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Time Warner Transfer Caps May Inspire Fair-Price Legislation 382

Time Warner's recently announced plan to expand their broadband transfer caps to new markets drew heavy criticism, which prompted their attempt to smooth things over with a ridiculously expensive "unlimited" plan. That wasn't enough for New York Representative Eric Massa, who now says he will draft legislation to "curb tiers, particularly in areas where a broadband provider owns a monopoly on service." Massa said, "Time Warner believes they can do this in Rochester, NY; Greensboro, NC; and Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and it's almost certainly just a matter of time before they attempt to overcharge all of their customers," adding, "I believe safeguards must be put in place when a business has a monopoly on a specific region."
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Time Warner Transfer Caps May Inspire Fair-Price Legislation

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  • Up next (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:16PM (#27550689)

    Unlimited water and electricity for flat rates plus a pony.

    • Re:Up next (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:45PM (#27550871) Homepage
      If you try to keep the competition out of an area the the gov should cap your fees and that's not the same as getting unlimited amounts of a more scarce resource, like clean water, for one fee.
    • Re:Up next (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sinrakin ( 782827 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:50PM (#27550901)
      Since the subscriber has no control over the amount of data sent to him from a site (ads, flash videos and music that play automatically, etc) it's hard to see how people would be willing to accept a pricing model that charged them for data they hadn't asked for and didn't want to receive.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        cell phone billing much?
    • Thank you for this. The reality of the situation with bandwidth is that a very small percentage of the users consume most of the bandwidth. And anyone who offers an unlimited service is either deluded or a liar.

      A properly priced system will be better for everyone. For the heavy users, they will know that they won't be kicked off or silently capped since they will be explicitly paying for their heavy usage. For everyone else, it should mean lower prices and more stable service.

      • Re:Up next (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tinkerghost ( 944862 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @06:27PM (#27551137) Homepage

        For everyone else, it should mean lower prices and more stable service.

        Can I have whatever it is that you're taking that's making the sky such a pretty rosy color? Check their tiering structure, they didn't drop prices when they put caps on it. They won't in the future either.

        If this were truly a competitive market, then you might actually see that. The problem is you're looking at a monopoly marketplace for the last mile. With Cable & DSL being the only 2 viable broadband technologies in place for 90% of the people who can get them, there isn't significant enough market pressure to force any price lowering.

        Why do you think they are taking the Chicago suburbs to court over community laid last mile? If the Cable/Telco companies have to actually compete on price & service quality, then you would see low tier service at a lowered price. Until then, expect them to make low end tiers out of their normal price & rape you for using enough bandwidth to actually use anyones VOIP or Video service but theirs.

      • For everyone else, it should mean lower prices and more stable service.

        I guess you didn't notice that in this Time Warner announcement, there weren't any reductions in any of the prices...they just jacked up the prices for some users.

        There never will be "lower prices and more stable service" when the company is a de-facto monopoly for an area. Well, at least not as long as local government can still be "encouraged to see things from Comcast's point of view" (i.e., bribed with campaign contributions).

      • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) *

        That's the real reason. People like to think they are on the "High Speed" and love the "Unlimited" keyword in a plan.

        Companies don't want to put down real hard limits in writing because "Unlimited" and "High Speed" are both relative terms that are hard to compare making it difficult for customers to shop around or demand more. While one cable company might have the monopoly on cable broad band in a market there are probably also satellite and DSL even regular tel-modem services that could be used.


      • by Teun ( 17872 )

        And anyone who offers an unlimited service is either deluded or a liar.

        I don't think the reputable Dutch provider xs4all [xs4all.nl] can be called deluded or a liar because they changed their previous Fair Use plan to an Unlimited [xs4all.nl] one.

        After all for a (monthly) plan with a given speed cap you automatically get a maximum download during that month.
        And you can find much cheaper providers with real Unlimited plans.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Any electricity we don't use doesn't have to be generated. Any water we don't drink is there for us to drink tomorrow. Any bandwidth we don't use is gone. ISPs should be encouraging the maximal use of their bandwidth and upgrading as necessary. In any other market if a business can't supply as much as their customers demand, they *expand*.

