22 Comments

Summary:

On Friday, Comcast filed its network management plan, which we covered as did NewTeeVee. However, in the comments of the post, it became clear that customers don’t really know what they’re buying when they shell out $30 to $100 a month for a broadband connection. So […]

On Friday, Comcast filed its network management plan, which we covered as did NewTeeVee. However, in the comments of the post, it became clear that customers don’t really know what they’re buying when they shell out $30 to $100 a month for a broadband connection. So I’m thinking that we need to create a Broadband Bill of Rights so consumers know exactly what they’re signing up for.

Since we’re living in the real world we should frame our Bill of Rights with two basic understandings: (1) ISPs don’t face much competition, leaving most of us with two choices in our markets: cable or DSL. (2) Most providers have last-mile networks that aren’t optimized for delivering IP data (Verizon’s FiOS network is the exception). Until we have all-fiber networks, compromises will need to be made. As consumers, we should be aware of that, and my proposed Bill of Rights would be a great first step toward helping consumers see those compromises when they’re choosing a service provider.

So, without further ado, here it is:

  • The Right to Truthful Advertising: Clearly disclose to customers what maximum speeds they can expect and what minimum speeds they can expect if (in the case of cable) all their neighbors are gaming or streaming video too.
  • The Right to Use Whatever Protocols We Please: Clearly define network management practices and ensure that no protocol is discriminated against.
  • The Right to Buy Unlimited Access: Don’t cap our data. Every subscriber should have access to an unlimited tier. Hell, it’s possible that like Verizon Wireless with its $99 cell phone plan, an ISP might be able to make more off of customers who think they need unlimited bandwidth but don’t.
  • The Right To Know Our Speed Limits: Let’s disclose both upload and download speeds. It may not matter to everyone, but it will matter to some.
  • The Right to Privacy: Clearly disclose efforts to make money off of subscribers, be it from selling clickstream data to using deep packet inspection for advertising, and make it easy for customers to opt out.

What else would you suggest?

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  1. I think broadband policy and rights will start to pale as folks start canceling internet accounts so they can eat.

  2. The Right to Know Data Usage: at any point of time, the customer should be able to check and know exactly how much data s/he has used during the billing period.

  3. How about:

    A right to an open DNS system, that does not redirect to branded search offerings.

    A right to access without bloatware/crapware. Why do I need to install proprietary software to use a broadband connection. Give me a live ethernet port, and I’ll get the rest from my OS.

    A right to fair and easily accessible billing information and billing options, without bundled clauses. Verizon FIOS limits your payment options, or risk losing your bundled discount; worse yet, you (almost) have to install proprietary software to create an account and access their billing and payment (web) application.

  4. One more:

    The right to default security. For services that insist on using a proprietary modem; provide a detailed wizard or configuration system for novice users that requires them to opt out of strong default security settings, particularly for wireless devices.

  5. Ian Andrew Bell Monday, September 22, 2008

    Here are a couple of clarifications on above:

    The right to know who wants to know: If personal information relating to a customer’s IP address is subpoenaed by a third party, the ISP has an obligation to provide information about the requester to the customer.

    The right to be always-on: The right to bare internet access free from encumbrances like PPPoE or client software-dependent authorization methods.

    And one new one:

    The right to ping and trace: So that customers can understand what’s happening upstream of them, full disclosure of routing data is necessary.

  6. I thin it is a great idea. You will need a separate website for the article. You will need to make sure there is a blog for it and someone is actually managing updates and pushing the agenda in the background somehow. That is what I expect if your serious :-)

  7. Here here.

    I would add the right to know one’s usage. If that is how the ISP’s are planning to bill us, then they need to give us the tools to determine the service we levels we need.

  8. Help Us Create a Broadband Bill of Rights | Italian Institute for Privacy Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    [...] On Friday, Comcast filed its network management plan, which we covered as did NewTeeVee. However, in the comments of the post, it became clear that customers don’t really know what they’re buying when they shell out $30 to $100 a month for a broadband connection. Click to read more [...]

  9. the only right you need is the right to switch to another provider. they can provide or not provide whatever they want. it’s your decision to use them or not.

  10. Privacy Rights Issues | Help Us Create a Broadband Bill of Rights – GigaOm | Your Privacy Rights Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    [...] Help Us Create a Broadband Bill of Rights [...]

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