Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Roll Me Over...

The country is absolutely abuzz with the news of the Comcast-Time Warner merger, the Charter acquisitions and the AT&T merger with DirectTV.  My doctor even asked me about it today. He spent a few moments in the midst of treating my Rosacea, opining about where it all is going.  “Terrestrial” he said, “Terrestrial.”  I admit I was duly impressed with his grasp of telecom, given he’s only a Dermatologist after all.

He even brought up the “fast lane” stuff.  I guess the guy reads. 

David Cohen, Comcast’s Real Repairman, according to the New York Times, was cited in various publications, that Comcast had plans to roll out usage caps.  And they’ve been rolling them out in test markets already, just to see if they actually work. The idea is that in about five years, Comcast will have a usage-based billing model rolled out across it footprint, according to Cohen.

So what we’re looking at is a net-neutrality issue, where content providers will have to pay-to-play and an end user issue, where customers will have to pay-to-get.  Gotta hand it to ‘em, if there’s even one red dime left on the floor the Comcast vacuum will figure out a way to suck it up, or in this instance, make you suck it up.

Now, I don’t mind a man, or even a group of men, being ambitious and making all the dough they can, but it leaves me scratching my head about the endless possibilities for the rest of us. 

The scenario that immediately comes to most peoples’ minds is all those poor gamers and video consumers out there, what the hell are they supposed to do?  I mean, you’re gonna force Pete the Plumber to pay extra just to play Scarlet Blade?  It is Mankind’s last hope for survival that lies in the women they’ve genetically engineered.  Or charge Gus the graduate student even more to watch a House of Cards marathon online? 

At the end of the day, I am not in a tizzy about Pete or Gus, but I am in a tizzy about other applications, like distance learning, telemedicine, event and conference communications, management training, and business start-up and the entrepreneurs, patients, customers and consumers who are the end users of these applications.  And, frankly, who knows what new applications will exist in the next five years and how rich the content will become?

My friend, Dirk Koning, talked about bandwidth as water, and that was ten years ago.  He said that bandwidth would become a necessity in our lives.  But as a matter of public policy, our nation has left our growing need for bandwidth at the mercy of the marketplace and the mercy of mega corporations, corporations that are becoming Godzilla-sized Mega.  And our nation has altogether abandoned the notion of robust rural bandwidth because the Godzillas have no interest in build out and we have no will for creating infrastructure.

The data caps story didn’t take long to kick up a general public stink, according to a report in the Philadelphia Magazine, Cohen walked it back a few days later:

“To be clear, we have no plans to announce a new data usage policy. In 2012, we suspended our 250 GB data cap in order to conduct a few pilot programs that were more customer friendly than a static cap. Since then, we’ve had no data caps for any of our customers anywhere in the country. We have been trialing a few flexible data consumption plans, including a plan that enables customers who wanted to use more data be given the option to pay more to do so, and a plan for those who use less data the option to save some money. We decided to implement these trials to learn what our customers’ reaction is to what we think are reasonable data consumption plans. We certainly have no interest in adopting any plans that our customers find unreasonable or disruptive to their Internet experience.

Whew!  Now I feel relieved!  Because as we all know this is pretty heavily regulated stuff and Comcast can’t jaunt about town doing anything that suits their fancy!  And as we all further know, the Godzillas of this world have only your internet experience in mind and they’d never want to be unreasonable or disruptive.

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