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Cable Industry Taking Control of the Net 686 has a piece warning of measures that cable internet providers are taking to control their users' experiences online. We've touched on this before, but this issue needs a lot of attention and it has gotten very little from the mainstream press.
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Cable Industry Taking Control of the Net

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  •'s not surprising that these kinds of stories don't get any airtime.
    • by dj28 ( 212815 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:32PM (#4532888)
      That's utter BS. Most of the cable news networks and the three major broadcast stations here in the US get their stories from the New York Times, or the major news wires (AP, Reuters, etc). Television is only a fraction of the news outlets out there. You have the internet, newspapers, magazines, journals, etc. To say that they are supressing this is utter conspiracy at best.

      Secondly, they aren't taking control of the internet. There will always be several ways to get internet access. You have telephone lines, satellite connections, other companies that own the last mile fiber, and more. Ten years ago, it looked like the telephone companies would 'own' the internet. But looking back, it turned out to be nothing. The same thing holds true right now. Just because cable companies are doing a good job providing high speed access doesn't mean that it will stay that way ten years down the road.
      • Look at wireless (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:46PM (#4532999)

        In the Texas Panhandle, it's flat. Really, really flat. It's so flat, that on a clear day, you can look off at the horizon and see all 360 degress of it... faded blue depending on the humidity, but there nonetheless.

        Now, what do you need for a good wireless connection? A flat, unobstructed line-of-sight to an antenna or a repeater.

        Heh... by sticking atennas and repeaters on top of granaries, water towers, and high buildings, wireless ISPs in Amarillo and the surrounds are getting *amazing* distances with their wireless shots. You can drive 30-40 miles away and still get a good clean connection via a pingle-can antenna. Thusly, Wireless is taking off in a big way here. A good number of the people I work with are already using wireless as their main form of bandwidth and out and out refuse to go back to cable. Most everyone else is actively considering switching. Those who are considering other forms of broadband bandwidth are going to DSL and not cable.

        Cable companies and media conglomerates are screaming and making a big fucking deal out of a non-existant problem in the name of gelaning control. What it boils down to is that the technology is changing too rapidly for them to effectively impliment any kind of contols. Sure, they can nail some of the areas in the U.S. where it's impossible to get DSL or wireless, but they can't go everywhere. If my understanding is correct, DSL is getting cheaper and cheaper, and wireless is getting better and better. Cable is a flash in the pan. A bright flash, but a flash in the pan nonetheless.
        • Re:Look at wireless (Score:3, Interesting)

          by klevin ( 11545 )
          by sticking atennas and repeaters on top of granaries, water towers, and high buildings, wireless ISPs in Amarillo and the surrounds are getting *amazing* distances with their wireless shots. You can drive 30-40 miles away and still get a good clean connection via a pingle-can antenna.

          That was the first thing I thought: you just need to set up ad hoc networks between people in a community, and do an end run around the cable/telephone companies. However, as soon as this starts happening, and the cable/telephone companies start losing noticable numbers of subscribers, guess what will happen. Reg-u-la-tion. The government agencies that deal with such issues, such as the FCC, are in the pocket of the companies they're supposed to regulate. Neither the agencies nor the elected officials are about to let their pay-masters take a bullet.

      • Most of the cable news networks and the three major broadcast stations here in the US get their stories from the New York Times

        Do they have to log in first?
  • by stephenisu ( 580105 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:07PM (#4532649)
    I am sorry Dave, I can not allow you to visit this non-TimeWarnerAOL site... The Media was not endorsed by the RIAA or MPAA
    • by stephenisu ( 580105 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:11PM (#4532689)
      Oh and Dave.. I am charging you a $0.35 surcharge for looking at free porn on the bandwidth you already paid for..
  • by Clue4All ( 580842 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:08PM (#4532659) Homepage
    But the big media companies offering Internet service; Comcast, ATT, AOL -- would like to change that, and already have in a few test locations.

    Would you mind telling us where these "test locations" are? This is the same rhetoric we've seen over and over again. There's nothing new in this article and no supporting evidence for ANYTHING that's stated. What a waste.
    • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:18PM (#4532755) Homepage Journal
      A friend in Sacramento had his AT&T cable modem service shut off repeatedly. He was at home all day, and listening to internet talk radio (most commonly his own show, just to see what was on). Apparantly a 24k stream from Live365 was enough to enforce a AUP shutdown... of course, he wasn't doing anything that was against the AUP, and he go them to turn it back on every time, but they would turn around and shut his account down again a week later.

      He moved to Texas, so there was no real resolution.

      I noticed the other day when I fired up Gnutella to grab a Buffy episode I missed that I was disconnected from SBC DSL (aka PacBell DSL), and couldn't connect for about 15 minutes. It's the second time that's happened. I don't use Gnutella except for maybe once a month, and probably haven't used it in the past three months or longer, so I don't know if it's really SBC, or when they started doing it.


      • A friend in Sacramento had his AT&T cable modem service shut off repeatedly. He was at home all day, and listening to internet talk radio (most commonly his own show, just to see what was on). Apparantly a 24k stream from Live365 was enough to enforce a AUP shutdown... of course, he wasn't doing anything that was against the AUP, and he go them to turn it back on every time, but they would turn around and shut his account down again a week later.

        And yet I know a dozen users in the SF Bay Area who listen to Live365 up to 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week (myself included), and none of them have ever had their service shut off.

        Are you sure that your friend isn't just getting poor service from ATT ? They are known for their outages, and their supplied cable modems have trouble dealing with network hiccups. Did the support folks actuall say the problem was with the AUP?

        During the rainy season earlier this year, I had a period where my ATT connection died every several days. When it happened, I called tech support, they asked me to do the 'unplug the cable modem. Wait 5 minutes, plug it back in' trick. It worked, but my connection would die just a few days later. After a few rounds of this, and alot of complaining on my part, ATT finally sent a technician to check on the problem.

        Lo-and-behold, the problem was actually a corroded connector on one of the telephone poles. Apparently my connection would die, and the cable modem couldn't cope with the degraded network connection. It's been 8 months and several hundred hours of streaming audio later, and I've only had 2-3 more outages, and of which were all resolved within 10 minutes.
    • by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:38PM (#4532942)
      ... because I am seeing it first-hand.

      If you'd (wait for it!...) read the article you would have seen the example given in Canada; Sympatico, run by Bell, has recently done this very thing. 5 GB cap. Go over the limit.. and they dock ya.

      I personally know a few people who were incensed enough about this to flee to the only other broadband provider in Canada, Rogers... which also has a tiered plan in effect. The difference is that Rogers will pinch the connection after a certain data-rate has been sustained for an unspecified period of time (basically warez kiddies snarking something off LimeWire). But it's not capped. Thus, the lesser of two evils.

      But yeah, it's real today.

      • by malfunct ( 120790 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:07PM (#4533197) Homepage
        I'm all for paying for the amount of bandwidth used as long as its clear in the contract ahead of time, and as long as there is a way to roll over unused bandwidth to the next month or get a discount for unused bandwith.

        I think if a network is worried about your peak usage rather than total usage they should put a lower threshold on your bandwidth. If you are really only paying for half the bandwidth you are promised then that has to be some sort of fraud. They shouldn't be able to advertise unlimited connections when they really aren't unlimited.

