Blog Post

Congressman: Metered Broadband Kills Jobs & May Violate 1st Amendment

New York Representative Eric Massa came out against metered billing yesterday, issuing a statement that called out Time Warner (s TWC) for limiting consumers’ access to broadband. Massa, who represents an area near Rochester, N.Y., where Time Warner has expanded its metered billing trials, seems to agree with my assessment that the Internet is critical to both individuals and economic advancement for the country. He even throws in the idea that this issue raises First Ammendment rights, since the web is such an “essential communications tool.” Since local municipalities have little direct power in this fight, I’m glad to see some national politicians take the helm. Now if only Massa were on a Committee that oversaw telecommunications.

57 Responses to “Congressman: Metered Broadband Kills Jobs & May Violate 1st Amendment”

  1. spaceman spiff

    I refuse to accept any metered internet connections. If I am paying for a link that is supposed to be N bits per second, then I expect some reasonable fraction of that at least 90% of the time. That is what I am paying for – bandwidth, not total number of bits. Streaming media, large email attachments, operating system and application updates all are getting bigger and bigger and more popular all the time. I have canceled service when the TOS was changed to allow metered downloads. If an ISP wants my business, they will give me what I am paying for. If people want metered service, then they have the right to get it, but if we don’t, then do NOT force it upon us!

  2. Internet bandwidth has no marginal cost and can not be rationally equated to the metered billing of electricity or natural gas. Once the fiber or copper pipe is laid (of which the cost was funded by the US government) there is no production cost to the bits of data passing through it. Whether the “pipe” is passing 1 bit or many, it has no effect on the cost. Metering usage is a money grabbing tactic exercised only in markets void of competition.

  3. Todd Loren Sinclair

    As Dave Burstein, editor of trade publication DSL Prime, put it recently, “No one is going to stop Comcast, Verizon, or AT&T from practices that are truly necessary to efficiently run a network. The issue is blocking competitive video and charging 1,000 percent and higher markups on bandwidth that are unacceptable.”

    Dave … you took the words right out of my mouth!!

  4. Brett Glass

    Does the Congressman also object to metered billing of electricity and natural gas? Does he understand the very basic fact that bandwidth costs money?

    The Congressman’s claim that metered Internet service interferes with free speech is also absurd. No matter how fast a human writes, he or she cannot generate enough data to saturate even a dialup connection, much less a high speed one.

  5. When a monopoly can use metering to create an unfair business enviroment, that benefits them, and hinders competition in a market, especially a technological one that the country needs to have for future developement, then it is time for the market to be deregulated (I don’t know if that is the right term)Cable monopolies must end, or this will be the downfall of the internet for America. Progress on the internet is going to continue to consume more and more bandwidth, and a country that falls behind too far in this race will find serious consequences in a global economy.

  6. I am about as free market as they come, but I am skeptical about the argument about how unmetered broadband can hold back industrial and economic development. While I do agree that broadband is crucial up to a given speed and data transfer (what that point is beyond the scope of this response), I still don’t get how unlimited pirating of movies and music contributes to the economic welfare of a country. If someone could come up with some illustration of how unmetered broadband does actually create value, value that can be monetized by the producer of that value, then I would like to see it.

    • Antony

      I don’t see why I have to pay twice. Lets say I have to pay Netflix a premium to watch the movies through the internet. (In fact, many cable companies had already had this online system in place.) Well, here come the “cap”, now I have to pay another premium for the download. What!?

      Do you not think that I cannot find other cheaper alternatives to watch these movies? What good for those online companies, beside the broadbands, who are trying to deliver premium services online for better prices to customers. The internet has made many thing possible besides saving costs; papers – tree, dvd – material resources, to just name a few. Number of internet’s users are growing and evidently the internet makes technological innovations possible. Well, here come the “Cap.” Everyone is now taxed.

      Maybe someone should come up with the argument that the government should take control of the internet network traffics because these broadband companies cannot ensure a free flow of internet traffic. But by justifying to do just that these companies are “taxing” everyone that using the traffics… just like the real traffics and clean airs. I’m sure the government would see it as such soon since these companies are trying to play the government’s role and pocket our money.

