Just got done taping the CW-16 segment on the Time Warner cap about an hour ago, and I think it went rather well. Certainly better than my unintentionally stoic performance on the night of the primaries this past election season.

Not sure if they’re going to put it on the web or not, but if it shows up, it will show up here. We got to discuss a number of good issues surrounding the cap, including Net Neutrality, competition and duopoly and how much technology has changed over the years relative to the static service Time Warner has provided. I really appreciated being given the time to speak to Rochester outside of my little blog, here.

Update: Video of the interview can be found here.

Time Warner’s recent announcement that it will be switching to a new tiered pricing scheme – meaning that users who go over a cap on their bandwidth will be charged per-gigabyte – is making big headlines this week. But are we discussing the actual issue at hand, or are we being played by a corporate sucker game? Let’s discuss the arguments on their merits.

Time Warner representatives claim that, “We want our customers to download as much data as they want from wherever they want. All we ask is that they pay for whatever they consume.” Are we not already doing that? Time Warner has advertised for years – along with every other High Speed Internet company – that we could “download movies and music” with their service. If we weren’t able to do that, why would any of us ever have paid for a service literally double the price of the standard service ten years ago, dial up?

Time Warner also throttles our bandwidth and has for years. That means that while the pipes connected to your house might be able to handle 20Mbps of service, the company prevents you from getting more than 10Mbps on a good day. So, we’re paying more money for a service designed to download movies and music – which doesn’t even operate at the speed it should – and now they want you to pay for using more of their service? That doesn’t exactly sound like a fair shake.

And in all the years that Time Warner has been in Rochester, their service has never once increased it’s value. If anything, value went down when they opted to throttle bandwidth. Meanwhile, the cost of having a HSI connection has remained the same. Cost stays stead, value goes down, therefore we’re already technically paying more for less. This is exactly the opposite direction we expect technology to go.

What possible justification could there be to pay more for service which is a decade old? If on the other hand, they made capital investments in our infrastructure, raised the throttle cap and made the download cap larger, more expensive service might make sense. And by the way, Road Runner already has a Business Class version of their service, which means they already have a second tier from which to glean more money.

But even more disingenuous is this claim:

When Time Warner Cable introduces a new payment structure for Internet service later this year, it says it will place customers in plans aligned with their current usage.

That means subscribers to the company’s Road Runner service shouldn’t face higher costs, spokesman Alex Dudley said Thursday.

OK, this one’s easy. Why would you open this can of worms with your customers if you didn’t think you were going to get more money? If the majority of users won’t pay more, what is the incentive? Corporations don’t do anything without a motive, so clearly there must be some sort of incentive.

And the incentive is to move the goal posts in the discussion of Net Neutrality. The Time Warner plan will almost certainly fail in Rochester, a city with a heavily technological background where more than a few people know this plan is crap. But that’s OK: the idea is to float the notion of *having* to pay for more service; the idea is to leave the impression that the Internet is getting crowded and someone’s going to have to pay for it.

If this notion becomes a default axiom in the media, then the question becomes: who will pay for this extra bandwidth? Customers won’t want to pay for it, which means that the idea of a two-tiered Internet becomes the only viable alternative.

I’m asking all of you who read this and care about maintaining a viable, healthy Internet to get involved in what ever way you can to put a stop to both the Time Warner service change and the dishonest swindle of Net Neutrality that Time Warner is attempting. Go to StopTWC.info for more information, including the phone number of Colleen Bernard at TWC Customer Care.

If you haven’t had time to do so already, you should really check out Google Chrome, which promises to be the most significant new development in computer software in about ten years.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of adapting new technology right away, prefering instead to watch others scrape their knees while the kinks are worked out of the new system.  In this case, however, I’m inclined to maybe take the leap, just because this seems a genuinely new and different technology of which I’d like to be well-familiar by the time it reaches saturation.