        I have no problem with a company deciding to cap connections in one way or another, but at least be honest in your advertising and mention that you are capped.

  • Tiered Pricing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordYUK ( 552359 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:10PM (#4532675)
    If you want to have tiered pricing, you better damn well ensure I get what I pay for. I would give up an extra 10-20 a month for BETTER service, not the SAME service. (I have AT&T broadband right now, and it serves my needs, I game and play around on KaZaA alot, and FTP stuff around between friends). But if I get the same service I get now, thats a Damn Rip Off (tm).
  • by strictnein ( 318940 ) <strictfoo-slashdot@yahoo. c o m> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:10PM (#4532680) Homepage Journal
    this issue needs a lot of attention and it has gotten very little from the mainstream press

    Strange isn't it? Since AOL/Time Warner (a major cable internet provider) controls a ton of the mainstream press.
    • by wishus ( 174405 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:23PM (#4532808) Journal
      What they don't realize is that as soon as metered bandwidth becomes a reality, ad-blocking software will become a big market.

      This is funny, because AOL/TW sell (and place) a LOT of ads.
      • Quoth the poster:
        What they don't realize is that as soon as metered bandwidth becomes a reality, ad-blocking software will become a big market.

        Why bother? Just drop each adserver you encounter in 'hosts' with an IP of
        • Don't set it to localhost, that's too slow (as it will actually try to connect to localhost each time). Set it to -- it won't even try to connect.
  • This is nothing new. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JasonUCF ( 601670 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:10PM (#4532683) Homepage
    Repeat after me

    ISPs do not control the content.

    ISPs do not control the content.

    ISPs do not control the content.

    As long as you are on the internet, and can connect to IPv4 or IPv6, you cannot be stopped. The technology inherently allows you to move around blockages or outage points.

    Now, if you say "Wait! 3 Media Companies control 80% of the US Internet usage", I say 'Duh!' Like AOL, Compuserve, GEnie, controlled the dialup networks back in the day. It's economy of scale -- you're never going to have enough mom and pop goodie two shoe's scattered around the globe to make every locale capable of having yippie friendly internet access. The big companies with the big bank accounts are the ones that leverage access. Nothing new here.

    STILL, the technology they provide allows you to sidestep any potential blockages they make. Ok, ok, so they block at the router your attempt at reaching 555.12.12.12. So? You want to get ther badly enough, you arrange with someone for a proxy. ... lather, wash, rinse, repeat
    • by Helter ( 593482 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:14PM (#4532721)
      Actually, ISPs DO control the internet...

      Without the core layer routers, root domain system, and communications backbone that the major corporations own and control the internet doesn't operate.

      People often forget that the internet is more than just a bunch of computers connected together. It depends on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment that SOMEBODY has to buy and maintain.
      • Well, er, right, sorry, I was referring to the ISPs as the last mile to the user. Realizing that Qwest, Worldcom, Sprint, et al, *actually do* control the internet.. grin.. I was referring to service providers as the individual consumer level where they are redirecting the pipe to your house.

        If UUNet suddenly died, ahem.. uh, let's try another example, if all the QWest lines suddenly died -- yes, I could see some potential networking issues!

        Thank you for clarifying.
    • by Twirlip of the Mists ( 615030 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:19PM (#4532770)
      As long as you are on the internet, and can connect to IPv4 or IPv6, you cannot be stopped. The technology inherently allows you to move around blockages or outage points.

      Unless you have a tunnel established, I'd say blocking port n at your cable modem pretty well controls your access to services that run on port n, wouldn't you?

      Sure, we could cram everything into port 80-- technologies like SOAP are built around that basic premise already. But that's not exactly the greatest idea ever.

      This sort of thing is a pendulum. Consider pop-up ads. Earthlink is running television commercials advertising their pop-up ad blocking software. Somebody at Earthlink thinks they can get subscribers to sign up by offering a hassle-free Internet experience, and they're probably right. If the pendulum swings too far-- cable modem providers arbitrarily limiting service in ways that customers don't like-- then somebody will see a business opportunity to offer unmetered, unshaped service and the pendulum will start to swing the other way again.
    • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:25PM (#4532825)
      I don't think *you* get it. They don't have to block you. When they give you a 5GB/month quota and charge $8/GB for anything over that, you have no choice. Unless you're made of money.
    • I feel compelled to point out that 555.12.12.12 is not a valid IP address.
    • No, but the fuss is really going to be about control of content. The cable and media companies want people to pay for entertainment delivered down the network connection that they're already paying for. The industry will find a way to prevent copying and redistribution of the content they sell, which will trigger great and incessant rants about rights being trampled. Given the quality of the content likely to be on offer, this will be a bit like ranting about your "right" to reproduce and redistribute your neighbor's trash. Or, worse yet, a typical night's programming on the WB.
    • by ninewands ( 105734 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:56PM (#4533095)
      Quoth the poster:
      As long as you are on the internet, and can connect to IPv4 or IPv6, you cannot be stopped. The technology inherently allows you to move around blockages or outage points.
      ... and if the blockage point is your ISPs gateway to the backbone, how do you propose to route around that? A proxy MIGHT work unless they are using something like the Packeteer Packetshaper to control traffic.

      I know this because I recently had to pry some straight answers out of Time-Warner/Roadrunner on behalf of my boss's boss's boss (He and I are both RR customers). It seems the Dean (yes, I work at an edu) wanted to work from home, including mounting the Windows shares on our NT domain. Time-Warner swore up and down that they did not have the netbios ports blocked until I identified myself as a customer and demanded to speak to security because I could prove that the Level I tech was lying to me. I had port-scanned my box at home and it showed 137, 138 and 139 in state 'filtered' (this is a Linux box without Samba installed, so blocking by RR is the ONLY way I could have gotten that result).

      They finally told me that, yes, the netbios ports are blocked (which I consider to be a Good Thing (TM)) and will STAY that way, and that the only way the Dean could get them unblocked is to buy a commercial account and a static IP (for which RR charges $130.00/month) (which the Dean considers a Really Bad Thing(TM)).

      I told them I would keep that in mind the next time a faculty member asked for my recommendation of an ISP and whether they should get cable internet or DSL.
    • Hmmm, which universe are we talking about here? Is that the same one with winged faeries and dragons? Yeah.

      Ok, I have ONE (count 'em, O-N-E) access point to the internet. How are you supposed to "move around blockages or outage points" when the blockage is on the single access point you have?

      Sure, I could establish an ssh tunnel to another machine and route everything through it... but... that requires that I have access to another machine which is NOT BLOCKED!

      Are *YOU* going to give me a proxy? No? Well then, don't be such a smug little know-it-all and try looking at the world without the rose-tinted specs for a while.

      I happen to have access to a machine on a fixed network connect that I could use for that purpose, MOST people do not. And as that machine is on a fractional T1, the extra latency induced by the tunnel would make game playing laughable -- which is at least half the reason I have broadband at home to begin with. (If all I cared about was downloading, I'd go back to using removable hard drives and my car).
  • I guess its time to switch to DSL, so you can wait for the telecom industry to screw you.

    I'm starting to miss the small ISPs that couldn't screw you as bad because there were many more alternatives.

