April 10, 2009

Big ISPs to Customers: Bend Over and Close Your Eyes

Greetings. It's no longer a matter of handwriting on the wall -- the equivalents of big billboards and skywriting are now making it abundantly clear what big telecom has in store for us, and Time Warner's new bandwidth cap plans are but a mere taste of toadstools to come. No matter how creatively they try to spin their press releases, telecom is taking the elevator to profits, and subscribers are being left with -- that's right boys and girls -- the shaft.

What we seem to be looking at here in the U.S. -- in direct contrast to many other countries in the world -- is a race to the bottom, with ISPs doing their damndest to chain up customers in ways that will help assure preferential use of ISPs' own video and other offerings, which themselves are typically free of all bandwidth caps.

The apparent lack of capping plans so far where effective competition is present (e.g. FiOS overbuilds) would seem to be about as obvious of a smoking gun as Lt. Columbo himself would ever wish to see. It's all about driving down demand for outside Internet services and herding customers (with a cattle prod) into the walled gardens.

The vast variations in proposed caps between different service providers are creating exactly the kind of situations that telecom communications regulation could help avoid -- enormous differences for customers based solely on where they happen to be living.

Bandwidth caps are too important of a parameter, not just for usage today but for what sorts of Internet innovation and usage we'll see tomorrow, to be arbitrarily set and changed by ISPs in the current extremely limited competition U.S. Internet environment.

It's well past time for Internet users from the size of Google down to grandmothers in Ogden, Utah to start demanding effective positive changes.

By the way, Time Warner in my neck of the woods has increased prices on everything yet again this month, and their customer service reps have become utterly uncooperative -- unless you'll go for a massive up-sell. That's assuming you can understand what they're saying. The TW Colorado Springs call center at least has clear connections. But much of the time -- even during the day -- you can end up routed to a call center in Argentina, apparently connected through a VoIP system running at 110bps -- at least it sounds that way. The audio quality is always so incredibly bad that one longs for two tin cans with a string as an alternative. It's just another thorn to ramp up anger through the roof. I'm told that a lot of customers complain about this. But hey, when you own the balls and there's no referee you get to play however you want, right?

Just like the banks who are now massively jacking up credit card interest rates after getting vast government bailouts -- at a time when many ordinary middle-class citizens can hardly keep the lights lit and food on the table -- big telecom has us all in their sights, just like deers in the crosshairs of a hunter's high-powered rifle.

There's no polite way to say this: We are indeed getting royally screwed.


Posted by Lauren at April 10, 2009 09:26 AM | Permalink
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