What Google is not saying about this new app – but everybody else who knows a thing or two about computers is saying – is that Chrome is not really a browser at all: it’s a web-based application Operating System.  Chrome allows you to launch web apps directly from the desktop – like anything from Flickr’s photo managing to your WordPress blog.  It handles file downloads on its own, has an integrated search/url/bookmarks toolbar that seems at least as impressive as FireFox’s “Awesome Bar,” which I love.  In short, this application seems built around the idea that you can virtually bypass your current Operating System and file system to store and work with everything online, making Windows optional and Linux systems at least as viable.

All of this is fascinating, but think for a moment about the consequences.  Your ISP is looking to cap your downloads, which means even accessing your own stuff could cost extra money.  Telco giants – not just your local ISP – want extra money for all that surfing you do.  Meanwhile, Google itself has left privacy advocates steaming over it’s dealings with China, and the pressure to release sensitive information in the United States and elsewhere will become more and more difficult to resist as we continue to do more things online.

I don’t particularly have any perscriptions for any of this.  All I’m saying is that we need to pay much, much more attention to the Internet as a vital resource than our current political environment allows.  We need to forget that much of the traffic on the Internet is concerned with porn or Miley Cyrus and take this seriously.

Of the companies who have long declared a tiered Internet the only just system for the Big Telcos, AT&T has been on the forefront for a long time, now. Back when Net Neutrality was a big buzz word in Washington, it was quotes from AT&T executives that really got the dander of the Save the Internet crowd up. Now that broadband companies have found a back-door route into the tiered Internet world (because, do not let them fool you: Tiered Internet and Metered Internet are functionally the same thing), it’s no surprise that the AT&T Broadband folks are looking into making the same switch:

AT&T Considering Metered Broadband – GigaOM

Bend Broadband, Comcast, Time Warner Cable — they’re all considering or going the route of the tiered (aka metered) broadband. Now add AT&T to that list, according to a report in CED magazine.

Let me just state once again the point that I think is the most relevant, here: there is a fundamental type of discrimination inherent in this system which measures total download capacity, a concept completely foreign to most Internet users.

And just as an antidote to this new system, what if there was a site that would allow you to completely use up any extra bandwidth at the end of the month, just so you’ve gotten what you paid for? Imagine the load on the network if people just started downloading text files at 10gb at the end of the month – not because the files themselves are of any value, but just so they can get the full use of their Internet connection?

. . . Long time passing.

A basic premise of the metered Internet plans Time Warner and other ISPs are cooking up is that there is simply too much bandwidth being used up by too few people. You know, the YouTube users and the downloaders. In order to be able to maintain – and presumably enhance – the network to accommodate such over usage, someone needs to pay for all that loss of bandwidth. As much as I vehemently disagree with the plan on a number of levels, I did at first take this root concept somewhat at face value.

But then, on my ride into work this morning, I happened to catch another one of those annoying Time Warner commercials for their “All in One Package” and it suddenly dawned on me: hey! Isn’t broadband phone service (VoIP to it’s friends) kind of a heavy-bandwidth activity? And aren’t people paying Time Warner extra money for use of said service?

Why, yes. Yes they are. And having now encumbered a fair amount of the overall network bandwidth with phone calls, Time Warner would like to charge Internet users extra to do what they were encouraged to do when Broadband Internet was a new and expensive novelty. I’d say that’s fairly close to “double-dipping.”

Does that sound fair to you?

Late Update: Ok, just for the sake of measurement, I checked the total download size of this video on YouTube.  It’s 13 delicious megabytes of the best comedy on television, and it’s five minutes long.  Longer videos are obviously bigger files.  Just for the sense of scale for those of you not as familiar with Ye Olde Internet Page of Weights and Measurements, if you watched this video 65 times a day – without doing a single other thing on the Internet, at all – you would fill up your 25 gig allotment for the month.  I’m not saying that’s a little, I’m not saying it’s a lot. I’m saying it’s a fact.