    Oh well... long live monopolies!
    • by Helter ( 593482 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:18PM (#4532758)
      Well, we can thank the new FCC chairman/media bitch for what we're about to go through. Instead of enforcing the precedent of forcing communications lines to be "rentable" he's decided that internet access is an information service instead of a communication service (or some semantic game like that) which basically allows the major ISPs to have as close to a monopoly as possible.
  • by fudgefactor7 ( 581449 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:11PM (#4532687)
    People may just decide that an Internet Broadband Co-op is a good idea, form one, and snub their nose at the likes of ATT, Comcast, Rogers, Cox, and Mchsi. Policing users is not the job if the ISP, rather assisting law-enforcement once illegalities are done is. That is not a fine line but a really big one, and hard to miss.
  • by anzha ( 138288 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:11PM (#4532692) Homepage Journal

    It seems we have someone predicting the "Imminent Death of the 'Net" again. While this is concerning, unless we can have certificable proof (like the test locations for example), then we really ought to take these things with a bit of a grain of salt. Just IMNSHO.

  • You cannot go and shove the genie back in the bottle in America. Once you give something to Americans they consider it their god given and constitutionally protected right. I have my bandwidth now and I'll be darned if I'll give some of it back and I'll be darned if I'll pay substantially more for it.
    • For once I'll stand up and be a proud American - God knows I dont' approve of everything my country does, espeically lately. However, I'd like to say

      HELL YES.

      I will be dammed if i give it back. I pay $50 a month for "high speed" Internet access, which is now going to become SLOWER and MORE EXPENSIVE?

      No. I think not. Take the fortume you're making off me and buy faster/more efficient equipment. If your cable modem customer base grew too fast because you didn't see the obvious surge comming/your monopoly fored too many customers to you, DO NOT take it out on the customers. UPGRADE. Make it better. If you make it better, more people will come. If more people come, you make more money and yes, you'll have to upgrade again someday. Ohh the shock, the $3 million you just spent has become obsolete in just 5 short years? Does that hurt the poor baby capitalist's bottom line? OoooOOoOoooo perhaps then you're in the wrong game, Uncle Piggybanks!

      Whew, sorry, that kinda works me up a bit. It's really retarded. Anyone from Time Warner wanna chime in and tell us what a friggin mess their system is, and prove my point about the current ratio shift in price vs. quality?
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:12PM (#4532703) Journal
    It seems to me that the SSSCA and Cable Company bandwidth caps are not compatable. The SSSCA is supposed to 'promote Broadband' (not really); the cable companies are throwing on the caps, which will stifle movies, music, and other 'content' that will drive the adoption of more broadband.


  • a bunch of FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by myc ( 105406 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:14PM (#4532720)
    tiered pricing is a GOOD thing. Not everyone needs a super fat pipe. Allow for free-market competition and let consumers pay for what they want and need. What's wrong with that? Death of the Internet, indeed *snort*.
    • Re:a bunch of FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SirChive ( 229195 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:21PM (#4532785)
      Yes, Free Market Competition would be a very nice thing to have. It would eliminate the problems this article describes very nicely.

      The problem is there is little competition and soon there will be less. The vast majority of broadband suppliers have an effective monopoly in their area of service. And the consolidation is continuing.

      Sure would be nice if we actually had a competitive free market rather than a few giant companies buying monopolies for themselves.
      • Re:a bunch of FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sweetooth ( 21075 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:49PM (#4533027) Homepage
        There are options for most people in most places. However, these options are typically not cost effective. Here's an example of things in my area.

        Dial-up: $20 per month
        ADSL: 1.5Mb/384Kb $40 per month
        Cable: 1.5-2Mb/128Kb $40 per month
        SDSL: 384Kb/384Kb $90-130 per month
        SDSL: 768Kb/768Kb $100-200 per month
        SDSL: 1.1Mb/1.1Mb $120-250 per month
        SDSL: 1.5Mb/1.5Mb $140-300 per month
        Wireless: 1Mb/1Mb $50-350 per month
        Wireless: 3Mb/3Mb $100-500 per month

        Now, these all differ in policies, there are ports blocked on some of the cheaper solutions to prevent business from getting residential accounts and paying reduced prices etc, but for the most services this covers the cheapest residential services offered and the more expensive business counterparts from providers that aren't offering broadband to residential customers at a residential rate.

        For the most part people don't need upload and don't care about ports being blocked so they are going to go for the cheap ADSL or Cable solution. For those that want high speed bidirection connections they are going to have to shell out a few more dollars. If you don't want ports blocked you are going to have to pay a bit more.

        I currently pay $179 per month for a 1100/1100 SDSL connection and have had few complaints with the ISP. I'm getting what I'm paying for and I'm paying a premium. If your average consumer doesn't care about unblocked ports and thier upload capacity then $40 per month seems fair to them and anything more than that seems unreasonable. The broadband market is moving more towards these types of consumers and away from the geeks that want complete 100% unrestricted access with no ports blocked and no bandwidth restrictions. Bandwidth isn't cheap for the isps, and for the most part they have shouldered these costs to sell thier product. That's not feasable, and really never was. So what you see is the ISPs changing thier pricing policies and and thier service policies. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is a smart business decision.

        You get what you pay for, and if you aren't willing to pay more for a better service then you shouldn't expect it.

        Hrm, I'm rereading this and not sure If I've made a point or remained coherant at all, but I had a point when I started..... Oh, right my point is there is plenty of competition, it's just not in the price range of the average joe because the average joe doesn't give a rats ass about what the competition is offering.
  • by 1984 ( 56406 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:15PM (#4532730)
    So they want to monitor usage, charge and control access according to how you're using the service.

    Wouldn't that be contradictory to the whole idea of being a common carrier? Hands off, except where we want to squeeze customers for revenue?

  • by gsfprez ( 27403 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:16PM (#4532738)
    because the "Mainstream press [] is [] the [] cable companies []
  • A simple fix (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zaren ( 204877 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:17PM (#4532743) Homepage Journal
    For those who might be concerned that their cable company is controlling how they access the Internet, there's a simple fix for that -

    Don't get your Internet access from your cable company.

    There's still DSL, there's still satellite, there's still (ick) dialup...

    there's still a free market, last time I looked.
    • Don't I wish. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:36PM (#4532929) Homepage
      I've got a Comcast (formerly @Home) cable modem, and I would happily pay more for DSL from somebody like speakeasy, but it's not available in my area.

      The techs laughed at my circuit-- it was the dirtiest they had seen in some time, especially in a major city. Bridge taps, unterminated pairs (one nearly a mile long), some sort of coil, and so on. He said every problem on their list was present more than once, on top of the distance being 50% outside their max window for IDSL (which would have been a whopping 144kbps anyway).

      Satellite is out because of the ridiculous ping. Okay for web access, crap for games.

      Don't forget that there are plenty of people who still live inside a geographically-enforced cable internet monopoly.
      • Re:Don't I wish. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:10PM (#4533216)
        I've got a Comcast (formerly @Home) cable modem, and I would happily pay more for DSL from somebody like speakeasy, but it's not available in my area.