  • The real solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:20PM (#27550715)

    The real solution is to get rid of government-enforced monopolies on utilities.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fortunato ( 106228 )

      One of the reasons for enforced monopolies is that for an infrastructure service that is considered "crucial", like electricity, phone and water you don't want the inevitable pressure to cut costs by scrimping on reliability in order to compete. That is why these enforced monopolies are, in theory, regulated heavily.

      Of course, I personally don't think that precludes heavy competition with heavy regulation, but what do I know. :)

      • by marco.antonio.costa ( 937534 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @07:07PM (#27551349)

        Nonsense. If that was true, then why don't we have a state-sanctioned monopoly on all foodstuffs so we don't run the risk of 'unreliable' supply? I mean, food is so crucial.

        The reason for any enforced monopoly is to artificially raise prices.

        If you honestly think that competition to lower prices is only achieved through skimping on quality or reliability then I'm sure you used a room-sized, vacuum-tube, multi-million dollar computer from the 60s to type your comment instead of a US$ 400 MSI Wind netbook, but then again, what do I know. :-)

        When something is left to the marketplace and free competition ( i.e. "unregulated" ), consumers will choose the best and cheapest alternative. When it is left to regulation, consumers are deprived of choice on that characteristic by force of law, and if the regulation is poorly crafted ( not unusual, to use an euphemism ) then we're all screwed with nowhere to run.

        Limiting competition is regulation's very goal, with several companies lobbying to make sure the final text benefits them individually as much as possible.

        • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @07:32PM (#27551483) Homepage

          Nonsense. If that was true, then why don't we have a state-sanctioned monopoly on all foodstuffs so we don't run the risk of 'unreliable' supply? I mean, food is so crucial.

          Because it's not needed? There's no problem with 50 producers competing for who can deliver the cheapest rice, because there's no problem with all of them making their products available for sale, and it still must pass government quality standards.

          That doesn't work with things like water though. Would you want to have 10 sets of water pipes, with all the street digging that implies, and 10x more frequent pipe breakage? The space available for piping is very limited as well.

          In this situation the way to go is not having 10 sets of pipes, but have one, highly regulated delivery network (water, power, fiber), and competition in the supply of that network (powerstations, water filtering plants, ISPs).

          Done correctly, the delivery network lacks any reason to prefer or favor one provider over another, and the providers lack the ability to deny access to each other, since they don't own the delivery network. The consumer can then freely choice which they want, and the entry barrier for a new provider is low because it doesn't require digging up streets.

      • Re:The real solution (Score:5, Interesting)

        by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @07:10PM (#27551369)

        Sadly, not only are they not "regulated heavily," in most cases they're not regulated at all. Municipalities used to have a lot of regulatory authority over cable operators, but a variety of deregulatory actions by the FCC and Congress have eroded most municipal control. Internet service isn't regulated either; it's considered an "enhanced information service" and thus exempt from the common-carrier regime that applies to services like telephony.

        I don't see many options other than re-estabishing common-carriage as the dominant regulatory model for these services. The carriers will argue that they can't make enough money under this model to justify the investments required to maintain and upgrade their network facilities. Perhaps a workable model is to give operators a fixed time limit (twenty years after the initial license perhaps) after which they must convert to common carriage. You'd have to write the rules carefully to make sure ownership changes of existing plant doesn't restart the time period.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes because that's worked so well in the UK where prices have rocketed along with profits.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ah, the libertarian solution to every problem. Even the ones, which aren't the problem in question.

      It might have slipped your attention, that Time Warner having a monopoly on broad-band in certain regions is not government enforced.
      That is, unless you ascribe every monopoly per se to governmental enforcement.

      • It might have slipped your attention, that Time Warner having a monopoly on broad-band in certain regions is not government enforced.

        Even in places where Time Warner's monopoly isn't "government enforced" in the sense of prohibiting competition, the government was still responsible for its existence by giving Time Warner (or cable companies that were bought by Time Warner) subsidies, right-of-way, etc. when the cable networks were initially being built. This allowed Time Warner to become incumbent in a mark

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Whillowhim ( 1408725 )

      Unfortunately, this isn't economical. Utilities are one place where monopolies are inevitable, we just need the government to put real limits on them because they are so prone to abuse. Or heck, nationalize the infrastructure, then rent it to service providers for a fee to cover maintenance.