I’ve mentioned this in a few blog posts in the past, and news about this issue has definitely made it to the DFE news ticker. I’ve also written at length about Net Neutrality, a hand-in-hand issue with this, on both this site and at the request of Phillip on TAP. But it now looks as though the eagle has landed in Texas. Get ready for the metered Internet, where your web usage is measured and charged for just like your cell phone:

Time Warner Cable tries metering Internet use: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance

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.

Time Warner joins many other major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in their complaint that bandwidth-hogging users and sites are driving most of the bandwidth usage. They declare their new metering system as a fair way to drive the billing to compensate:

T.W. Cont’d:

“We think it’s the fairest way to finance the needed investment in the infrastructure,” Leddy said.

But ignoring the issue of fairness for this one article, moving to a metered system of billing for Internet usage fundamentally changes the relationship between the ISP and the user in ways that create troublesome new issues that I do wonder if they’ve given full thought to. The current monthly charge model is a bit like renting an apartment: you pay to live there, however much or little you use the property does not matter. A metered system is more equivalent to your RG&E – or as they say in the article, like your cell phone – inasmuch as you are actually paying for a commodity. Commoditizing bandwidth, or the amount of data you’re able to download in a given month, changes expectations quite a bit.

When you use a cell phone, the phone comes with caller ID as part of the service. This enables you to make an intelligent, deliberate choice of when to answer the phone and when to use your minutes. There is a law on the books that prevents cold-calling marketers from using cell phone numbers. When you call or receive calls from your cellular provider, you do not get charged. In short, the amount you use your phone – and therefore the cellular bandwidth commodity you’re purchasing from your provider – is very much controlled by your own choices.

But on the Internet, it’s more complicated. Yes, you get to decide what websites you visit and what websites you don’t. But the website owner gets to decide who advertises and how, from large image banners to full-animation Flash banners. The metered Internet means that every visitor to the site is actually paying to be advertised too.

Do the ISPs expect to reimburse users for these advertisements? What about pop-ups? Do they plan to provide some way of knowing just how much data a given website will require a user to download, so that users can make informed decisions about where to surf? There is also the issue of viruses, spyware, Microsoft’s “helpful” updating services and other bandwidth-sucking programs that will deplete the reserve of the commodity you’ve paid for.

There will be those who say, “but you’ve got gigabytes of bandwidth per month! You’ll never go over that just because of advertisements.” Certainly, in most cases those people are right. But whether or not you go over your allotted bandwidth is irrelevant to the fact that you are now paying for a commodity and have a reasonable expectation that this commodity cannot be abused against your will.

Secondly, there is the issue of quality. When you pay to have a service which you can use whenever and however you want, there is an expectation that outages will occur, that maintenance must be performed, that there are in fact people using way more bandwidth than you today and the connection might be a bit slower. All of that flies right out the window the minute you consider each and every kilobyte of data to be a commodity you’re paying for. Especially since you’ve paid for x-number of gigabytes per month in advance.

If you’ve paid for them, you have a reasonable expectation that they be available immediately. And what’s more, there should be no reason to expect slow page loads as a matter of course. There is also a certain liability for network viruses and other pests that lurk within the system. If they infect your system and then “phone home,” you’re paying to have a virus.  Something you got from an email is your fault, but something lurking in the system (like, say the old MyDoom virus and others) is their responsibility.

And speaking of email, who gets to pay for all that spam you keep getting?  Yes, those are downloads, too.  While you may not know it, all that mail is going in and out of your ISP’s mail servers before it gets to you.  Why should you pay for spam when they could be filtering it on the mail servers?  Or even all that crap you get from your Aunt Helga?

Finally for this discussion and potentially most important, consider the education factor: there is a vast sea of under-educated users out there that make up the majority of the ISP’s clientèle.  Or to be more charitable, there is a vast sea of computer knowledge into which most people barely wade, but all of which bares on the decisions they make while surfing.  Lacking knowledge, many users do things on the Internet which have consequences they don’t often know about. You may scoff at these people and say they need to educate themselves, but when the ISP they use switches to metering such arcane computer concepts as “bandwidth” and “gigabytes?”.  That constitutes either an unfair prejudice against the computer neophyte or an expectation that the ISP will provide some sort of training that will educate their users.

