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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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jsmith
jsmith
11 years ago

So what third party IS keeping a watch on the “gas meters” that TWC will place for us to watch our usage? How do we really know that this is correct? Will they break this down by day and by sites/downloads that my family did so that we can check it. On my phone bill, I get a statement of everyone that I called so that I can make sure that I’m not being charged for calls that I didn’t make. I would EXPECT that TWC would do the same for internet traffic that they are measuring for me. Otherwise,… Read more »

Shawn808
Shawn808
11 years ago

Phil… I greatly appreciate your time and all the readers too.

Could you post a link and gather some info on how quick 5 gigs goes

EX…

To update World of Warcraft on a fresh install is allmost 3 gig

People who have purchased steam games will essentially be paying again for those game

Online backup sites

just accumulate info on how Quick 5 gigs will be hit

Also possible let future be added like next gen video gaming will most likely be datacenter based with streamed content

BTW ill be there on April 18th

Nathan Henderson
11 years ago

I don’t know if the “malware defense” is the best course of action. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own computers. The root problem is that Time Warner is treating bandwidth as if it were a scarce resource like fuel, which is very far from the truth. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this whole bait and switch is that for years TW sold us on how much faster their service was. “Watch Videos!”, “Download Music!” they said. But now that they are the dominant high-speed ISP in Rochester, they’ve changed their tune. “Oh, we didn’t think you’d *actually* watch… Read more »

Brion
Editor
11 years ago

Just to be clear: RoadRunner Turbo is 15 Mbps – that’s mega*bits* per second, not mega*bytes* — MB is a factor of 8 higher than Mb. However Nathan’s calculation is still correct because he did the conversion: in 6 hours at 15 Mbps, one could download about 40.5GB of data. To take the further, in one month (at full capacity) one could theoretically download 4.8TB of data. Assuming TW’s highest unannounced tier (100GB /mo) is priced at $75 with $1/GB over, 4.8TB would cost approximately $4,835 for that month. Someone please check my math, but I think its’ right. Let’s… Read more »

Drew Saur
11 years ago

Nathan,

Have you ever disconnected your computers from your cable modem altogether? The traffic light still blinks constantly, as a result of garbage traffic being generated by (generally, worm-infested) computers trying to break into your local network. You have no control over that, but TWC will make it your problem by charging you for it.

That’s a very powerful thing to consider when comparing against everything else in your life that you pay for.

Drew

Chris Acheson
11 years ago

Nathan:

I agree with you in general, though I would like to add that it isn’t even metering that’s a problem so much as the prices they’re planning to charge. Claiming that “people should pay for what they use” is disingenuous unless what people are being charged is roughly in line with the expenses that they are imposing on the provider. I doubt this would be such an issue if the plan were to charge 10-20 cents per gigabyte. As it stands, the price is a clear attempt to punish users of alternative video and phone providers.

Nathan Henderson
11 years ago
Reply to  Chris Acheson

I think what Time Warner is really saying is “We don’t want heavy Internet users as customers. You should only use the Internet for basic surfing & email. We want you to use the services we sell you, and only those services. Don’t watch Hulu or Netflix, watch cable TV and use pay-per-view instead. Don’t use Vonage, use Time Warner Digital Phone. Don’t create content & share it with the world, CONSUME [through our services only].” Unless they change their position, I think we should oblige them and spend our money elsewhere. Unless TW sees an exodus of customers, they… Read more »

Brion
Editor
11 years ago

I suggest a simple analog to demonstrate how bandwidth usage tiers is not in any way like your utilities. Instead of thinking of bandwidth as being like water or gas, think of water or gas companies implementing what Time Warner proposes: cap your usage and give you a meter to monitor it. But that is only half the analogy. First off, in the best case scenario you already provide your gas, electric, or water meter readings to your utility and they bill you based on consumption. But if you don’t then they either read the meter (attached to your house)… Read more »

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