        The techs laughed at my circuit-- it was the dirtiest they had seen in some time, especially in a major city. Bridge taps, unterminated pairs (one nearly a mile long), some sort of coil, and so on. He said every problem on their list was present more than once, on top of the distance being 50% outside their max window for IDSL (which would have been a whopping 144kbps anyway).

        Your problem is not your line, but your choice of providers. Don't get me wrong, speakeasy is a great provider if your line is clean to start with, but they can't afford to fix existing problems when you sign up because they're not charging you for the instalation. You have to get a different CLEC. I have worldcom at my current place of residence (not as the ISP though). They found the best of the available pairs and switched my line on to it. Then they spent over a week fixing all the little problems on it. Sure I paid over $400 for instalation, but every other company laughed at my line and said it was impossible. Not impossible, just expensive.

        Also, you're line may not be too long. The distance is estimated by an impeadance measurement. With the right equipment a tech can figure out if the problem is due to a partial short or some other cable quality problem instead of distance. They can also estimate the location of the probelm and replace that section of the loop. It's hard to believe that you'd be out of range in a big city.

        Satellite is out because of the ridiculous ping. Okay for web access, crap for games.

        You also have a motivation problem. If you use your connection for work then it's easy to justify the cost of a first rate provider. If all you do is play games then I can understand having a hard time justifying the cost of a good connection. I'm not saying you shouldn't play games, but if you turn your line in to an income source on top of it's entertainment qualities it is much easier to write that big check.
  • This sucks.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by solostring ( 620535 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:17PM (#4532744) Homepage
    So if I am reading this right, the ISP, not only will they charge for copyrighted content, but they also will be able to control what I am allowed to see, what I am allowed to listen to and what images I am allowed to view etc?

    Where does this leave the independant artist? The person who wants nothing to do with the large monopolistic and greedy organisations?... the person who is quite happy controlling and distributing their art through the free medium of the internet? Will their unofficial works be barred from being distributed through the net?

    I seriously smell the RIAA behind this....:(
  • Evidence? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Iainuki ( 537456 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:17PM (#4532748)
    This article is long on rhetoric and short on evidence. I don't deny that its logic makes sense, but it hasn't provided any reason to make me believe it.

    I'll express an unpopular opinion here: ultimately, bandwidth will have to be metered. Bandwidth is a commodity (I think it was the commoditization of bandwidth that is the part of the reason for the telecom collapse) like water or electricity: cheap, but not infinite. The problem, of course, is that if bandwidth is allowed to be monopolized like electricity and telephone service are, prices will be increased far above their levels in a competitive environment. I would like to think the FCC and other government agencies would follow such a policy, but I have no real confidence in it.
    • Re:Evidence? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Flamerule ( 467257 )
      Bandwidth is a commodity (I think it was the commoditization of bandwidth that is the part of the reason for the telecom collapse) like water or electricity: cheap, but not infinite.
      It seems this viewpoint pops up whenever a cable/DSL story gets posted on /.

      But isn't bandwidth fundamentally different from electricity and water, in that the latter 2 cost money to generate or pump? With broadband, once you lay the pipe, it doesn't cost anything to actually pull data up and down. Or is there a significant overhead for the ISP in managing all these bits flying around? So that more traffic takes more computing power, and would therefore have to be supported with more money?

      Someone care to fill me in?

  • by fahrvergnugen ( 228539 ) <fahrv&hotmail,com> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:18PM (#4532757) Homepage
    The classic net.geek blunder is at work here in this article, as it assumes that we're the majority, instead of the minority.

    Cablemodem has sucked for a while now if you're a user like the typical /. reader. AT&T uses port scanners to make sure you don't run services on their pipes. The neighborhood scheme is flawed, leading to saturated bandwidth, and frankly, it sucks for what I want. A side effect of this is that users like me are unhappy, but their continued efforts to work around restrictions placed on them by the ISP has made cablemodem suck for mom & pop web surfer, too.

    There's a lot more mom & pops than there are net.geeks. Cable ISP's that survive on volume see more money in providing service to mom & pop websurfer, so they're taking steps to make the network suck more for people like me, and less for mom & pop.

    Eventually, the very-lucrative-for-AT&T-Broadband mom & pop will be all that's left on their networks, and that's fine by me.

    There's other providers waiting to pick up the slack that cable ISP's leave behind. I've already given my business to a DSL provider who lets me do whatever I want with my line, including hosting web/game/email/dns servers from it.

    This looks like a win-win for everyone.
    Cable ISP's get the market they want (e-mail & websurfers), I get the service I want from another provider (gaming, running http / ftp servers, etc.), the other providor carves a profitable niche serving me & those like me, and everyone's happy.

    So what's the big deal?
    • You may be able to choose between cable modem or DSL. Most of the US can't. I can't. Where I live (Melville, Long Island, NY) there aren't other providers waiting to pick up the slack. I'm not in the boonies by any stretch, but the phone company can't give me DSL and doesn't seem to care to. (Unless I want to spend 5 times as much as dialup for a crappy iDSL connection which is around two times as fast as dialup.)
      • So isn't this the angle of the problem that should be attacked? You're locked into a monopoly with only 2 providers who won't give you the service you want, and who keep other providers locked out through underhanded practices.

        Attack the problem on that angle, instead of going after the right of the ISP to use its network as it sees fit.
  • by FyRE666 ( 263011 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:19PM (#4532771) Homepage
    Seems a bit stingy - after you've downloaded the latest RedHat ISOs, and read your spam, you're left twiddling your fingers each month.

    Actually, this will at least help in the fight against spam, as it eats away at a subscribers monthly allowance it would probably help make the scumbags pay through the courts.

    Glad my ISP [] basically allow you to do anything - I've served >30GB from the web server on my DSL line in a month before now! I'm pretty sure I've downloaded close to that figure too, leaving ftp sessions to run overnight for ISO's...
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:21PM (#4532786)
    Volume-based pricing makes sense: the industry can't give you faster and faster access and at the same time allow unlimited volume--they just don't have the hardware and network infrastructure to support it, and, yes, some people will try to stream at the maximum speed whenever they can.

    The real question is what the volume pricing should look like. A 5GB limit is too low--if they charge that, they will likely lose lots of customers. Something that would make more sense to me would be:

    • You get 5GB of peak Internet usage (9am-9pm).
    • You get unlimited off-peak Internet usage (9pm-9am).
    • Only traffic above 128kbps counts towards the volume usage (i.e., you can listen to Internet radio 24h/day)
  • bits and bytes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Barbarian ( 9467 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:21PM (#4532789)
    A classic conflict has arisen over streaming media, especially of radio. In a recent letter to, Andrew Cole, manager of media relations for Bell Sympatico, defended the 5GB bit cap, saying that "In my experience, Internet radio stations usually transmit at approximately 20 Kbps. This equates to 1.2MB per minute, or 72MB per hour. At this rate, a HSE customer could enjoy 70 hours of Internet Radio per month and remain within the bandwidth usage plan."

    20 Kbps * 60 s * 1 B/8b = 150 kB/min
    that means 568 hours worth..

    I assume he was talking about kilobits, because the next paragraph talks about most good net stations being 56k...either that or the people writing the article messed it up.