All of these are potential pitfalls and highly-likely lawsuits borne out of this need to grab more cash and do an end-run around the two-tier system and the Net Neutrality proponents that stand in strong opposition. Really, did they think this through all the way? Was pissing on their customers really the only way?

Do you watch a lot of YouTube? Do you check out blogs like Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo that employ a fair amount of video in their reporting? Have you been downloading files from iTunes for your iPod? Well, Time Warner wants to put a stop to all that. They’re looking, along with Comcast and a great many other providers, to put a cap on the amount of data you can download under their basic plan and then charge you overage for every gigabyte you download over that. Think “I’m over on my anytime minutes,” and you’ll get the picture.

Now, I realize that not everyone is as savvy when it comes to technology lingo, and the below-quoted article definitely delves into that dark continent more than your average. Still, there’s plenty here that most Internet users should understand and be worried about, so have a read:

Cable Broadband Users, Get Ready For Overage Fees – Clear caps? Great. $1.50/GB Overage fees? Wait a !@$% minute… – dslreports.com

It’s a constant meme thrown out by network neutrality supporters, but it’s true. The future consists of any number of bandwidth eating services that haven’t been invented yet. The present consists of multiple, independent operators trying to force high-definition content down Comcast’s pipe. DirecTV is launching an HD-delivery system that uses your bandwidth as a VOD delivery vessel.

Time Warner Cable’s overage trials involve caps ranging from 5GB to 40GB per month.
If we agree that independent video is a direct and serious threat to
Time Warner Cable television revenue, and we agree that the bandwidth
needed for HD services will only grow, then what stops any cable
operator from lowering the definition of “reasonable consumption” to
deter use of competing HD services?

Kodak’s technology blog, A Thousand Nerds, has an interesting post about the changing nature of consumer entertainment demand and how that will affect the way content gets delivered to its audience. It may be that we finally bridge the Television / PC divide by eliminating both from the equation:

A Thousand Nerds: A Kodak blog about innovation

What does this all mean? The TV and Internet as we know it are about to undergo massive change. TV will be replaced by connected displays able to deliver a full range of multimedia output. Sitting in front of the computer clicking away will also be replaced by new ways of interacting with these connected displays as the interaction transforms from passive consumption to two-way interaction. You can also expect more changes within the industry as companies consolidate, form new strategic partnerships, and realign offerings around multimedia.

Not that PCs will go away, or televisions either. But after decades of attempts to somehow merge the two (Windows Media Center, WebTV, etc), its seemed very clear that the two do not go together. The problem is largely one of furniture, however: people sit at desks to use their PCs and lounge on couches to watch TV, neither of which providing a comfortable environment to swap roles.
Continue reading

Well, don’t that beat all? The AT&T “Content Monitor” that was previewing Pearl Jam’s Lalapalooza webcast performance slipped and cut a scene from their performance. Wouldn’t ya know it? That moment when the magic finger slipped on the magic button was the part where Eddie Vedder was singing about George Bush:

Portions Censored From Pearl Jam Webcast || CMJ News Story

According to Pearl Jam’s website, portions of the band’s Sunday night set at Lollapalooza were missing from the AT&T Blue Room live webcast. Fans alerted the band to the missing material after the show. Reportedly absent from the webcast were segments of the band’s performance of “Daughter,” including the sung lines “George Bush, leave this world alone” and “George Bush find yourself another home.” After questioning AT&T about the incident, Lollapalooza was informed that material was indeed missing from the webcast, and that it was mistakenly cut by AT&T’s content monitor.

Hm. That’s a dilly of a coincidence, eh?