      Based on some numbers I heard a while back, the basic problem is this: It takes about 40% of the people in an area subscribing to your cable service in order to make up for the cost of installing the wires in the firs

  • are in a similar position, with only one broadband provider? Here in Portola Valley, a stone's throw from the heart of Silicon Valley, we have ComCast as the sole broadband provider and the lack of competition shows in the prices. It's crazy - my neighbors and I would switch to DSL in a heartbeat if it were available. Wimax can't happen too soon!
  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:26PM (#27550747) Journal

    These ridiculous caps are all about cable companies protecting their becoming-outdated business model. Right now, they charge for content (HBO, various extra channel packages, etc.). Customers getting high quality video (for some definitions of high quality) from places like Hulu is eventually going to eat up the cable monopoly cash cow that Time Warner Cable currently enjoys. So how do they stop it and protect their outdated business model? Caps. Insanely low transfer caps that all but eliminate high amounts of streaming video and that protect their cable company business.

    If there's a reason the gov't should step in and put a stop to low transfer caps, it's this.


    • by DaveM753 ( 844913 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:42PM (#27550849)
      Right on! The government needs to FORCE both the cable and telco companies to separate the data, television and telephone components. They should be regulated as separate companies and therefore separate monopolies. Grrrrr...

      What I have in Western Washington (near Seattle) is Comcast and Verizon. They both charge basically the same price for all services. If there were TRUE competition, i.e., many different companies, there's NO WAY they'd be able to charge such high prices without losing customers. But, since there are only 2 companies, they basically have all the benefits of collusion, without any actual collusion. I mean, if one of them decided to charge some arbitrary fee, the other one would follow. Double-Grrrrr....
    • by daVinci1980 ( 73174 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @07:20PM (#27551423) Homepage

      I think you're right on the money. A friend of mine also pointed out that this is also a kindof backdoor to a tiered internet.

      Imagine that if everyone had caps, TWC and others could go to netflix and say "you know, for only 1% of every customer's signup fee, we'll avoid counting bandwidth you send against our customers", and then announce the partnerships and how you can watch Netflix streaming on their service "for free".

      I can't wait to replace TWC. As soon as I find a provider in my area who isn't TWC and isn't AT&T, I'm so there.

  • Is it just me or do I find the complaint against Bandwidth Caps ridiculous?

    I only seem to see people complaining about it in America, most of Europe (afaik) has gotten used to having bandwidth caps. For example in England I'm with the ISP wholesaler Entanet, you have your on-peak bandwidth (mon-fri 8:00am to midnight) and then off-peak is free to use as much as you want.

    The reason it annoys me is that everyone is complaining about having their bandwidth shaped, and the cause for that is there is too much ba

    • by japhering ( 564929 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:35PM (#27550799)

      It is not so much the caps.. it is the fact the the rates are 3-5x what people are paying now which is, antidotally, 2-3x times what most people around the world pay. Caps wouldn't be so bad if everyone got some benefit.. as it is it is just an excuse for the ISPs to grab a 3-5x price increase.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bluesatin ( 1350681 )

        I realised just after I posted my original rant that there may have been a good reason why everyone was against Bandwidth Caps.

        From what I've read it seems the major ISPs in America try and hide as much as they can from users, rather than try and teach them about things. I can imagine they'd make it extremely awkward to check your current usage, while my ISP (Entanet) in the UK has an RSS feed you can use to check it.

        I can also imagine they'd make all bandwidth count towards your cap, not only when bandwidt

        • For the most part, it is impossible to know what your actual usage is. Supposedly TW and Comcast have put up pages that detail specific usage, but from what I've heard, they aren't live data .. they are any where from hours to days behind.. kind of like the cell phone companies -- "you have used X minutes.. but this page may not be accurate and can not be used as proof of service."