    • Re:bits and bytes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tokerat ( 150341 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:59PM (#4533117) Journal
      One of the reasons I enjoy my broadband is just that: the bandwidth is "broad". I can listen to the 128kbps stream from Digitaly Imported, or Bassdrive Radio. I know most of you think techno/dace music is crap, well try listening to precise-frequency synths at 20kbps. Ok, now it's WAY crappier.

      I just had this discussion with a friend today... what will be the point of even HAVING boradband if you get 56k speeds? Isn't the whole reason everyone switched to broadband to enjoy the SPEED?

      If cable companies can't handle the traffic load, perhaps it's time for some infastructure upgrades? We're going to use more and more bandwidth, and if you cap me slow and then charge me extra, I'll go back to my old 56k. At least that allows me unlimited usage at the same effective speed :-P
  • Yeah, yeah, yeah (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:23PM (#4532803) Journal
    We're talking about two entirely different things here:

    1) Consumer broadband access
    2) Hosting

    Sure, in theory it would be great if those were the same thing and the little guy or gal could serve a web site, distribute files or relay mail through a box connected to the cable modem. In real life, 'bandwidth hogs' (scare quotes from the article, not from me) pay the same as the web browsers and email readers while indulging their warezing or the urge to run every last service that shipped with Red Hat.

    I have a slow, free dial-up connection at home. How do I manage a web site? I pay $10CDN/month for web hosting, including CGI, PHP, MySQL and anonymous FTP, plus another $10US/year for a domain name.

    If you want to reach an audience, or just play webmaster, paying for hosting is far cheaper and more effective than screwing around with cable modems. If you just want to warez, or just generally be a jackass, your complaining is irrelevant to the article's claims of corporate censorship.

    (By the way, anyone else wonder where gets so much money to run those expensive ads (NYT op-ed page!) that are witless enough to be rejected from a college newspaper? Bill Moyers nepotises a huge pile of foundation funding to, run by his son John. The American Prospect is going to go under so we can get more trash like this.)
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:26PM (#4532842)
    Using PC's as entertainment devices plays right into the hands of the cable companies, the entertainment industry, and folks like Microsoft. They're just drooling at the prospect of relegating the computer to an overblown entertainment node, with their pay-to-play servers feeding the addicted.

    You can stop this by killing the market: Cancel your cable TV subscription. Don't download or play music on your PC. Play DVD's with you TV. You know the drill.

  • Get over it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:30PM (#4532878)
    This has been talked about and talked about and talked about to death. The mainstream media will never cover this, because there's nothing for them to cover. Anyone who cares about this kind of stuff already knows about this. They keep up on the technology, and likely come by here every so often.

    The sky isn't falling. This won't kill the Internet, it will just make it more responsible, for once. Bandwidth isn't an unlimited resource. DEAL WITH IT. If you don't like it, start your own ISP and try to give everyone 2Mbit unrestricted connections, reliably, for $40/month. You won't be able to do it. Get all the venture capital funding you ask for and you still won't be able to do it. Look what happened to Excite@Home. If stuff like this ever happens, it'll be a blessing to networks everywhere. Maybe people will actually take some responsibility and secure their machines when their bandwidth is all used up 'cause someone zombified their machines and used them in a DDoS attack, or the next Internet worm uses it all up. That would make the neighborhood a whole lot safer, let me tell you.

    People claim that restricting bandwidth in this manner will kill off the Internet economy. Bah, I say. It will save the internet economy. It will make people realize that this stuff costs something. It will make them at least be aware of how they use it. If they want to use it alot, they're going to have to pay for the privilidge. If they don't want to use it alot, they're going to be able to pay less, to only use it when they need to.

    I'm all for it. Of course this is all hot air until the cable companies really crack down on it, so I guess let the good times roll as long as they can. That will only make the hangover longer I suppose. I did fine at 56K, I can do it again. No big.
  • The article totally misses the point. If the cable operators want to adopt different pricing systems and charge their customers according to their usage, fine.

    The problem is that some operators are trying to prevent users from using P2P applications, that effectively convert normal PCs into servers that can be accessed by other users. In other words, the cable user should be able to use his computer as something like a TV or a radio (to access information from other people) or like a TV or a radio station (spreading his message to anyone in the world).

    People of the Free Software Foundation say that the computer is not an ordinary machine that can process software, it is a machine that can be used to make new software. In a broadband world, it can be a new medium, accessible to anyone with the technical expertise.

    Many cable companies block the ports with firewalls to prevent their computers to act as servers, and that is what we should fight against. Managing a server is no sweet cake, it can be used as a platform to generate spam or a hacker attack. But, if the user signs some form of responsibility agreement, he should be able to use his broadband anyway he likes.

  • Won't Last Long (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theBraindonor ( 577245 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:32PM (#4532890) Homepage
    What a Great Idea (tm)! Now my broadband will screw me just like my cell phone provider does. Once you step outside you "plan", your ass is theirs.

    All it took for me was a family emergency that required me to keep in touch during the trip home. I got the bill, and nearly had a heart attack.

    But here's the kicker... You can refuse to answer cell phone calls. You can't refuse incoming data! Even if you have a firewalled setup that drops the packets, they still come through your pipe!

    That will be the next attack I'm sure... Don't like someone? Find out their address and packet flood them.
  • by Mannerism ( 188292 ) <.moc.erawtfostops. .ta. .todhsals-htiek.> on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:35PM (#4532921)
    It's incredible that even the cable companies are too dense to realize that trying to sell someone a service by *reducing* its value is a losing strategy. It's ironic that the same applications -- such as streaming media -- that make broadband Internet access so appealing to the general public are being made less accessible (more expensive) through things like bandwidth caps. Furthermore, as the article notes, reducing the service available to the average user is a disincentive to those developing new applications (e.g., VOIP) that (ordinarily) would help to increase consumer interest in broadband services, because the market for such applications is effectively reduced.

    Surely a more effective strategy would be to *encourage* customers to make use of broadband-oriented applications, thereby increasing their reliance on broadband services and solidifying and expanding the customer base of both the cable companies and of the content providers. The current approach will only drive to consumers to use existing, more affordable and more accessible non-Internet delivery channels (voice telephony, television, radio, print media, CD/DVD, etc.).
  • Bandwidth caps.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrLint ( 519792 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:37PM (#4532938) Journal
    run the numbers for a second.. the theorhetical maximum you can download from a 56k *dialup* for a 30 day period is 7G. So as far as im concered any cap below that is grossly unacceptable.
  • What?!?! (Score:3, Funny)

    by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:48PM (#4533017)
    Does this mean we'll have to pay both Comcast AND the White House [] to view the content?
  • by CathedralRulz ( 566696 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:52PM (#4533065) has a history of saying stupid stuff, and this is another example. Look at what they are really saying:

    But beyond political and press circles are another equally important development: new technologies being developed and embraced that can, in practice, transform today's open Internet into a new industry-regulated system that will prevent or discourage people from using the net for file-sharing, internet radio and video, and peer-to-peer communications.

    So internet providers, who set their no-state limit pricing structure on an estimate of how much bandwidth each user would be using, have discovered people like my roomate who download over 10 gigs a day on a 1.5/126 up connection and want to make an adjustment to compensate for this.

