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Ex FCC Commissioner Earns Her Pay As Pro-Telecom Industry Hack – Advocates for Internet Overcharging

Phillip Dampier July 10, 2009 Data Caps, Editorial & Site News 6 Comments
Here comes the Astroturf

Here comes the Astroturf

Deborah Taylor Tate, a Bush-appointed ex-commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission is now earning her paycheck regurgitating telecommunications industry talking points of behalf of the astroturf group, the Free State Foundation.

In an editorial in today’s Washington Times (thanks to reader Mitchell for alerting us about it), Tate perfectly falls in line with the talking points Stop the Cap! readers can repeat in their sleep, right down to ripping off AT&T’s “grandmother” analogy from several weeks ago.  Her employer, the Free State Foundation, has a long history of advocating pro-industry positions in opposition to consumer interests.  Having a former credentialed FCC official doing the industry talk is designed to impress.

Tate, who was never impressive as an FCC commissioner and maintains her ongoing unimpressive credentials at FSF, phones it in with a fact-free piece entitled, “Paying for Use is Fair,” in which she directly advocates for Internet Overcharging schemes, attempting to convince readers it will somehow save them money on their broadband service.

Her efforts to tell the story of “paying for what you use” will be comical to those in the communities where such “experiments” were conducted, because Tate either doesn’t know or care about the details of the market experiments she writes about.

Most broadband consumers would be astounded that some members of Congress want to block our ability to pay for broadband Internet use in precisely the same way we now pay for other commodities: Pay more if you use more; pay less if you use less.

Most consumers would be astounded an ex-FCC commissioner got the basic facts wrong about the basis of such pricing schemes.  No broadband provider has ever offered a “pay for what you use” pricing scheme.  They have only offered “pay MORE for what you use, and a lot more if you use more than you thought.”

This comes on the heels of Time Warner’s rapid retreat from a pilot test of pay-for-use broadband pricing, bowing to congressional pressure and protests from consumer groups. Studies have indicated the top 25 percent of users have consumed 100 times more bandwidth than the bottom 25 percent. So, what is fair about one-price-fits-all if someone uses 100 times more than you do?

At least Tate barely acknowledges another basic truth about these pricing schemes: the overwhelming majority of Americans do not want this kind of pricing model, and more than half would leave their existing provider if they tried to force them into one.

The “studies” Tate writes about do not exist.  They are claims by the providers themselves, which have never allowed for an independent review of the raw data the companies claim to base their findings on.  Nor does it account for the industry’s “need” to increase every consumer’s broadband bill with overcharging schemes based on limited consumption allowances and credit card-like overlimit penalties and fees.  Indeed, this is an industry with profits well into the billions of dollars whose costs are actually declining, along with their willingness to invest in growing their networks.  One need only review quarterly and annual financial reports issued by the providers’ themselves to learn the truth.  These companies are not hurting for profits.

Even where monopolies exist, pricing has generally been based on the notion that customers are charged more if they consume more and less if they use less. Obviously, beyond basic necessity, they could exercise some self-control, and could even save money through metering that measured consumption. This is especially true in an environment where consumers have options for providers of broadband, cell phones and now, in many cases, electricity.

Broadband pricing has been flat rate since the service was launched by phone companies providing DSL and cable operators launched cable modem service in most areas of this country.  That’s because broadband has been cheap, capacity plentiful, and profits high.  Absolutely nothing has changed in that equation, except a desire by broadband providers to dramatically grab additional profits, reduce demand with threats of overlimit fees or service being cut off for overuse, and attempts to invest less in their networks.  Controlling online video is critical for most of the providers who find that a competitive threat to their television service business model.

Tate doesn’t bother to contemplate increased competition, seeming happy enough to acknowledge monopolies do exist and then moving on to something else.  That mimics the FCC’s position over the past eight years, so that comes as no surprise either.

Whether run by local co-ops, governments or profit-making firms, any network has substantial capital costs to build out infrastructure, provide service, expand capacity and meet higher demand, particularly at peak periods. The same network cost issues also apply to Internet service providers. Expanding bandwidth and capacity for the exponential growth of Internet traffic is expensive. Updating security applications to prevent cybercrime are increasingly necessary for government, business and individuals, driving up costs even further. The supply of fiber optic cable and computer servers is not infinite, and we are already facing network constraints. We have all experienced the network being slowed by periods of heavy usage. Broadband providers — just like wireless providers — should be allowed to use a consumption model without government interference as long as consumers know and understand what they are paying for.