        • The problem is Most ISPs in the UK don't have an easy way to check your usage, especially some of the bigger ones like VM and BT etc.
          VM is also extremely guilty of advertising "unlimited" services, when in reality they hit you with traffic shaping as soon as you go over a pathetically small limit (1.2GB is the limit in the evening on the 10Mb tariff and knock you down to a much smaller 2.5Mb for 5 hours). I'm pretty sure other ISPs in the UK do exactly the same still.

    • by jim_deane ( 63059 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:36PM (#27550807) Journal

      I pay X amount of dollars to have Y data download rate (and Z data upload rate). My ISP advertised the rate, I bought the rate, that's what I expect them to be able to deliver "most" of the time.

      Now, if they want to put a cap on my useage, say C gigabytes per month, then if that limit is less than (2592000 s * X bits/s), I expect my useage fee to decrease proportionately to however much smaller my new download limit becomes.

      DECREASE. Not increase. They will be taking away value that I expect based on the advertised service. I expect to pay less for less value.

      • For a 8mb/s connection, you could theoretically transfer over 2.5TB in a single month, and that's just counting downloads. If the cap is, say, a rather reasonable 100GB, do you really think the plan that used to cost $50 should now cost $2? Does that sound reasonable to you, or maybe you're missing something?

      • by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @06:16PM (#27551063)

        I'm in Austin, so I stand to be affected by this in the near future.

        I wouldn't be opposed to a metered plan if it was really a metered plan.

        The electric company doesn't care how many toasters I own, or how often I make toast, or anything. They charge me an activation fee when I start service, and then they bill me for the electricity I use. THAT is a metered plan. If I could do that with bandwidth (at a reasonable rate per GB), I'd be perfectly happy.

        This Time Warner crap is NOT like that. They want to charge me an activation fee, a monthly usage fee, AND a dollar per gigabyte for every GB over their arbitrarily imposed limit. That's NOT cool.

        The basic point of the pricing structure appears to be to control my behavior online, and it irritates me no end.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      These caps don't seem to have anything to do with peak time usage. If the caps were only on peak time it'd be something different entirely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      England still has the problem of companies offering unlimited bandwidth that doesn't exist. There is a clear abuse of the word unlimited amongst ISPs.

      I'm fine with caps when I'm told what I get for what I pay for and not "hey we're giving unlimited bandwidth but oh hey don't use more than 2 gbps per month and we'll shape the shit out of your traffic between noon and 9pm".

      ISPs should be forced to advertise only what you get and tell you what they do to your traffic so you know exactly what you're getti
      • I made a complaint to the ASA in the UK about mobile broadband providers claiming "unlimited" when in the small print it stated that a "fair use" limit of 3GB would be imposed therefore making it in no way unlimited. They told me that as it didn't affect many consumers my complaint had no merit. I wonder if the wired companies get similar freedom to mislead their customers.

        • Do you mean mobile broadband as in on a phone or mobile broadband as in a USB stick that goes in your laptop?

          In the case of the USB stick then yes people could easily run into that limit with iPlayer, itunes, etc.

          But even with mobile phone, eventually more of these bandwidth intensive things will come to phones so why allow this deceptive practice? If most people don't hit the limit then there should be no problem advertising the limit. Clearly they don't understand what the word unlimited means.

          • The USB stick variety although I'm guessing it also applies to mobiles as well. I just objected to the lie that it was "unlimited" when it wasn't. However the truth in advertising watchdog didn't seem to mind.

    • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:55PM (#27550937) Journal

      The main problem we have with it is the industry should be providing MORE service for less money, not the opposite.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JakFrost ( 139885 )

      So if they're not going to expand their limits, the only solution is to reduce the amount of bandwidth people use, thus reducing how much people 'waste' it.