    Consider that if everyone used the net like my roomate did, the rate that we pay would be much higher, and that if everyone on the used the net that like I did, the rate would be about where it is (some Net radio, a lot of games and a lot of Xboxing, etc.)

    Recall back in the day when internet connections billed by the hour? Competition took care of that. And if consumers are smart and shop around (most places have the options between a cable provider and several DSL providers), they may be able to maintain being bandwidth hogs. Or folks may just wind up paying for what they use, sort of like the city charges for water. What's wrong with that?

  • by redphive ( 175243 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:53PM (#4533077) Homepage
    A quote from TOMPAINE.COM regarding the Ellacoya IP Service Control System.
    "The IP Service Control System from Ellacoya Networks gives the Broadband Operator 'Total Service Control' to closely monitor and tightly control its subscribers, network and offerings." So reads the Web site of, a relatively new firm, describing the business-to-business service that it is selling to large Internet service providers.

    Where does this say Cable Companies? How does this not include the other Broadband ISPs such as DSL, or wireline/fibreline or COLO ISPs.

    There are many real needs to manage bandwidth as it enters or leaves your network, regardless of what level of infrastructure you maintain.

    By grooming some traffic or assigning QOS policies to others, it is possible for any ISP to provide a better level of service to their customers in general. I say possible, because in real world situations I hardly see the benefit of such a system outweighing the costs of the system and its impact. The Ellacoya software does nothing more than a collection of other similar products achieve, it is just bundled in one package.

    I don't see it heing difficult to block AOL/Time-Warners competitors from their network without fancy packages such as this, and if they wanted to, they would have already, and it would have been blatantly obvious to anyone on their service.
  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:54PM (#4533080) Homepage Journal
    First off, this bit from the article: ...the cable industry, which sells Internet access to most Americans...

    Are his numbers flawed? Granted that America Online, being the largest provider of ersatz access to the general public, is in bed with Time Warner, a major media (cable included) provider, but am I wrong in thinking that the cable industry does not offer the largest amount of net access? (Especially that many users are still using dialup, for the fact that they just can't afford broadband.)

    In all reality, the site given sounds like a tabloid. If I want drek that predicts the death of the 'net, I know where to find it.

  • by Mantrid ( 250133 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:54PM (#4533082) Journal
    I don't mind paying for what I use. If I use a ton of bandwidth then I should have to pay for it; it's how most companies pay their upstream ISP. It's how I pay for phone or for power.

    Having said that, if I'm paying my $5 per GB, I'd damn well be able to use that bandwidth for whatever I deem necessary. The part of the article that makes me nervous is the talk of redirecting requests and the like. Not good...
    • MOD THIS GUY UP!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cr0sh ( 43134 )
      Here, hear! I would gladly pay for my bandwidth too, just like they do their upstream providers - which is how the internet was supposed to work! But I too agree that they shouldn't tell me how to use it - if I want to run an MP3 streaming radio station, a major porn server, or simply sell my bandwidth to my neighbors, I should be allowed to do that - they can do it when they pay their upstream providers - why am I limited? Just because I don't have "Inc." after my name?
  • by ALecs ( 118703 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @04:55PM (#4533089) Homepage
    from people who hate the prospect of actually having to pay for their bandwidth. Seems like people (geeks) get spoiled in college and then come back to the real world and say "Hey! Where's my cheap bandwidth! You can't do this to me!"

    For starters, I think this guy needs a lesson in bits versus bytes in his net radio rant. Of course, that fact that nobody follows a 'b' = bits and 'B' = bytes convention doesn't help, either. 20kBps is 1.2MB per minute. And 20kBps net radio is damn good if you ask me.

    I guess this guy's never priced a real connection to the internet. Bandwidth is just expensive. Now, I have no idea why it's that way - seems like it shouldn't be - but it is. Our business DSL line costs us $220/mo for 768kbps symetric. That fact that that same line costs me $70/mo at home is because my ISP knows that our business line is going to do more throughput that my home line. It's factored into the price that the expected behaviours are different.

    Now, when people with consumer DSL/cable/etc. connections start behaving like business customers in their usage patterns, telcos start to put the brakes on and say "You need to be paying business-grade prices of you're doing business-grade traffic." What's so wrong about this that it gets every geek up in arms?

    If you're going to be keeping the line at capacity >10% of the time, you deserve to pay for it. Any real connection you pay 95th percentile bandwidth charges (that means you pay for your actual metered usage, minus the top 5% of the measurements). And if you're pulling ISOs and MP3s and warez and porn over that, you're gonna get a bill that you may not like.

    But...if I've got a 768kbps line that I use for web surfing and email and SSH sessions into work when something breaks, I don't really feel like paying the same amount as you. I say "Bring on the metered lines!" It won't raise my bill - I'm actually using the line the way the telco expects. I've got a line that's 12 times the speed of my old modem for about 4 times the cost. And I certainly do more than 4 times the transfers that I used to. But not 50 times or more.

    So, to end my rant, I just wanna know why people think they shouldn't have to pay the actual costs of their transfers. Prices for high-speed connections via cable/DSL are SO low compared to what business-grade connections (T1, etc.) cost. Just be grateful you can afford 5GB/mo in the first place. Try pulling that over your modem.

  • Would e-mail .... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tfeark ( 613275 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:00PM (#4533130)
    eat away at your limit? Just think of how much you would hate spam then...

  • by debest ( 471937 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:02PM (#4533155)
    The main issue is the ability of the end user to get access to the backbones of the Net.

    When the ability to hook up is a monopoly (like cable, where no 3rd party company is permitted to provide access over the cable company's coax), there is no competition incentive. All these "problematic" uses for the Net get banned, and there's no where else to go.

    The situation is not much better with DSL, since the 3rd party providers are at the mercy of the Bells, and are pretty limited to what they can provide because of it.

    The air, however, isn't owned by anyone (regulated, yes, but not property). If technology can allow for fast, reliable, two-way Net access through airspace, this removes the telco & cable companies' ability to ignore these undesirable Net services. If they start to lose too many subscribers to over-the-air providers, they will have to back off on the restrictions.

    Note that the tone of the article was not an issue of cost: it was an issue of what you are *allowed* to do on the Net *regardless* of cost. If the telcos and cable providers are allowed to continue, they simply will stop permitting P2P usage on their lines, with no option to turn it on (they would rather kill high-bandwidth usage than bother to administer its usage).

    End result: if we have other high-speed options, Net access will cost more (as it likely should), but at least we will still have the freedom to do as we wish. But if we do not get other options (through restrictive regulations, likely at the request of the copyright industries), then the article is bang-on.
  • by Fugly ( 118668 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:05PM (#4533174) Homepage
    I don't think there's as much to worry about as this article indicates. In a free market, tiered plans that are overpriced and overly restricted will ultimately fail to competition. People in small markets might be hurt for a little while until competition moves in, but it is only a matter of time.

    There are actually two providers here in Columbus now that have tiered plans but they're both based on throughput, not total monthly bandwidth used. In fact, it's actually pretty sweet. One of the companies offers 150kbs down and 75kbs up for $4.95 per month. Their "power user" package is 1.5mbit down and 300k up for $15.95. One of my friends is going to try it out for a month or two and compare it to roadrunner. I guarantee if it's as good as it sounds, half my office will be switching within a month.