      No mean to offend anyone with my comments and arguments. But the right to cap our broadband and internet data has a deeper and darker implication.

    • Kenneth, this isn’t about pirating of movies or music. You can legally watch TV shows for free on Hulu, or through your subscription to Netflix. You can also legally download TV shows and movies from iTunes. This is just the start of a new industry, a industry that threatens cable. Eventually you can watch all of your TV shows and movies over the internet, legally, and turn off cable.

      One hour of video = 1GB. So if you watched four episodes of Lost a month you would end up (adding in emailing, surfing, system updates, anti-virus updates, etc.) over the 5GB limit that TWC has for current pricing levels. If you made any sort of move toward replacing cable with the internet and you quickly hit TWC top tiered plan, which they haven’t even set a price for (probably an extra $100+ what you are paying for RoadRunner now).

      So right now you can watch TV shows for free, legally on Hulu, but Time Warner is threatened by that and they are going to punish you with additional fees for doing so. So yes Kenneth, this is all about TWC trying to hold back industrial and economic development in the form of any competition to cable.

    • Kenneth Trueman

      BTW, I am not the same Kenneth from earlier in this thread. I live in Montreal where we don’t have TWC… but where we do have metered cable broadband… and I can choose to purchase the level of download capacity I need…

    • “Kenneth” above is naive in not realizing the real battle that is going on between companies that provide internet content (Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Vonage, Amazon, etc) and the cable companies (Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, etc.) that want to kill off any potential threat to cable. It all comes back to Net Neutrality.

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        “Naive” is expecting government to “solve” the problem with legislation. It has not worked so far. Every time government does that, it makes things worse. Allow the greatest problem-solving mechanism known to mankind (the market) to solve these problems on its own (one way to start is by getting rid of the cable monopolies.)

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        For example: the FCC is the reason we have cable/satellite television in the first place. The FCC wrecked broadcasting, and now most people choose to subscribe to narrowcasting (subscription services.)

      • Wow, nothing you said is actually true. So either you are unbelievably naive about the nature of corporations in this country, or you work for Time Warner. This isn’t a government vs people case, its corporation vs corporation.

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        Translation: “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

        Really, you need to come up with a more original argument. Naive? You seem naive about the abusive monopoly power of government. Time Warner, etc., have no power over you, and certainly no powers except those facilitated by government in the first place (I.E., your local cable monopoly.)

      • Ah, Kenneth. The cable companies are setting up these punishing fees for internet usage in order to maintain their cable monopoly. But you are firmly on the side of the cable monopolies. That either makes you hopelessly naive in the way you are being played by Time Warner, or a Time Warner employee.

  7. Oh come on. Everyone knows the internet is a vital part of society today… well, maybe not everyone.

    However, while we may not like metered broadband, you’d have to be an idiot to think that metering your use of bandwidth was a violation of free speech.

    Just because I can’t afford a billboard doesn’t mean my rights are violated. I can always go outside and talk to real live people… heaven forbid!

  8. Metered Energy usage = Good. California and Idaho now pay the Utility company more when their users use less energy. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

    Metered broadband = Bad! Discouraging users from driving bits is not good for anyone including the delivery pipe owners. The virtuous cycle of more bit consumption leading to more choices leading to more revenue for network owners leading to even greater bit consumption is good for everyone. Network providers are sticking a finger in to a big flywheel that is powered by the Application push and the User pull, both greater forces than the pipe owner in the middle. With the real-time media web a near-certain occurrence within 5 years or so, the Quixotic attempts of TimeWarner & others will only hasten their demise.

  9. No doubt Time Warner would steal my wallet if they thought they could get away with it, but this is hardly a First Amendment issue. Perhaps the esteemed Representative should actually READ the first amendment some time and notice it begins with the words “Congress Shall make no law…” not “Time Warner shall institute no business model…” The 1st amendment is a stricture on the power of the federal government, not private businesses.

    Not sure if metering is an economic necessity or not, and I suppose we’ll never find out as long as there is almost no competition to challenge incumbents — and that blame falls 100% on our political heroes at all levels, including municipals who have spent decades merrily trading away monopoly cable franchises for money.

