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Help Us Create a Broadband Bill of Rights

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On Friday, Comcast (s CMCSA) 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?

22 Responses to “Help Us Create a Broadband Bill of Rights”

    • Scarcity is a MYTH used to support outrageous tiered pricing. Hint: watch what they say when they are talking to Financial Analyst to boost their stock prices; they are on the record admitting to this myth to that demographic.

      Yes bandwidth costs money, it costs more because of the Cable company’s choice to NOT install Fiber to our homes. Once the fiber is laid, that price is a fixed cost, it does not cost them more to provide service. As the Japanese have pointed out to others many times.

      A single strand of fiber’s bandwidth can be increased from 1X to 1024X; that is based on technology available before the year 2000. But then they would lose their tiered pricing, which they lobby our elected officials at the rate of $18 million per week to keep.

      Thanks to de-regulation of NTT by Japanese Govt:
      In Japan: 2000: 100MB / 100MB for less than $55 per month.
      In Japan: 2006: 1GB / 1GB for less than $52 per month. (Price went down!)

      Cost is about .50 cents per 2 GB of Bandwidth or less.

      In US, we pay closer to $50 per month for up to 8MB or up to 10MB. With open source DD-WRT software which lets you see your actual bandwidth usage in real time, I have discovered that I get throttled back (they say they don’t throttle service, yea right) below 100Kbps 98% of the time (all hours, 24 X 7) and throttled back to below 40Kbps 90% of the time.

      FCC definition for high speed broadband, while 9 years out of date, is 768Kbps. I do not even get close to that, which means my Cable provider denies me High speed Broadband, even though that is exactly what they sell. It is FRAUD.

      When I called to get it fixed, Speed Test showed that I could get 9132 Kbps downstream and 927Kbps upstream. I could get, yet the cable company’s bandwidth shaping software throttles me back to way less, below 100Kbps 98% of the time. And when they throttle my upstream back to 0Kbps even gMail will not load. Its pathetic.

      I plan to switch to DSL even a 1 MB pipe always available to me is better than 100Kbps. And when a company offers fiber to my home, I am there. In fact I am actively looking for a new home, one with fiber. There is nothing else on my house shopping list.

      To date in the US, only Greenlight (in South Carolina) offers 100Mb / 100Mb for around $100 per month. And the Telcos and Cable companies are fighting to try to prevent them from offering that level of service; even though the local elected officials invited Greenlight into their community to lay fiber to homes after all the telcos and Cable Companies refused to provide equivalent service.

      First they do not want to provide it and when someone else attempts to, they use every legal and political strategy at their disposal to try to prevent them. Follow the money.

      Where’s the Fiber! Give me Fiber or give me death!

  1. C Johnson

    The right of choice of providers. No more monopolies in whole neighborhoods.

    No tier service

    no more two year contracts

    a thirty day grace to opt out of the service

    no need for lan line to recieve dsl or broadband

    a easy to understand contract

    no hidden fees

    no capping allowed on connection speed just because you are not using their other services, or you go with a third party broadband service.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 :-)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.