    It's actually tempting to grab the lower tiered service and adjust to the slower speed just for the price savings. $4.95 is stupid cheap for broadband internet acess.
  • by richieb ( 3277 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:06PM (#4533176) Homepage Journal
    We should all get more serious about building wireless grid networks. With wireless cards and routers you could build a network that could cover the entire world.

    Imagine that in a small community (eg. a college) you could P2P over the air with UWB, without the need to involve any other company network.

    Transmission should be encrypted and the bandwidth is virtually unlimited...

    Who needs the cable companies, let's turn our computer into routers...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:22PM (#4533309)
    I install cable modem termination systems in mostly small communities (30-500 users) with the local cable operator. Typically, they have 1-2 T1's coming to the property and redistribute this bandwidth through a cable modem system.

    Now, the cable modem system can handle around 27-38Mbps on the downstream channel and around 2.5Mbps on the upstream channel (yes, there are systems with multiple upstreams, but they are less common). And upstream overloads will strangle your downstream.

    One of my latest installs in the midwest had a single T1 and 42 users. Within a week, customers were calling the operator to complain about download speeds. When we checked the logs, we found that 2 (two) users had UPLOADED > 40 GIGABYTES in less than a week. Can anyone say Kazaa!

    Obviously we had to limit their upstream capability to make the system work for everyone else.

    Now, where I live, I also have a cable modem. I consistently get 2-3Mbps download speeds (and I limit my P2P use to less than 5 hrs/week) and yet, my provider chose to eliminate newsgroups (and not just alt.binaries, but also all computer/linux etc related - none!!!). I have not noticed anything else being blocked, so I can't really complain.

    The point here is, that it all depends. If you have the bandwidth, let em rip. But if you don't, you have to impose some rules to make it a good experience for everybody. An don't nickel and dime them to death. Put that energy into getting lower prices from telco's for T1's.
  • by alexjohns ( 53323 ) <> on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:26PM (#4533338) Journal
    Cable does not have a monopoly on broadband. There are many alternatives. If cable access starts to cost too much, people will go to other solutions.

    Aside from DSL, the most obvious solution I can come up with is: get your apartment building or townhouse community or neighborhood chipping in together, buying a T1 and splitting it out to everyone, either by wireless or running Cat-5.

    DirecTV sells Satellite Internet service. High latency, but that's not really a problem for web, email and usenet. ISDN is still an option, too.

    I see the future as wireless, though. You can find out right now whether it's feasible. Call the phone company up and ask them exactly how much it would cost to get a T-1 line to your house. Get pricing on routers, wireless access points and such. Put a flier together, distribute it to your neighbors, asking them how much they would be willing to spend for fast access. A wireless access point with strategically placed antennas can go pretty far. I've seen people say they've gone as much as 4 miles. If you get 20 people ready to go for $50, you could be making money within a couple of months. There are solutions. (The downside in this case is: Who provides tech support? Could be a problem, depending on your neighbors.)

    Everyone likes to complain about cable companies being monopolies, but I'm not sure they qualify in the Internet access business. Can't believe the phone companies would let an opportunity slip by, if they saw a bunch of people ready to leave cable companies. I know that Sky Dayton (Scientologist head of Earthlink) is working heavily on getting wireless everywhere.

  • Use based pricing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by El ( 94934 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:45PM (#4533524)
    It's always been my contention that the current economic model used for the Internet is fundamentally flawed, and that some form of "pay-per-bit" is inevitable. Anybody familiar with "The Tragedy of the Commons" want to explain to me why that principle doesn't apply to the 'Net? Bandwidth is neither infinite nor free; at somepoint, people need to be discouraged from grabbing as much as they can, otherwise our ping times will be measured in minutes. Why do we take it as a given that the Granny checking her email once a week should pay the same as the student hosting a huge peer-to-peer file sharing node up 24/7? Next you'll be telling me that bicylists should pay the same road use fees as semis...
    • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @03:28AM (#4535847) Homepage
      I introduced the concept of the "tragedy of the commons" as applied to the Internet in my RFC 970 [] back in 1985, and invented "fair queuing" to deal with it. It worked; we don't see congestion collapse (also a term I invented) much any more.

      Since then, there's been some loose talk about the "tragedy of the commons" from people who know a little economics but not much network design. These people usually seem to have a bias in favor of markets as a solution to a wide range of problems. Their arguments are not compelling.

      Sometimes a market isn't the solution. The feedback loops implicit in a pricing model are usually far too slow to regulate a datagram network without introducing instability. Realize that markets are control systems, and are subject to the stability problems of control systems. Most economists don't get this. Classical economics assumes that if there's an equilibrium point, the system will stabilize at or near it. That's not true; all you're really guaranteed is that if it oscillates, the oscillations will pass through the equilibrium point now and then.

      In addition, a pricing system itself imposes costs. In telephony, billing now costs more than transmission. Billing, setup, and support typically cost an ISP more than their backbone bandwidth. There's so much underutilized fibre installed now that backbone bandwidth just isn't a problem.

      Most of this talk is an attempt to justify a price increase by an incumbent monopoly.

  • FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skjellifetti ( 561341 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:47PM (#4533533) Journal
    I live in Columbus, Ohio, just North of the Ohio State University. It is a middle class neighborhood built in the 1920s and full of OSU profs, Ohio civil servents, etc. We are lucky in that we have 3 last mile pipes in the neighborhood. Time-Warner and Wide Open West each offer cable/internet and SBC offers phone service w/ several DSL offerings (SBC, Earthlink, Speakeasy). The Time-Warner cable lines also have at least three ISPs offering service (AOL, Road Runner, and Earthlink). I buy my ISP service from Time-Warner. I've read several articles like this one and I have my doubts that the apoclypse is near.

    First, the current Time-Warner service is quite good. The system runs nearly 24/7. I have seen only 2-3 outages lasting about 4 hours each since I bought the service about 3 years ago. My electric service from AEP has been less reliable than this (the 1920s era electric wires in the neighborhood can't handle the load increase from all of the computers and other new electric gadgets). I work from home and only one of the ISP outages caused a minor inconvenience with a customer deadline. Second, the bandwidth is plenty enough to meet my needs - mostly surfing for manual pages and news stories and dl of source code and the occasional shn concert. The bandwidth only seems to slow a bit when kids get out of school in the afternoon and I suspect that the occasional slow speed I see when retriving files is due to bandwidth limitations on the server side, not my local pipe. The so-called "bandwidth hogs" are not causing me any problems. Third, I run the odd service or two on the box in my dmz and have yet to recieve any complaints from Time-Warner. Fourth, the service has actually gotten better in the past year. All of the competition has forced TW to add dial-in service to the net for road warriors who need occasional access.

    Given the three lines behind my house and the six or seven companies offering broadband cable or DSL over those lines, I'd be surprised if competition doesn't keep prices pretty close to cost + normal profit. I looked into some of the other companies a few months ago and there are some tiered pricing plans. But they are mostly for SOHO users who want symmetric ul/dl speeds w/ fixed ip addresses or gamers who want to have the fastest speed they can get.
  • Move to Norway (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Echnin ( 607099 ) <p3s46f102@sneakemai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday October 25, 2002 @05:52PM (#4533580) Homepage
    You heard me. Move to Norway.