      The purpose of a Data Usage Cap is to increase profits out of thin air by creating a new metric for billing. You're gravely mistaken if you believe that a Data Usage Cap has anything to do with actual usage since there is no scarcity for bandwidth and there are no bottlenecks that need to be unblocked. This is all simply a marketing device being implem

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In the country with the biggest European economy, Germany, bandwidth caps are unusual, at least for wired network access. Whenever a company tries to impose bandwidth caps despite calling the service "unlimited" or "flatrate", it turns into a public relations disaster. Germany has a heavily regulated telecoms market where the former state monopoly, German Telekom, must offer several kinds of wholesale services to competitors at regulated prices, so even though there are only Telekom owned last-mile wires in

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )

      I think there was a fundamental problem with the marketing of broadband which either poorly communicated the intent behind the term "unlimited", intentionally misleading, or they didn't expect that people would actually try to use the service as if it was unlimited. The companies claim that "unlimited" meant "always on", as in, you don't have to dial in or disconnect. I can understand that, but given how it was marketed, I think it's more like the marketing was intentionally misleading.

      Frankly, I had no p

    • If they stop using the word "unlimited" I would have no problem at all.

    • by dnaumov ( 453672 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @06:41PM (#27551213)

      Is it just me or do I find the complaint against Bandwidth Caps ridiculous?

      I only seem to see people complaining about it in America, most of Europe (afaik) has gotten used to having bandwidth caps.

      Are you out of your mind? The reason why you see people complaining about it in America and not in Europe is because a lot of European countries do not have any kind of download caps whatsoever so we don't have to complain about it.

  • Prices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by khellendros1984 ( 792761 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:29PM (#27550767) Journal
    I understand that there are prices to data throughput, and that maximum throughput correlates with bandwidth. The service providers built themselves a losing battle, though. If they start selling tiered plans, then people will feel limited (even if they never went over 10GB/month before). People that are the heavy users (over 50 GB/month, say) have seen their access available at a certain price point for a long time will feel ripped off when it suddenly jumps to 3x what they have been paying. For instance, I pay $45 per month for a 10mb pipe. I probably do 20-30GB just with tv shows (streaming or downloaded), and my roommate does similar. In the new plan, I'd end up with a higher cost, even though until this point my usage has been acceptable (no warnings, etc). My point is that by subsidizing more expensive users with the money from people that use less, while providing "unlimited" service to people that don't use that much data throughput, they've set themselves up for disappointment in all of their markets.
  • Your Internet can feel like the Australian one [today.com].
  • Common Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:34PM (#27550791) Homepage

    I don't see why this wasn't enacted many many years ago.

    Comcast, for example, would buy all of a region's smaller cable companies and make them fly the Comcast banner. Then prices would jump 20-40% in the next year. Usually the buy-outs would have to be approved, and would be approved under the condition that Comcast provide similar service for similar prices.

    Granted monopolies need to be policed like this. This isn't a case of other companies not wanting to bother with the cost and time to set up competition.

    This is exactly what Time-Warner was banking on. You don't see cell phone companies deciding that unlimited text messaging is no longer unlimited, or that your 500 minutes isn't sustainable, so now you get 200 minutes. Mainly because cell phone companies have competition everywhere. If you don't like Sprint, try US Cellular or Verizon. Maybe even T-mobile. They all have their ups and downs, but more importantly, there are alternate choices. ISPs aren't always that way.

    Hourly-fee dial-up ISPs went away pretty quickly once competitors started popping up. I think most broadband ISPs were starting out at the unlimited level to compete with dial-up ISPs, and now that the dial-up ISPs are no longer a threat, they want to reneg on the contracts they made us all sign. Not our fault your business model wasn't able to be supported, now honor our damn contracts.

    • Re:Common Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @06:18PM (#27551077)

      Not our fault your business model wasn't able to be supported, now honor our damn contracts.

      If that were true, I wouldn't be so bothered. The reality of it however is that they are making a killing in profit NOW with 'unlimited' service. The business model is fine, they've just beaten every other ISP out of the market and now how no competition (as you said) and are coming up with new ways to rip people off.

    • To start, let me say that I agree with the monopoly issue. Monopolies should either be heavily regulated or abolished.

      What I'm confused about is this whole "contract" argument. I've purchased broadband service from 5 different companies over the past 10 or so years. I don't recall ever agreeing to any length of service - I could cancel at any time I liked. I also don't recall ever seeing any promise from these companies to maintain their current offerings. What contracts are you wanting them to hono

  • Why Higher Rates? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheRon6 ( 929989 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:36PM (#27550805)

    I see so many articles about ISPs hiking up their rates or beginning to use bandwidth caps but what I want to know is why?

