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Tip for Rational Thinking #1: Broadband is Not the Same as Your Gas & Electric Service

Phillip Dampier April 4, 2009 Talking Points 10 Comments

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One of the many arguments you will hear from the pro-rationing broadband providers is that “flat rate, unlimited” pricing is unfair.  A much fairer approach is to charge you for only what you use.

You don’t get flat rate service from your power company.  You have to pay for what you use.  Our company feels it’s fairer to every customer to charge for access just like your local gas and electric company does.  Then you only have to pay for what you actually use.

If you hear this argument, consider this:

With your gas and electric service, you control what you consume.  Don’t want to pay as much?  Turn off lights and lower the heat – you have absolute control.  But in the broadband world, it’s impossible to do this.  That’s because you do not have total control over your Internet connection.

Do you have to provide an electrical outlet for the guy standing outside of your front door with a power drill trying to break your lock and force his way in?  That’s what happens every day on your broadband connection.  Hackers, bots, network probes and other uninvited traffic is continuously arriving at your cable modem.  That blinking data light on the front of your modem is all you need to know that with usage caps, you are now paying for all of that traffic, day in and day out, 24 hours a day.  Time Warner, among others, apparently is incapable of stopping it, but they do feel capable of asking you to pay for it.

Right in the middle of preparing dinner, are you compelled to let the Viagra salesman, a home refinance scammer, a Nigerian with an offer you can’t refuse, and Capital One into your kitchen to pitch you products and services?  If these people broke into your home and turned on all of your lights and turned the heat up, you’d call 911 and have them arrested.  They can’t just move in and jack up your utility bills.  But on broadband, not only are they allowed into your home through web advertisements, pop-ups, and spam e-mail, but now you are expected to also pay for it!  This article brought to you by that free Nintendo Wii you just “won.”  Congratulations!  And since that pop up ad had audio in it, you owe us an extra nickel.

When you arrive home from work, is a power company representative parked in your driveway banging on your door begging to upgrade your meter because they found a major flaw in it after they installed it?  Probably not, and even it was true, you wouldn’t be billed for their problem.  But in the broadband world, Microsoft comes knocking at least once or twice a month with critical patches, bug fixes and upgrades, all of which consume bandwidth you are now being asked to pay for.  Be it a Linux distribution, an update for your iPod, or the latest antivirus definitions required to keep your online experience safe (because your broadband provider cannot), cough up the cash!

Whatever you do, don’t ask this question:

If my broadband connection is just like my gas and electric service, shouldn’t you also be regulated by the government to ensure you are providing fair, equitable, and reliable service?

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