To date, there has been a surprising uniformity in billing for broadband Internet service. But why should a grandmother who checks e-mail once a day or makes an occasional purchase online be charged the same monthly rate as a researcher downloading massive data files or teenagers watching full-length movies every day? Why not provide consumers the freedom to monitor and control their own use — and to benefit from volume-based rate packages?

AT&T should consider legal action against Tate for plagiarizing their talking points.  In fact, her entire argument is part of the grand Re-education campaign we’ve written about since Time Warner Cable temporarily shelved their overcharging scheme back in April.  The “exaflood” nonsense, the “it’s expensive to spend money to upgrade our networks” whining, and the hissyfit over consumers using their service just as these same providers marketed them are all in there.

Deborah Taylor Tate: The Marie Antoinette of Internet Pricing

Deborah Taylor Tate: The Marie Antoinette of Internet Pricing

At least Tate is consistent — she never cared about consumers like you and I during her stay on the FCC, and she still doesn’t care about consumers by doing the bidding of groups like the Free State Foundation.

What do Washington Times readers think?  Not much of Tate or her positions.  Among them:

“Wow, did you just pull a page out of the telecom’s lobbyist manual to come up with this article?  They are doing this to prevent new technologies from making them an antiquated model, and they are doing it to get more money out of the customer. I promise it has nothing and I mean nothing to do with saving your grandma a single cent.”

“Are you being paid by the cable co? Seriously. Do you even realize with the utter lack of competition and the fact that the cable company enjoys a monopoly in most all of their markets, pricing for use is utterly bad for consumers.”

“Bill is right, you’re just reading talking points at this point, and not looking at the actual economics or technology behind it.”

“Deborah, Please take a moment to think for yourself instead of shilling for an industry. Metered billing has nothing to do with customer choice, please don’t pretend that it does. This is about making more money off of existing usage, while avoiding upgrading of networks and services.”

“So for instance, using the same logic and same company, when I call for traditional phone service, they are quick to sell me an “Unlimited” minute plan for $40.00/month.”

“Metered usage is nothing more than a money grab by the content providers. Their current business model is being threaten by media content being available via streaming services.”

In the end, consumers like you and I pay part of our monthly broadband bill to providers that are cutting checks to astroturf groups to advocate against consumer interests.  Imagine if they spent some of that money on their network upgrades, and a little less funneled to inside-the-beltway hackery written by underwhelming ex-officials-turned-insider-special-interests.

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jr
jr
12 years ago

“You should have to spend your kids college money and your retirement money to use the internet”-Deborah Taylor Tate

Greg
Greg
12 years ago

She has a Facebook profile – why not send her a PM and ask if she feels guilty for selling out the American people for money?

Stew
Stew
12 years ago

What a total embarrassment to all journalism. A shill should be revealed as such.

Tim
Tim
12 years ago

“…Pay more if you use more; pay less if you use less.”

LOL, they already have that model you stooge. It is called bandwidth “tiers”. People that use less can go on the “lite” package while the ones that use more, ie gamers and such, go for the “elite” packages. Deborah Taylor Tate, do you actually think for yourself or are you an automaton? Let me guess, the later.

uks
uks
12 years ago

What a ridiculous, half baked attempt at consumer RE-education… Do the telecom companies behind these bought and paid for mouth pieces actually believe the typical consumer will buy this? It has been shown that even Ol’ Granny wants nothing to do with ANY of these ridiculous/3rd world style “CBB” plans.

outcast2k
outcast2k
12 years ago

this re-education is grand! i didn’t realize all those grandmothers who spends 10+ hours a day on the phone calling grandkids, friends, their doctors , random strangers and other sundry people only has to pay the same price as someone like me (who only uses the phone maybe 2 hours a day). i’m glad mz tate has recognized out this injustice and will be ensuring equitable treatment by making those free-loading grandmothers who are excessively overloading the phone networks pay more for the bandwidth they are using!.

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