    Yes, a customer who downloads 300 GB a month is more expensive than someone who doesn't but that sort of customer behavior is something that all service businesses have to deal with. I work in the webserver management department of my company. For a flat monthly rate, we will fix, upgrade, secure, and do whatever other odd jobs you want to your server. Some customers make fifty (stupid) requests per month and take up tons of our time but they get billed the same amount as the customers who only make one or two requests. But at the end of the month, both customers are getting the same level of service. How did my company figure out how to reasonably deal with this sort of overuse and underuse behavior while large ISPs can't?

    Another problem I have with raising rates and imposing limits is the lack of justification. The only thing I've ever heard is "It's those evil pirates! They're making your bills go up!" Yeah, right. There was a time when illegal media downloading was pretty much the only kind of media downloading that existed but now we have Netflix and iTunes and a whole slew of completely legitimate streaming sites. So let's say I do pay $150/month for unlimited bandwidth. Where is my $150 going? I'm sure there is an answer to this and I would be much more willing to pay it as long as it doesn't include "into the pocket of our CEO". Anyone have a link to an article (preferably written by an unbiased third party) that would explain this?

  • Meanwhile my DSL from the local provider in Rochester has plummeted from 4.4Mbit to 2.4Mbit due to line quality issues and I'm powerless to do anything about it. I don't want to be raped by TW and need to run a server so I'm stuck for now.

  • These Data Usage Caps are just a marketing tool instituted by the company to create a new Profit Center basically out of thin air since there is no actual cost difference for the amount of data that you transfer once the infrastructure has already been built and connected. Yes, there are costs associated to bandwidth when dealing with up-stream ISP connection contracts but in these cases these Data Usage Caps include all data, even local network data, or P2P data coming from neighboring peers on the same i

  • They need to outlaw exclusive arrangements with municipalities.

    More competition = lower prices and more options. IF it is real competition.

    Include appropriate prohibitions against collusion, etc.

    • How exactly would you measure collusion though? Companies could probably do the same thing and just offer periodic 'sales' to keep up the illusion that there is competition. What would be interesting is if consumers organized and just bought into one provider to force the other to compete. If the lack of competition forces a company to lose a significant amount of customers, you might see some fairness/greed creep back into the system.
  • by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @07:36PM (#27551511) Homepage Journal

    CEO of time warner said that broadband costs are spiraling out of control.

    Their SEC Statements for 2008 said YOY operating costs for their broadband service decreased 11%. It also netted them nearly 4 billion dollars in revenues.

    In 2007 they also reported decreased operating costs and massive profits.

    I'd love for that asshole to testify to congress the same thing, cause I'm sending my congressmen their 10K statements. Maybe a CEO going to jail for blatantly doing nearly the same shit bank CEO's and other officers have been doing will finally wake these people up.

    http://stopthecap.com/2009/04/10/why-is-time-warner-saying-costs-increasing-to-consumers-but-decreasing-to-stockholders/ [stopthecap.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Hmmm, perhaps shareholders should be filing complaint with the SEC for possible fraud if the CEO is saying two different things about costs.

  • by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @08:08PM (#27551721)

    lobbied Congress with perks and "campaign contributions" to kill initiatives to install fiber optic cable as a community service/commodity, claiming "unfair" competition. The telcos promised they would complete buiding the fiber optic future in the 1990s, got tax breaks and rate relief to the tune of HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS, pocketed the cash and then promptly forgot their promise. I still have UNUSED fiber optic cable running through my yard from our canceled community project. As a result, I have to pay $72US for 10Mb/s bandwidth and TimeWarner and the other cable/Telecos are constantly trying to think up new ways to create artificial scarcity of bandwidth in order to charge more rent for an outdated wire pipe. These thieves have PROVEN in the past that they cannot be trusted and are too greedy to be given the opportunity to steal again.

    It's time the people took back control of the Internet, complete the Fiber Optic (or better) technology and make it a service like electric, water and sewer, cheap and affordable to EVERY house.

