Hit the fan earlier today: Time Warner Cable says they will implement a tiered broadband subscription structure in which heavy downloaders will be charged more per month than those who don't download so much.
AP reports in part:
The company, the second-largest cable provider in the United States, will start a trial in Beaumont, Texas, in which it will sell new Internet customers tiered levels of service based on how much data they download per month, rather than the usual fixed-price packages with unlimited downloads.
Company spokesman Alex Dudley said the trial was aimed at improving the network performance by making it more costly for heavy users of large downloads. Dudley said that a small group of super-heavy users of downloads, around 5 percent of the customer base, can account for up to 50 percent of network capacity.
Dudley said he did not know what the pricing tiers would be nor the download limits. He said the heavy users were likely using the network to download large amounts of video, most likely in high definition.
Now here's what strikes me as unfair about this whole deal. Who are the heavy downloaders? Gamers, yes, but hi-def video viewers.
Now what type of content will high-def video viewers download? Mostly full-length movies and maybe a few tv shows.
Movies, hmm. Doesn't Time Warner own film studios? You betcha.
So on the one hand you have the potential scenario of movie studios releasing and selling high-def content online, and then another arm of the same conglomerate charging extra to view it.
Counter-intuitive would be the mildest label I could place on these practices. Highway robbery and lunacy would be labels that are not all that mild.
You know that if this works in Beaumont, on will come implementation of this tiered structure in national markets.
A frontal assault on net neutrality? Sure sounds like that to me.
So how to stop it?
Let's look at reality. As the current FCC is constituted, there are only firm net neutrality advocates on the five-member Commission. Both happen to be Democrats.
If a Democrat is elected President this November, she or he gets to appoint the FCC commissioner that would constitute a majority for net neutrality.
An FCC make-up along those lines would be far more likely to block discriminatory broadband Internet pricing rules.
"Nanny state," some of you reflexive regulation-haters may be screaming right 'bout now.
And others who are fans of wacko Ron Paul and complete wacko Ayn Rand may already have bought into the deeply flawed fiction that less regulation will equal more competition.
From who might that be? Who out there is planning to sink tens of billions into building a national Internet service provider with the depth of coverage now enjoyed by most of the incumbents?
Listen, I am no huge fan of the nanny state- in the boardroom or the bedroom.
But in this case, where broadband providers are just itching to charge whatever they can get away with, give me the Nanny state over corporate greed any time.