  10. Antony

    No, the real danger is simply that, when the companies can start meter the broadband the freedom of access netswork is up for auction. The network is there in the first place and accessible to all as. It is not suppose a subject of the arguement about “unlimited/unmetered product.” This is a scheme that they come up with that finally get every body falling for to argue whether “unlimited” or not. No craps about it. Companies’ loyalties are the ones who popularize this kind of arguement to detour the common users away from the real issue at hand. Partly many other common users do not feel the effects “yet” so they make no objection.

    Companies are smart enough to legitimitized their new nolvelty scheme by start out the regions that people would dying to “pay anything” to have internet access at all. It like a company goes to a suppressing government and contracts that “let allow people talk now but meter how much they can voice their speech will be metered.” The idea is that these people finally get their voice count. What do they have to complain about. Hey, everybody wins right?! Right… People who’re dying to get internet access in the first place do not see that they have already paid the service provider and that they are subject of the new scheme.

    And the government? well, evidently no body objects, and even “somebody” supports it. At least these companys’ lobyists are patting their backs for doing good job. The opportunities and pressures to turn blind eyes on us and allow these companies to legitimitize their scheme are there.


  11. What's the frequency, Kenneth?

    The guy’s an idiot. The First Amendment protects your right to free speech from GOVERNMENT intervention. Even then, metered broadband doesn’t limit your speech–it limits the extent you can use THEIR RESOURCES for your speech. It’s sad to see so many idiots who cannot spot ACTUAL constitutional abuses (it’s not like most federal laws aren’t unconstitutional) and dreams up constitutional abuses that don’t exist.

    • Several years ago companies that provide content to the internet (Google, Microsoft, Vonage, Netflix, EBay, Amazon, etc.) saw what was coming. TV shows and movies would start to be offered via the internet. This could eventually be a threat to cable. The problem was that the cable companies were also the major providers of broadband internet access. A definite conflict of interest. So they tried to pass a bill called Net Neutrality through congress. Unfortuantely the anti-Net Neutrality companies (Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, etc.) were able to block Net Neutrality from passage. Time Warner’s goal with these usage caps is to kill off any sort of threat to cable (just as predicted). So Kenneth, do you support the companies that want to provide content to the internet, or do you support the companies that want to kill off any sort of innovation that threatens cable?

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        I support the companies right to offer use of THEIR RESOURCES as they wish. I do not wish the government to screw it up by telling those companies what they can and cannot do. This is government breaking your leg and bragging about providing you with crutches.

      • So Kenneth, you do support cable companies killing off any sort of innovation. You also support them punishing you trying to work around their monopoly. You have been totally played by the cable companies.

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        How do cable companies have the power to “kill off any sort of innovation?” Even the abusive monopoly power of the federal government is not that strong. Where did I say I support them “punishing you trying to work around their monopoly.” Any monopoly they have was granted by the government in the first place. Fix the problem first (government-granted monopolies) then allow the market to handle the “problem.”

        You have been totally played by populist politicians appealing to your willingness to do the dirty work (gun wielding, taxing, imprisoning and threatening the aforementioned) for you. Supporting mafia tactics is no way to live a moral life.

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        More bluntly: What is the moral basis for your right to force some company to serve you in a specific way the do not wish? Where is the federal government’s constitutional right to do the same?

        Answer–there is no such right.

      • Kenneth, you are just unbelievably naive. The anti-Net Neutrality companies want to kill off any sort of threat to cable. Video over the internet is a direct threat to cable. Luckily the good guys won this round. You lost.

        It’s sad the way the cable companies have totally played you as you give your lunatic fringe anti-government rants.

    • Antony

      I might not totally agree with his way of handle the issue, but he is at least finding ways and fighting back just like many of us users who are trying to stop these companies from malicious practices and screwing us dry of cash. The real issue is just that, these companies have already throwing enough distractors in our ways, we cannot stop voicing our concerns for the main issue at hand.

