting 40 seconds for that video clip instead of twenty just wasn't a big enough deal for folks like us to pony up the extra dollars.
    But our ISPs still wanted more money, and so they tried to tier the internet itself! Internet sites that paid for premium delivery of their content would get it, while those who did not would be delayed in their delivery, even though we had paid for our broadband. They wanted to make our providers of internet content to pay extra for its delivery or make us wait extra for it, even as we had paid them to not wait for it.
    That effort is still in limbo; it requires an act of Congress before they do it, and so far, our internet service providers (ISPs) have not gotten that.
    Now, enter into their latest effort (the below article) to extract more money from us for less service. Now I write here assuming that most of you are at least a bit like me; you like to download (lots) whatever you can that you are interested in, and you need your broadband to do it. Well, it seems that our ISPs have suddenly found a new scheme to get more money out of you and I: They want to charge us for how much we download. If you download a lot, you'll be seeing an extra "usage charge" added to your bill.
    Do you use peer-to-peer file sharing? You're screwed. Pay for it. Like NetFlix and use their download service? Sorry, add to your NetFlix charge your ISP's charge for "excess usage".
    You have to understand what this is about. Your ISP is all willing and good to provide you with the quick access you've become used to, but they want more money from you if you get "too much" quick access. They sold you on quick access when you got broadband, but now they want to also tell you how much of that quick access you can have. Too much, and they want more money from you.
    Now the article below says that they are testing this in some community in Texas, and screw them I guess. But they are testing it there to see if it will work for the rest of us. If it works there, expect them to try it elsewhere. Like in your neighborhood.
    I've heard of late from others who have recently had their internet service suddenly cancelled. Excessive usage. And on every instance of this, the ISP could (or would) not specify exactly what constituted excessive usage. These folks had somehow exceeded some limit that could not be specified. I myself recently reviewed my new AT&T contract (which bought out my BellSouth contract), and indeed it specified this nebulous limit that might be applied to me. This is where they are coming from. They want more money out of us for the same service, and left to the "free market" Bushavics, they will get it. Which leaves it to us. Again.
    Now think of this for a moment. As liberals, we understand how critically important it is that people have as full access to internet content that they can use. Indeed, the internet is replacing our access to our now underfunded libraries, replacing those libraries with online content … our new world of knowledge.
    I think back now to when I was a child. Everyday as I walked home from school I went by my local branch of my town's libraries, and often stopped in. I loved that library so much, I would often go in without a single thought of why I was going in or what I was looking for as I did. I would "discover" that only as I repeatedly browsed what was there.
    Think of this. I was poor. This library represented to me everything I wanted to know about, and everything my parents could not afford to provide me.
    We speak these days of providing internet access to everyone, especially to poor children. To provide them with an equal opportunity so that they too have the ability to rise above their circumstances; to succeed. And yet now we are confronted by an industry that seeks to restrict how much we want to learn by how rich we are. If we (and especially our children) are indeed quite curious, our curiosity will be limited by what we can afford to toss at our ISPs. In other words, what is being pawned off to us as a quite reasonable usage fee will actually become a method of controlling what rich children can learn from the internet verses what poor children can learn. This is wrong. Our democracy cannot survive the tiered access to knowledge based on wealth that these corporations want. Our children too cannot survive this as they hope for their own futures.
    It's one community in Texas that is suffering from this so far. But it will not remain this way. If they get away with this there, we will begin to see it everywhere. One more spike in our democracy's death.
    Yes, we can.
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