The FCC Replies

Well then… The FCC asked for comments from the general public regarding net neutrality, and I sent them a letter. Here is their reply:

Thank you very much for contacting us about the ongoing Open Internet proceeding. We’re hoping to hear from as many people as possible about this critical issue, and so I’m very glad that we can include your thoughts and opinions.

I’m a strong supporter of the Open Internet, and I will fight to keep the internet open. Thanks again for sharing your views with me.

Tom Wheeler
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission

Tom Wheeler. The guy who use to be a lobbyist for Comcast. The guy who has consistently been working for the ISPs to let them do exactly what they wanted to do. And he has “always been a strong supporter of the Open Internet”?

There was another article not that long ago that said this same Tom Wheeler wanted to just give the ISPs their way, and if that didn’t work out, THEN they would finally reinstate net neutrality. That’s what they are calling the Open Internet. The ISPs idea of the Open Internet means they can do basically whatever they want.

*Insert Expletive Here*.

If the Water Company Acted Like Comcast

I tried to come up with an understandable analogy of why Comcast, and the other ISP’s think it’s okay to put data caps on everyone. (You do know they are trying to do that, right?)

This is how I understand it…

Say a water company puts in a two inch line running down a specific street. It’s okay because there are only a couple of small houses, no pools, and no businesses down that street. Everyone can use as much water as they like. Not a problem.

Time moves on and a few apartment buildings spring up on that street. And a business with a huge water fountain. A few people put in pools, which takes away from the business of the water companies indoor swimming pool, too.

Same small two inch pipe serving all those houses, but now there are days when the water runs at a trickle. Other days when some of the houses at the end of the street can’t even take a shower.

The water company knows it could just come in and put in bigger lines. More water available, everyone is happy, and their water bill doesn’t change much because it’s still the same water.

Or, they can ration it. Rare items are worth more, right? Plus putting in bigger lines would cost money and drop their profit for the year. Bigger lines would also open up opportunities for bottling companies to come in and put out bottles of water, taking some of their profit. It would encourage more houses to add pools taking away from their indoor pool revenue. What if an ice factory moved in down there?

“I know,” says an exec at the water company, “lets just give our customers a choice. They can pay for the lines to their house to be upgraded, giving them extra water if they like, or they can deal with what they already have. Lets also put a cap on how much they can use so we can try and limit the growth of fountains and swimming pools in that part of town. We’ll also get a revenue boost from those going over the limit. Win win.”

So the company with the big fountain, and lots of money, pays for construction workers, plumbers, and contractors to get an upgrade on their building, but the little houses at the end of the road can’t afford it. All of that work costs too much. So they deal with the low pressure water, and days without showers even though they really want the upgrade. They give up their plans of getting that pool because the overage on water would just be too much. Besides, they can just go swimming at the club down the street, right? It costs $20 a day, but it’s the only swimming in town.

The exec’s at the water company look at their spread sheets, see very few customers upgrading, and reason that it really isn’t as desirable as the people keep wining about. Some of them are still going over the cap, which means more profit for them, but that’s all for the better.

So… it’s a combination of greed, unwillingness to update lines, and customers inability to force the companies to do it. It results in a scarcity (or false scarcity) of product, high prices, caps, and little to no competition. And since they also own the cable companies… well why the heck would they want you to watch netflix if you can just turn on cable TV?

I know this example doesn’t translate exactly, but it does show it’s not just one thing causing caps. It’s a bunch of things. Specifically an engineer told me bandwidth behaves less like water (which is pressurized) and more like traffic. The more traffic on the road the harder it is to get cars (packets) through.

However you look at it, the fact remains: ISPs could choose to upgrade their infrastructure. They were even given money from the federal government, or tax money, to upgrade and they didn’t.

Draw your own conclusions.

There’s nothing on tv

Let me just start out by saying that I count myself as a “cord cutter”. Technically I still have cable. There is a cable box under my TV, unplugged, and I could technically plug it in any time and watch something on it. Not much, but something.

I’d take it back if I could. In fact I was going to before the representative on the other end of the line asked me if I’d like to pay less for my internet for an entire year. Pay less, you say? Why of course I’d like to pay less. At the time Comcast had a deal to sign a contract and pay $50 a month for internet and very basic cable. Or, I could pay $70 if I wanted internet only.

Let’s see, $20 less and I just have to store a stupid cable box for a while, and keep it safe so I can return it at the end of the year. Ya, I can do that. No one here watches sports. I’d have to pay extra for sports anyway. I don’t want HBO, Showtime, or Skin-a-max (except when Game of Thrones is playing), so basically it saves me $20 to hold onto this equipment.

Now, when Game of Thrones is on I wait until the season is mostly over, then I will rent HBO for one month for $5-10 and binge on ALL of it at once. Saves me so much money, and I get to watch it all instead of living in suspense from week to week. If it wasn’t so expensive to rent each episode I’d do that, but I don’t mind waiting.

The problem I have with the cable box, besides the fact that there is nothing on there I want to watch, is that I’m now one of their statistics. Just another number they can add to make it look good to investors. We have “this many” subscribers, and they can view “this many” tv shows. Doesn’t matter much that I don’t watch any of it. It just matters that I subscribe, and pay them money for the privilege of having access to their crappy product.