      • Kenneth, you are being so naive! You want to watch HD movies via Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, etc? Then you need broadband internet access. The only way you are going to get broadband internet access is through a cable company. DSL isn’t fast enough, if you can even get it in your area. So if you continue to use TWC to watch Netflix, the cable companies win. If you continue to use TWC, but carefully avoid watching video on the internet, the cable companies win. You stop using broadband internet, the cable companies win.

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        “Need” is such an interesting word. You have such a compelling need you are willing to steal control over someone else’s property? That’s called the “argument from pity” and it’s a fallacy.

        I, personally, use DSL. I do not have, but could upgrade to, DSL fast enough to do such things. I choose to use bandwidth more conservatively. You would force me to pay for “uniform” bandwidth by forcing companies providing it to cater, by law, to your whims.

        I’ll have none of your strong-arm tactics in this nominally free country.

      • Antony

        “I’ll have none of your strong-arm tactics in this nominally free country.”


        Of course you don’t, with your argument, you’ll have many of these companies backing you up if you’re not working in any one of them already. These people here who seeing different from you are trying just that, voicing their concerns. I don’t find it plausible that there is such a control for them to cap what we have already paid. Well, of course, you can help them to define that “control.” After that, you can label anyone who resists as “stealing” your “control” since you are the one who create it… I mean, these companies’ control.

        “Need”? Unless you try to argue just for arguments sakes, evidently broadband network become an essential part of an individual’s life. Of course, if you’ve been living and growing up in the closet then there is no point of saying.

        Sometimes ago before the Anti-Monopoly law come into effect, Rockefeller and his like minded fellows had all rights and reason to argue just like you. Too bad for those customers. Of course, those customers could get around not using the oils… with all inconveniences. But if they “want” it (or shall I said “need” it), they have to pay the “price”!!

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?


        The argument that I disagree with you because I’m “working for them” is lame. I am not. Telling other people how they must divvy out their assets IS just THAT: stealing control from them. I’m sorry you’ve been brainwashed into thinking as an authoritarian.

        The argument that someone has to give you something because you “need” it is morally bankrupt and a logical fallacy. This is the Soviet Union, and such logic will put us where they ended up (and it’s driving us there already.)

        How much, exactly, do you “need” your movies delivered over the internet, anyway? Other delivery means are killing you?

        Funny you should mention the false story of the oil monopolist as well. As it turns out that was another lie we were told. Standard Oil was punished for nothing more than doing good business. If you want to bring out the monopolist canard, at least reference one that actually exists, such as the government-enforced cable TV monopoly.

        BTW, you’re so hung up on your “need” for a movie fix, rent Videodrome.

  12. I’m all for metered broadband. I don’t game online, I don’t use torrent feeds, I don’t stream video. Why should I pay for other users to use large amounts of bandwidth that I don’t need or use.

    • Antony

      This is the simple side of argue that these companies used to “justify” their doings. The question is who says, or even guarantees, that your internet will be faster, or that you’ll lesser than you are now. Whether, those honest users who don’t really see the effects, even when the scheme is legitimatized, soon or later many of those activities, named here, will be needed. Inevitably, you cannot escape doing what you are not doing right now. Internet is increasingly becoming an integral part of an individual life.

      It sounds to me you’re either an honest user and don’t see the problem, or you are just playing the “gullible” argument.


    • Anandakos


      You don’t expect that the cable companies will offer you a lower price for using less than the current average user do you? Ain’t gonna happen. Instead they will throttle your speed back to 1 megabit and put a limit of maybe 5 gigabytes per month ON THE EXISTING TARIFF!

      So you’ll pay the same and wait longer for pages like GigaOm and HuffingtonPost to load. And if you look at HP too often, you’ll exceed the GB limit because of all the pictures. Bye-bye inventive web journalism.

      Anyone who wants to keep the current 5 megabit upper limit will pay a premium. That’s what “the revolutionary DOCSIS 3” means.

    • “I’m all for metered broadband. I don’t game online, I don’t use torrent feeds, I don’t stream video. Why should I pay for other users to use large amounts of bandwidth that I don’t need or use.”

      You’re going to pay either way. Don’t believe for a second that these carriers are going to offer dirt cheap monthly plans to customers who consume little to no network resources. Half of their customers would defect to cheaper plans.