  • by kroyd ( 29866 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @08:13PM (#27551745)
    In Northern Europe the telecoms are forced (by regulation) to rent out space in the switches so that competitors can place their own equipment there. If you're not buying your internet from the "owner" of the telephone cable you pay less than $10 as a line rental fee in addition to whatever your provider charges.

    It is the same with mobile phone services - the telecoms must share their network with competitors, and allow them to put their services on the network. This means that if you're a customer of a "virtual phone company" you might use the bandwidth of "big telecom X" until some box in their network, from there it is the virtual phone company which controls your call.

    In addition, all providers of internet, mobile phone services and landline phone services (including IP telephony) have to provide their pricing and coverage information to a government run web site, so that it is really simple to check if there is a better deal on the market.

    Of course all the providers are endlessly complaining, but the effect is that the market works, you get lots of providers, low prices and lots of services to differentiate, even out in the really really remote areas.

    With working competition you only see transfer caps on services where it makes some sense, like during the daytime for internet by 3g. (And I could get up to 50mbit/10mbit for $60 a month if bothered to switch it seems.. I hadn't checked the pricing site in a few months.)

  • Why caps can be good (Score:3, Informative)

    by trawg ( 308495 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @11:47PM (#27552975) Homepage

    I know you guys are scared to death of caps, but I just thought I'd take the time to point out a few reasons why they can be GOOD things, and not necessarily all bad. (I realise that it seems the US has been screwed by big telcos taking money from the govt and not investing it into infrastructure as it was intended, etc.)

    [disclaimer: I work for a company that, for almost 10 years, has tried to provide Australian ISP subscribers with the content they want to have]

    Here in Australia, we've had caps for a long, long time. The most common cap originally was 3 gigabytes - so imagine how lame it was for us. Of course this was pre-BitTorrent/YouTube/etc, so it wasn't as big a deal as that limit would be today.

    Now, a common plan is 12GB (I say 'common' because while there are plenty of plans, the biggest ISP here, BigPond, has its 'default' plan around 12GB, or at least last time I checked - it's certainly what I'm typing this on at my parents place).

    Because of these low data limits, there has been fierce competition between ISPs to provide "content" - mostly consisting of mirrors of popular stuff, such as files relating to gaming, open source, etc (more recently Creative Commons-licensed video like the Revision3.com stuff).

    So anyway, some of the good things:

    1) Many ISPs will maintain their own mirrors of popular content - meaning subscribers can get fast, local downloads (that typically don't count towards their monthly cap). Here in Australia we have a very high ratio of availability of Linux distributions vs # of customers, for example.

    2) There's less congestion as users don't randomly leave their software connected and torrenting 24/7. This is good for people like me that prefer speed and responsiveness and don't want to have to worry about a heap of people torrenting last nights episode of Australian/American Idol chewing up all our links.

    3) The above two cause lower congestion on our heavily-contested international links, helping keep costs lower overall for everyone (this is less of a big deal for the USA, but we're pretty far away from a lot of digital stuff people want).

    4) Many ISPs will run their own local gaming services - even if its only a handful of game servers for popular games. This means fast pings and unmetered traffic - and more variety and competition.

    5) Many ISPs will run their own unique content services. BigPond, for example, has a music channel (www.bigpondmusic.com), which offers discounts to subscribers. Internode, another ISP, provides free access to commerical USEnet services. iiNet provide Premier League video streams. All sorts of cool options.

    Of course, all these are almost utterly dependent on network neutrality, which has (thus far) been maintained perfectly.

    I obviously have a fairly biased perspective because of my involvement in the industry as a data-peddler, but I don't think capped plans are bad. The vast majority of people aren't going to notice.

    I would say though that if they're going to /force/ all users to act like 'average' users in terms of bandwidth, there should be a general reduction in price across the board to match the savings they're going to make. Dropping the price for those users that are happy to stay on low plans and leaving it the same for those users that want to have a much higher cap would seem to be much fairer. However, given how big telcos operate, I'd say everyone is just likely to get screwed, and as I understand it many places in the US have a monopoly-type situation on broadband availability - so good luck :)

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.