These are some scary times, folks. AT&T monitors our calls, our emails, what Internet web pages we go to and probably our viewing habits on TV, I’m sure. Congress capitulates and passes a law allowing them to do so without penalty. And now the corporation that brought you Fear and Loathing on the Telephone is making it’s own decisions as to what political speech is deemed acceptable use on the Internet. Oh, there’s no reason to think that the two-tiered Internet they so crave would be at all abused, that’s just crazy-talk!

{{ Seriously, people. Call your state representatives. }}

Of course, in this messed-up world of corporate media, who the hell knows what’s really going on? I mean, for all we know, Pearl Jam’s making a comeback at the behest of AT&T who gave those self-righteous douches a new cause to scream about. Of all bands for this to happen to, it just happens to be a has-been nineties band that inexplicably winds up on Lalapalooza? Sounds like a great moment for a content provider to have caught (or created) on their network.

Is there any reason to think that American democracy isn’t nearly doomed? Any reason at all to think that even when George Bush steps down in January, there will be any substantiative change that can pull us back from the brink of god-knows-what? Something preferably of more substance than Marty Kaplan’s “Magical Thinking?”

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Are you happy with your Internet connection speed? Glad to have that zippy broadband access and always carping at your cheap-ass dad to finally make the upgrade? Yep. You’ve got Road Runner, so you should be proud.

Or should you? While you’re mulling over your support for the Brodsky Telecom Bill (aka, Wire New York), consider this: of the top 18 most expensive broadband countries, Americans rank 17th, paying $36 compared to an average $43. Good so far, but what about quality of service? Well, we only get about 1.9mbps (megabits per second) download speed, as opposed to Japan’s fifth most expensive market, where the speed is around 61mbps. You don’t need to be a computer whiz, a mathematician or even Exile on Ericsson St. to see that $49 for Japanese broadband is a far-and-away better deal.

And if that makes you sick, read about the latest record-setter in broadband speed, once again, not in the US:

The Local – Sigbritt, 75, has world’s fastest broadband

A 75 year old woman from Karlstad in central Sweden has been thrust into the IT history books – with the world’s fastest internet connection.{{snip}}

Sigbritt will now be able to enjoy 1,500 high definition HDTV channels simultaneously. Or, if there is nothing worth watching there, she will be able to download a full high definition DVD in just two seconds.

No word on what that will cost, but can you even imagine such speeds without paying for some commercial-grade service like a shared T1? Of course not.

Does it get worse? Oh, yes. Much, much worse below the fold: Continue reading

I’ve had a few too many things going on in the last month, and haven’t had the opportunity to give this bill the time and attention it deserves, but DragonFlyEye.Net is one more blog in New York asking its readers to please support the Brodsky telecom bill, currently being called “Wire New York.”

I’ve taken the opportunity to snag the snazzy graphic from Rochester Turning and Sayhar’s outstanding articles on the subject. It’s now featured prominently at the right of this blog. After all, if this website, one of whose features is an entire section dedicated to technology politics, cannot get behind this bill, who could?

This new bill goes light years beyond any other legislation in promoting the upstate economy by treating the Internet the way it should be viewed: as a key component of the state’s infrastructure, no less important that rail lines or highways. Providing adequate broadband coverage across the entire state means providing a source of revenue, communication, education and free speech, in equal and fair measure, across all segments of our state.

The bill also includes strong Net Neutrality language. The Net Neutrality issues is a complex one that tends to throw people off quite a bit. Go read Sayhar’s articles on the subject, they’re very good primers and include videos by the Save the Internet folks. The trick with NN in New York State is reach: companies who don’t reside in NYS don’t have to follow our rules of Net Neutrality. But the real reason for including such language is to force the issue on the national level, where it can do some real good. If we can get something like this passed in our dysfunctional parliamentary system, surely it can happen on the national level.

And so consider this the first of many appeals to please contact Governor Spitzer and tell him that spreading the prosperity of the Internet across our state is important to you. Tell him to support the Brodsky Telecom Bill today: 518-747-8390.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Net Neutrality and the benefits of spreading the ‘Net around the state from this blog soon!