      This trial isn’t true metered billing. It’s a bloated, idiotic system where a company penalizes consumers of video with 1000-1500% per GB markups over cost.

  13. The real problem is the monopoly enjoyed by the cable companies over the infrastructure. Put in a law that forces sharing (like they have in Europe) and there will be enough competition from smaller companies to drive down prices.
    Metered billing is a flawed concept. Paying bills, looking for bargains, checking email, viewing photos or streaming videos – these do result in a huge amount of bandwidth consumption (when measured in bytes; not in terms of per-second bandwidth utiization). If all they want to do is cut down on uploaders/downloaders hogging bandwidth, they should impose a bandwidth utilization cap (or switch to faster infrastructure)

  14. I had a metered connection in New Zealand

    Where i could select me speed when i signed up and an estimated monthly usage on a sliding scale which affected base price. Anything over this got billed per meg up to a max of 50gb after which my connection was slowed till the end of the month.

    I don’t see why people have an issue with metered connections. The more you use of something the more you deserve to pay. It’s happens with pretty much everything else in the world so why not internet

    • Hmm, except that what the cable companies are doing has nothing to do with covering their costs. They already make a profit with the current billing system. This is entirely about the cable companies wanting to kill off any potential threat to cable. Want to watch TV shows or movies on Hulu, Netflix or iTunes? The cable companies will now punish you for that. Eventually in the future you could watch all your TV shows over the internet… and turn off cable. This scares the cable companies, and thus this plan to punish people for watching video over the internet.
      Want an example of paying for access and not being metered? That, ironically, would be cable. You pay for access, and are charged the same whether you just watch 1 show a week or hundreds of shows 24/7, you pay the same.

      • @Shawn,

        You nailed it. The bread and butter of the cable companies is threatened by the “infinite” number of free channels on the Internet. The cable companies are simply trying to choke the free channel alternative. To illustrate this point, I began a switch of our household over to wireless Internet delivery specifically for video. This coincided with a switchover to cable voice. When the cable voice switchover was being installed by the cable technician, he noticed the work underway for wireless delivery to our living room HDTV. He then recommended against the use of Internet video as it would certainly drive up our high speed cable bill when metering begins. It is this simple.

        My $.02.



  15. The real danger of not allowing metering is that prices will increase to compensate. Should those consumers who only use their broadband to pay bills, look for bargains be forced to pay more so that those who want to transfer 1TB or more a month can do so?

    Providers should be allowed to offer a range of speeds/usage points and perhaps be forced to include an unlimited/unmetered product, but to outlaw metering could see prices increasing at a time when many people can least afford it.

      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?

        That’s it, exactly. People should not patronize companies whose policies they disagree with. Put things like this in the hands of the government, and you’ve lost your choice (just as with the government-arranged monopoly cable provider in the first place.)

      • “Let the consumer address these issues with their wallets”

        They can’t. In the Rochester market, Time Warner Cable has one, barely viable competitor in Frontier Communications. Frontier has struggled to offer consumers more than 3Mbps speeds, and have spent the last year talking about bandwidth caps of their own.

      • Shadowe

        Except that there is no choice for pretty much the entirety of the united states. Generally it’s one cable company and one DSL company, and in huge portions of the country you don’t even get that choice. In central florida for example there are enormous regions where you have Embarq for your DSL provider and no other options.

        Educate yourself on the history of broadband in the US you’ll see that very little has anything to do with anything substantive and virtually all actions towards metered bandwidth, traffic shaping, and bandwidth caps is purely an anti-competitive action or simply to squeeze more money out of people who literally have no other choice.

        A bit ago they were actually paid by the govt to roll out fiber so that by now we could have almost universal fiber to the home and bandwidth levels more on par with europe’s 100+megabit connections. They pocketed the money and raised prices.

    • this is wrong in every way

      this is wrong , no matter how much timewarner comes on here and tries to spin this.note: you already
      cable companies a fair amount for the services in which you choose through them. if i pay for internet service ,and pay for installation as well , now they are saying or should i say doing, thay we have to pay for internet , and if you want to use it you will have to pay for how much u access this internet we provide