It pisses me off even more now that Verizon and Comcast are having Netflix pay blackmail money for the privilege of using their service.

What do I watch? There are some awesome science shows on youtube. I also like to listen to music while I write, or I might watch some game play of a game I don’t have time to play. But mostly I just create my own content instead of consuming someone else’s.

Maybe that’s why there are so many cord cutters now. It isn’t that we don’t consume things, it’s just that our generation places more value one creating something, be it memories or items, then they do on sitting in front of a TV passively watching things. That and we know most everything we want is online already and we don’t need the cable companies anymore. Too bad we need the internet and it isn’t a public utility yet.

Why does net neutrality matter?

There are certain things a person, or any animal, needs to survive. Food, water, and shelter. A place to call home.

In the same respect, an economy, and a country, has things that it also needs to survive, and even thrive. Those things change over time as technology and the world evolves, but they are necessary just the same.

Before the invention of the telephone, people, and corporations, were limited in their ability to expand. They had to wait for correspondence through the mail, or short telegraphs. Or, travel, which at the time could take months to cross the ocean. Everything moved slower out of necessity.

After the invention of the telephone there was a period of adjustment. People understood the significance, but control of the phone and the lines involved, were regulated by one company, Bell. They, along with the help of the FCC, made it difficult to expand the network. Devices that were the precursors to faxes and modems were not allowed to be connected to the lines until the courts forced them to allow it. Bell wanted every device to be made and rented to consumers by them.

In 1974 the US Department of Justice filed an anti trust lawsuit against AT&T. It wasn’t until 1985 that they agreed to a settlement and broke up the monopoly.

They realized that the monopolistic tendency of Ma’Bell to suck every cent they could out of the industry was stiffling innovation, and technological advancement.

Now we have a similar situation. Companies and individuals depend on the internet for sales, marketing, communication, and entertainment. We get most of our content online. Indie creators have used services like KDP and youtube to promote and expand their reach.

All of this has been made possible because of “Net Neutrality”. Something a court ruling just overturned, and we no longer have.

Net Neutrality means that the internet provider is providing a service. Like a water company provides water. You can do whatever you want with the water, connect as many hoses as you like. Boil it, fill a pool. Freeze it and make an igloo. It doesn’t matter. You are just buying a service.

But internet providers are closely linked with cable companies, which means the increase of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu is a decrease in cable. Companies like Comcast and Verizon have been fighting for the right to charge users more to use these streaming services, thus making their $70 a month cable bill look more appealing.

This time it isn’t the FCC that is holding up the monopoly. It was a supreme court judge that said net neutrality wasn’t necessary because if you didn’t like your service you could just go to a different company. He failed to recognize the fact that many people do not have a choice in service providers, and even when they do the companies often work together to keep prices high. Only Google Fiber has given any real compatition

But don’t think this will stop with cable and netflix. Indie music, books, and cames also give competition to established corporations, and they will be looking for ways to use this to their advantage. What happens if youtube, or amazon get slowed down, or even blocked to make other publishers happy?

We simply don’t know how this is going to effect us, but one thing has always proven itself to be true: as long as monopolies hold onto the old ways innovation will be difficult, slow, or even non existent.

What can you do? Sign this petition. Spread the word. Send a letter to your congressmen, and the FCC. Email your representative. CALL THEM. Make some noise.

This is incredibly important. We are thriving because we have access to this marvelous technology. Don’t let them destroy it.

The Internet is Weird

Over the last year I have made some new, wonderful friends. People who have helped, and encouraged me. People I have laughed with, made fun of, and in general caused mayhem.

People I have never actually met in real life.

I don’t know a great deal about these men and women on the internet. But I like them. They tell great stories. We have similar senses of humor, and love writing, and reading, and share a lot of similar goals.

I count them as friends.

I suppose this isn’t quite as unusual as it would have been just ten years ago. Many of us now have friends that we’ve never actually seen face to face. Never had a cup of coffee with. Never hugged, or shook hands. But the people on the other side of that google hang out are just as wonderful, and I would miss them just as much, as any other of my friends. (Especially Cyndi 😉 )

I am unsure if this development in our culture is good, or bad. It has allowed me, a person who is uncomfortable in crowds and often socially inept, the safety of a computer screen to feel completely at peace with chatting with more then two people at once. And has even bled over into my physical life.

On the other hand, there is still a distance. If something were to happen to one of my friends that live down the street I would know within a matter of days, if not hours. If something were to happen to one of my internet friends… would I ever know?

I suppose it is no different then if I had a pen pal back in ye old Victorian days, and the letters simply stopped coming. This is probably also why living wills and wills now sometimes include passwords, or other information to inform those who might be interested.

In a world that is increasingly becoming connected, and at the same time disconnecting from one another, we are adjusting to technology, and the idea that boarders, and distance rarely matter.

Perhaps there is a story in this idea… one in which a boy, smitten by a girl in a city far away, suddenly loses contact, and travels across the country, or the world, to find her.

Perhaps it’s just a reminder that life is fragile, and precious, and we should all take the time to appreciate our friends weather they live down the block, or on the other side of the world.