The first words I utter amount to a disclaimer that my take on recent events involving Time-Warner’s plan to cap internet usage in the Triad area–Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, NC–does not reflect the experience or the depth of knowledge a few of my friends have in the area of internet expertise and the technology community in general. College friends, Doc Searls and Stephen Lewis have written extensively with regard to defining and refining the role of the internet; high school classmate, John Patrick helped pioneer IBM’s internet presence while his book Net Attitude presented his vision for the future of the internet with an optimism bolstered by the remarkable accomplishments achieved in the nascence of the internet–a period John believes has not yet ended. My own perspective falls along the lines of amateur philosopher who has partaken of technology’s golden apples in various capacities and has less grandiose aspirations for the pie they would make than the more pedestrian topic of the cost of their procurement. T-W’s proposed tiers for broadband internet usage are predatory and unrealistic–price points at 10, 20, 30, 40, 60 gigabytes topping out at cost not to exceed $150 per month for unlimited access is more than triple current rates for unlimited access.
While Cloud Computing has become all the buzz lately, the skies will clear abruptly if the cable companies pursue the current trend of putting caps on broadband internet usage. Why would any user switch from desktop based programming to cloud based programming when access to those clouds will be metered so that best case scenarios result in far more cost to the consumer than any gain he or she might receive? As Judy Collins sang:
Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career.
And where are the clouds?
There ought to be clouds…
Well, maybe next year.
Okay, I know, I know, Judy sang CLOWNS, Send In The Clowns. Come to think of it, her choice of words was spot on because that seems to be more descriptive of the strategy behind this latest development from cable providers; of course, it may also be another example of unmitigated greed surfacing as our economy tumbles ever downward and reveals the machinations of these companies in sharper contrast. Ed Cone offered a weak but later abandoned defense of the “last mile” gambit trotted out to justify the egregious actions of the capping broadband usage as the facts just don’t substantiate the claim and they vanish under scrutiny. T-W does not include the amount of broadband usage in its cap for an internet phone if that phone is a part of T-W’s internet phone plan but it does if one uses Vonage! Hmmm… Same wire, same broadband, same last mile. The same approach applies of any of T-W’s services which involve video transmission–there is plenty of bandwidth to deliver any of T-W’s video on demand features but not for Netflix or YouTube, etc.–because T-W lusts for another pound of flesh on top of the fixed rate it is already charging for unlimited internet access. The difference is, of course, using monopolistic practices to control an already captive customer base and to gouge it with arbitrary fees with no chance of mitigation or amelioration. Well, there is one way that a customer can make her voice heard: cancel all T-W service! The economy is in the pits, why not save a few bucks by canceling T-W service? We can use the savings and I’m certain that T-W wouldn’t miss 10 or 20 thousand customers in this area.
There are alternatives to T-W’s internet access available even though they may not have been our first choice. As the economic travails extend into 2009 and even 2010, the notion of self-reliance is reviving in a populace once jaded by unabashed consumption. T-W may think that consumers must choose a lesser of two evils; that the choices are between a cable provider or a telco; that whatever we do we will not abandon some glutted form of delivery system which is a product of habit rather than careful consideration. We could opt out altogether. What Doc Searls and Steve Lewis have been saying all along is that business fails when it operates on the notion that customers are cattle that need only to be herded by top down business practices instead of an equitable partnership whereby needs are defined by those who have them and met by those who listen in order to satisfy the demands of a well conceived business: customer satisfaction through customer involvement and profitability for the business. The concept is simple but the proof is always dependent upon application, which of course translates into a dynamic process rather than a static, etched-in-stone business plan constructed to gain dominion once and for all over those whom they were designed to serve.
State and local government have a role in this since its raison d’etre is the electorate it serves and whose interests and well-being are the clauses in the compact that it is obligated to uphold. Our United States Senators and members of House of Representatives presumably represent us in congress where the nation’s business is distilled from the reservoir of local needs and requirements. So far elected officials on all levels have been relatively silent on this issue which means that T-W and similar businesses have powerful, well-financed lobbyists who represent their interests ahead of the average citizen. Since Bob Dylan claimed in It’s Alright Ma(I’m Only Bleeding)—Money doesn’t talk , it swears–perhaps our representatives will remain mute rather than to reveal their allegiances with obscenities.
Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want…
Sorry, my dear!
And where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here.