With Time Warner Cable does the right thing, David Isenberg breaks ranks with fellow net neutrality advocates by lauding Time Warner Cable’s “plan to charge more when you send or receive more Internet data”. David explains,
|If the problem is, indeed, congestion, or the related problem that a few “bandwidth hogs” are using more than their share of the network’s capacity, tiered pricing is a simple, straightforward solution.|
In this statement David not far off Adam Thierer at The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog, in his post Broadband metering experiment in the works in Texas.
They’re coming from different angles, but I see light in their converging tunnels.
|If you must manage congestion, then doing it explicitly is, at very least, honest. It is better than doing it (a) covertly or (b) indirectly, by injecting artificial interrupts and (c) denying you’re doing it — like Comcast currently does...|
|Let’s remember that getting an offer like this right is an iterative process. We should help TWC, not kill them. As long as they don’t discriminate on the basis of specific applications or devices or app providers, and provided they don’t charge grossly unfair amounts for video levels of traffic usage, and provided they continue to upgrade their network as technology improves, what they’re doing is a good thing.|
|I already can hear Mike at TechDirt pounding away at his keyboard to post his next “bandwidth scarcity myth” essay! But even if he is right that current pipes aren’t as constrained as some fear, I don’t see why it would hurt to allow metering experiments to play out in the marketplace.|
|Then again, if Mike is wrong, and we see more of a capacity crunch in coming months and years because of growing traffic burdens, then metering might offer a constructive solution. Mike is always talking about the need for companies to consider innovative new business models to complex marketplace challenges. I think metering certainly counts as one. Of course, ongoing network upgrades and expansion is also part of the answer, as Mike and others suggest. But I don’t think it’s the only part of the answer. Network expansion requires significant ongoing investment and a steady revenue stream to pay for it. So where is that money going to come from? Is it written in stone that the we have some sort of God-given right to flat rate pricing forever more? More importantly, is flat-rate really the fairest way to price access for light users? I appreciate all the old grannies out there who are essentially cross-subsidizing my bandwidth usage every time I download massive HD movies on my Xbox 360, but is that really fair to them?|
The key phrase is “steady revenue stream”. Should that come only from usage? And the “triple play” of TV, internet and telephone service? True, that’s all the mainstream knows or cares about today, but how much is their knowledge blindered by limited offerings from the carriers?
I’m lucky to have Verizon’s FiOS (fiber to the home) service here, but I’d probably pay more than I’m already paying if Verizon allowed me to scale back the massive bandwidth allocated to live television (all of which I’m not watching, nearly all the time), and scale up my business here at home. But right now the pricing for home business service is prohibitively high, and not based on any obvious costs I can see. What does it cost to provide a few IP addresses? Or to provide symmetrical bandwidth? Or to unblock Port 80 so I can run a server? Hey, I’d be glad to pay based on bit traffic, whether it’s metered or not, provided I have the opportunity to run a server at all. Verizon’s (and every carrier’s) high prices for business use is an ancient telco habit that continues to prevent more business than it allows. I’d like to see Adam and other (commendably) pro-business bloggers step up and challenge their friends at the telcos and cablecos to think more creatively about what they can do to help business happen where the big bandwidth is actually there to deploy.
My own fave suggestion is for the carriers to take advantage of their existing real estate to provide offsite storage and web services that either compete with or complement Amazon’s EC2 and S3. I wrote about that almost a year ago. But maybe now the time is a bit more right.
Scarcity may or may not be a myth, but abundance is both inevitable and highly leveragable.
So the carriers face a fundamental choice. They can contribute to a tide that lifts all boats, including their own — and get all kinds of both incumbent and first-mover advantages from that. Or they can continue to play the same scarcity games that they’ve been playing for decades, and find themselves drowning in the oceans others will create instead.
There are ways to move from the latter to the former, I believe. But I also believe the former has a future that goes a lot farther than the latter.