You Can Have Broadband, You Just Can't Use It
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
This goes back a month or so, but it's worth noting regardless as it appears
the policy in question has not changed, but rather, appears to be getting
more restrictive. Specifically, the policy is one enacted by cable Internet
providers which attempts to prohibit customers from, well, using much of
the Internet. It is especially apropos after recent decisions by the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to
deregulate cable and DSL Internet services, placing all broadband access in
the hands of a few national cable and phone companies.
Post article describes some of the activities that are denied to cable
Internet subscribers, including:
prohibitions on the use of private corporate networks that allow
employees to work from home
restrictions on adding hardware such as servers and game boxes to the
restricted access to certain bandwidth-intensive sites
Additionally, RoadRunner has allegedly been involved in a more or less
silent war against customers using file sharing software. Their service is
rumored to detect which customers are using such applications and
block them. The music companies are no doubt jumping for joy as the
primary target seems to be the file swappers. However, other companies and
organizations which use distributed computing models or are not trading
music illegally have reason to worry. After all, it is hard to imagine how
RoadRunner distinguishes between illegal music swapping and legitimate uses
of the Internet -- without invading customer privacy, that is.
As a result of such restrictions and prohibitions, some of the computer and
Internet industries' heavy hitters have gone to the FCC to protest the
rules. They include Microsoft,
and IBM, and Amazon.com.
They argue that such restrictions would "limit innovation and consumers'
freedom, which have been the engines of the information age."
Though I tend to agree, it is important to note that their interests are,
of course, self-serving. Microsoft, for instance, released the Xbox gaming
console this past year. It is capable of connecting to servers over the
Internet, allowing gamers to play against other people from around the
world. It would appear, however, that this activity may be restricted by
the cable Internet companies' subscriber agreements.
We've noted the FCC moves towards deregulation in the past. We've also
discussed the new pricing model that cable companies seem keen on, moving
away from an "all you can eat" model to
tiered pricing: the more you use, the more you pay. Now, it would
seem that cable Internet companies are arbitrarily denying access to pieces of
the Internet and entire ways of using the Internet
regardless of their legality. One wonders what good is broadband Internet
access if you can't use it.