    You can get 704/384 ADSL (actually it's 864/384 but they advertise likely actual speeds) for the price of 5 super sized Big Mac menus a month from my ISP. [] Latest news on the site says that 9/10 of their users are telling everyone about how great they are. And one of their advertising points is about how you'll be able to surf the web with just a flat fee, because the local calls you make to your dial-up ISP here in Norway cost money.

    Or move to Korea, 'cause I hear you get like 8 mbps optic really cheap there.
  • by dee why ( 534425 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @06:04PM (#4533691) Homepage
    Here in Moscow I pay $40/month for 10mpbs connection, that includes pathetic 500 _Mega_bytes of traffic, everything else is $ 80/gig. I do not, I repeat, do NOT feel owned by my ISP, although I do hate these greedy bastards. This is just simple economics at work, get over it.
  • by kpeerless ( 122687 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @06:21PM (#4533821)
    I use a small local ISP here in Canada that charges me $25 Canadian a month for 100 hours dial up. We are soon to go wireless which will cost $40 Canadian a month for unlimited bandwidth. The other day when they found out that I was running an international news site updated daily at ( as a public service/hobby, they got me the registered domain name and hosted my site for almost nothing in aid of what I was doing. Likely I would have gotten this gift from Telus, Bell, AT&T or Rogers. Yeah. Likely. Support your small, independent ISP. They're the only thing that will save us.
  • by geekee ( 591277 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @08:32PM (#4534626)
    If a company spends billions of dollars wiring up a cable infostructure, why do customers and the govt. think they have the right to tell the company how they can use that bandwidth, and what types of terms they are allowed to offer? Given the existance of DSL, you can't even claim they have a monopoly. Yet here's another liberal who thinks consumers have the right to regulate how a company does business just because he thinks their practices are unfair. It's amusing since it's a lot easier to argue that a per/bandwidth fee is more fair, yet this author is so sure he's right, he expects the govt. to side with him and impose laws forcing the cable companies to do business the way he wants them to. Business is based on the concept of trade, in two parties mutually agree upon a price for a good or service. If you don't like the price you have the option to refuse to do business with them. You do not have the option to use force to get your way, in this case through govt. regulation. This is an attack on a fundamental civil liberty.
    • Try googling on citiLECs. This is where municipally owned public utility companies have been taking their internal fiber optic networks and making them available to the general public. This is how South Korea wired its nation for broadband. As a result, IT now plays a larger part in their economy than it does in the USA.

      In the USA, citiLECs been selling 1-10 mbps via fiber optic to the curb for rates comparable with dialup ISPs. Unfair competition? Your friends at the cable companies and telcos seem to think so, they've lobbyied legislatures into making future systems illegal in more than one state. California, for instance. Los Angeles and the City of Alameda just got in under the wire. Cable companies think regulation is wonderful, as long as its used to shut out potential competition.

      So you think it's OK for cable companies to buy laws designed to interfere in the marketplace but not for laws in the public interest to interfere with their activities. Well, the politicians agree with you.

      Your version of fundamental civil liberty as implemented by politicians has put the entire US economy at risk. []

      When you find yourself asking "Do you want fries with that?" and wondering if you'll get to keep that job because nobody can afford the "Happy Meals" your employer is selling and hearing from your friends who emigrated how great things are in IT anywhere but here... just remember your devotion to Libertarian theology... and what it's done for you and your nation.

  • by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @09:01PM (#4534738) Homepage Journal
    I have read the DirectPC (satellite broadband)policy (disclaimer - I don't use them so I don't know if it really works this way).

    Their approach achieves appropriate allocation of bandwidth, at least on downlink, with a mechanism that seems to be very fair. They do so without regulating any particular application.

    The approach is to have a bit bucket. Not the traditional trash can bit bucket... but a bucket used as a capacity measurement. They continuously fill your bandwidth bucket at a specific rate (I think it was 46 kbps for a home user). When you use bandwidth, it depletes the bucket at the rate you use it. The bucket, of course, has a maximum capacity... it never can be filled over a certain size (a few hundred megabytes).

    Thus you get good peak bandwidth. You get decent average bandwidth. And you can't hog the system at the expense of other users.

    Sure, this would be a pain for downloading a CD, and it breaks big P-P sites if a similar approach is used for uplink.

    But I have no sympathy for those wanting to serve up a lot of P-P stuff, consuming vast amounts of upstream bandwidth compare to normal users. Hey, if you want to P-P serve up movies, *pay* for the bandwidth.

    As a number of other posters have pointed out, correctly, why bandwidth indeed must be limited, and the average bandwidth to a home broadband user needs to be a lot less than the peak bandwidth. You may have a peak bandwidth of 5Mbps, but you sure aren't paying for it as an average bandwidth - see the other posts - and you haven't been guaranteed that bandwidth in any way unless you bought DSL or a dedicated line (which would cost thousands per month for 5Mbps).
  • by crucini ( 98210 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @09:04PM (#4534755)
    This article mixes together two different things: the genuinely sinister drive to close off the internet, and the perfectly reasonable desire of the telecoms to stop losing money on poorly-thought-out internet access offerings.

    With regard to the latter, please realize that ISP's usually pay for their bandwidth. To make a profit, they must charge (bandwidth cost) + (distribution cost) + (overhead) + (profit). The marginal cost of 1 gigabyte of transfer is very roughly $5.00. I base this on rates charged by colocation providers, so realize that it doesn't include distribution (last mile) costs. Therefore a typical consumer bandwidth allocation of 5 Gigabytes per month costs the provider roughly $25. If the provider charges $40/month, he has $15 to cover (distribution cost) + (overhead) + (profit). That's slim. If the consumer manages to double his transfer, and consume $50 worth of upstream transfer, he is now costing the provider money.

    I think that under the current system many customers are costing their providers money. We've gotten so used to subsidized bandwidth (subsidized by the foolishness of telecom marketers) that we've lost sight of the underlying economic reality, which is dictated by the backbone carriers.

    Look at it another way. If you want a full 1.5 Mbps internet conection, you must pay from $700 to $1500 for a T1, depending on location. How do you expect to buy the equivalent for $40-$60 a month, even if the last mile capacity is that high (which it sometimes is)? Just to break even, the provider would have to dilute that bandwidth by a factor of 20 (fit 20 consumer circuits on one T1) - and that's without considering distribution and overhead costs. Therefore, you can use an average 70 Kbps - little faster than a modem.

    For better or for worse, the providers estimated very low usage when they planned their offerings. They now want to ditch the high-usage users who are like Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat buffet. You can call the providers foolish, dishonest, etc. and probably be right. But you cannot expect them to subsidize you indefinitely.

    Eventually users must start paying for their own bandwidth or reduce their consumption to meet their budget.
  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @09:56PM (#4534958) Homepage
    ATT seems to block my SIP traffic to I signed up for Vonage's service and it mysteriously stopped working. I called Vonage, and we determined that the traffic is being blocked somewhere along the line. Strangely enough, I'm able to pass SIP traffic to anywhere but Vonage's network.

    I called ATT and after about 2 hours talking to tier-3 people, they fixed it. But 2 weeks later, it didn't work again.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson