Time Warner Cable (TWC from this point forward) sent a letter to the FCC earl yesterday stating:
"Now is not the time, nor is this the appropriate proceeding, to engage in a debate about the need for net neutrality obligations. The clear, overarching purpose of the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) is to jump start the deployment of broadband facilities in unserved areas and to expand broadband availability generally, thereby creating jobs immediately and extending the near-term economic, educational, social, and other benefits of broadband services. Debates in this proceeding about new net neutrality regulations would only divert attention from these important goals, delaying the distribution of funds while generating considerable contention when the Commission should instead be fostering a spirit of collaboration. That delay would be exacerbated by the need to comply with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act in connection with the adoption of any new nondiscrimination rules."
This is all well and good, but the idea of the stimulus money (in my mind, and I may be delusional; hey you never know), is to help create a network for the people. As it happens it's a network WE are paying for. Stimulus money doesn't come from a sock under Obama's bed, it comes from tax payers. In consideration of that, should we be forced to pay for an infrastructure used to abuse it's customers?
For those wondering if I'm baselessly accusing TWC of abusing it's customers or not, take a gander at a few of the latest articles from around the tech world concerning TWC. Here's a few quick ones from Ars, Wired and The Business Insider. Basically the math works out like this. If you are charging some one for both the speed at which they access the data and the amount of data they can use, except in cases where that data comes from the ISP you can guarantee your loyal customers are happy with their low rates. Where as your disloyal customers using other vendors solutions on your network pay a premium as they chew away at their bandwidth caps and are dinged to raise their cap for that period of time. This effectively allows them to punish heavy users of services that compete with their own in a way other than Comcast's earlier attempts to manage the 'problem' by throttling competing businesses. Different thou it may be, it gets to the same ending, abusing what is effectively a monopoly position because your consumers have no choice but to acquiesce to your demands. On top of this it allows you to abuse your competitors by simply making them less appealing than your own offerings, not by reasonable competition but by effectively taxing their services. It wouldn't surprise me if this is treated as anti-competitive practices instead of even worrying about the net neutrality issues, your allowed and expected to compete in this country but sabotaging your competition is going a few steps to far.
These caps may not be so painful if they were at least reasonable sizes. Comcast does in theory cap their bandwidth but it's a number I have never succeeded in hitting (it's in the 30-250Gb range). TWC starts at 1 Gb. If your using their lowest tier and streaming an HD Hulu movie, you will cross that limit in an hour and twenty minutes (or there abouts) meaning you can't even watch an entire movie without getting dinged for more bandwidth. Whereas you can watch as many on demand movies from TWC's collection as you would like without impacting your bandwidth cap, assuming your impressed with their system (I don't have road runner, so I can't speak to it's quality first hand; but it was a much derided service during my time in Philadelphia).
Regardless of the drive, the whole thing is rather warped by the fact that we the people will be the ones paying for this is us, the tax payers. What I'm speaking of specifically is the so called 'Broadband Stimulus Bill' meant to provide money for building broadband infrastructure in areas that are either not served or are underserved. One major danger with allowing behavior like this to go forward in these areas is that these users may never know anything else, in all likelyhood a single provider will develop a broadband pressence for a given under / unserved user base. In these cases especially, it isn't unreasonable to demand a respectable level of net neutrality as we would effectively be gifting these companies a monopoly pressence in these regions. Making the TWC stance of give us money but don't even think about trying to put those Net Neutrality strings on 'our' money stance all the more disconcerting.
The upside is that these plans have caused quite the uproar both on the blog world and in the public sphere leading to one Congressman beginning the process of writing a bill to ban the bandwidth caps completely. This however for the time being will now not be necessary as TWC has announced this evening that they will shelve the plans while 'customer education process continues' (as noted on Ars). So for now it's a bit moot, but in the near future may rear it's head again.
The line '...while the customer education process continues...' indicates that while we don't have to worry about these issues for the next week and probably the next few months this will not be the last time we see this. Remember that Comcast does in fact have a usage caps but they are high enough that even heavier users are a hard time hitting them. While that may not continue as the web gets steadily more complex requiring signifigantly more data transfer power if the caps keep up with the complexity it won't cause any huge problems (I still don't like it, but I doubt I'll hit it any time soon). Regardless, among those I know your ISP is the least loved of the bills you pay so making your image worse doesn't seem to be a good idea.