Help Us Create a Broadband Bill of Rights

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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