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Bill Ready To Ban ISP Caps In the US

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  • Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Icarus1919 (802533) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:43PM (#28375735)
    Why not? They already sort of have government granted monopolies of certain areas of the country, there's very little competition, etc. Regulation would be the key to prevent a company from taking advantage of these situations to adversely hinder a user's right to consume what they have paid for.
    • by barzok (26681)

      I'm sure there will be a loophole somewhere.

    • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:13PM (#28377163)
      Consider that ALL other forms of communications (radio, television, telephone) are regulated by federal entities. ISPs have been getting a free pass up to this point.
    • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:38PM (#28377687)
      Right. Until we start seeing Japanese-style competition for providing service, things won't change so much. I believe that the biggest change will occur when we start legally classify ISPs as common carriers and treating them as such. With that designation ISPs would have to ditch their shaping and blocking practices and just pass bits back and forth.

      A recent study by the Pew Institute demonstrates that Internet access is a "must have" service. That makes it a utility. Treating all ISPs as utilities brings them one step closer to common carrier status.

      You may have noticed that I tend to harp on this idea. Here's why: a common carrier cannot refuse service and cannot discriminate. Once those two requirements come into view, just watch the content providers get out of the business, in a hurry.

      The current debate in public discourse and with respect to pending legislation seems to exhibit a logical progression of taking a new service that was a luxury and turning it into a utility. I'm happy to help it progress.
  • Unfortunately... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:43PM (#28375743)
    Unfortunately, it'll never happen. It'd be nice if it did but, so long as ISPs have lobbying power, which they do, it'll never come to pass.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      Unfortunately, it'll never happen. It'd be nice if it did but, so long as ISPs have lobbying power, which they do, it'll never come to pass.

      If the bill banned caps, I would believe it.

      It actually just requires the FCC approval for caps. If ISPs with the most political pull think it will let them have caps while denying them to their competitors, they might well not work too hard to prevent the bill from passing (though they'd still probably say they didn't want it.)

      • FTC not FCC (Score:3, Informative)

        by langelgjm (860756)

        As I noted in another comment, [slashdot.org] it's not the FCC, it's the FTC. That's a huge difference. If it were the FCC and the bill passed, it would be worthless. The FTC, on the other hand, has some teeth, and is not totally in bed with industry.

        PS, nice job getting modded up twice for essentially the same comment. Maybe it'll happen to me too :-)

    • by geekoid (135745)

      ant thatswhy power companies aren't utilities~

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:44PM (#28375753)
    Has it occurred to anyone else that treating "utilities" like utilities is what's caused water shortages and rolling brown-outs in CA? Maybe it's not such a great idea to extend the process to ISPs.
    • by evilkasper (1292798) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:45PM (#28375779)
      I think CA is bad example. There are plenty of states that mange their utilities just fine.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shanrak (1037504)
      Exactly, and those utilities are usually billed based on usage. Unless ISPs convert over to a $ per bit pay plan, removing the cap will only benefit the small amount of mass downloaders and make the internet less usable for everyone else.
      • by peragrin (659227) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:05PM (#28376131)

        Until you see what time Warner wants to do with caps. The modification to their terms of service allowed their VOIP service unlimited bandwidth while charging the customer for some else's VOIP. ISP's want a deal where BING.com users don't get charged bandwidth but if you use google.com you have to pay extra. Breaking metering will prevent the value of such arrangements.

      • by dword (735428)

        They can't afford people thinking they should use less bandwidth. For them: bandwidth used by people = money.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Except everyone is becoming mass downloaders.

        or is that 'are becoming'?

        Sure, there is a good argument for the pay per bit, but utilities don't need that.

        Of course, the cost in metering, billing, and the addition of customer support for a pay per bit may not be worth it.

      • by Trahloc (842734)
        Not really, speaking as someone who connects directly to Tier1 providers the transit is there and its ever growing. The failure is on the ISP side of not upgrading their infrastructure to handle it. I know of several ISP's who run a profit and provide excellent service to their clients, if these guys can't its their failure not the capacity of the internet infrastructure.
    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:48PM (#28375837)

      Gaming of a deregulated energy system by crooked companies like Enron played a major part in those rolling brown-outs.

      • Gaming of a deregulated energy system by crooked companies like Enron played a major part in those rolling brown-outs.

        Gaming a badly/partially deregulated system, which IIRC they were involved in determining the structure of the not-quite-deregulation (I think it was something like, fixed retail prices and deregulated wholesale prices, because they (incorrectly) predicted that wholesale prices would drop significantly). There were other states that did things properly and it worked fairly well, or at least didn't cause problems like in CA.

        This article [csmonitor.com] from 2006 indicate that deregulation doesn't actually lower prices like it "should", apparently because providers don't want to compete and don't bid to serve the same areas.

      • by feepness (543479)

        Gaming of a poorly deregulated energy system by crooked companies like Enron played a major part in those rolling brown-outs.

        FTFY. The way California went from regulation to de-regulation was pretty stupid. [wikipedia.org]

        First they had price caps, removing any incentive to conserve energy. (Different situation than internet here where there is a fairly linear cost to produce the product.)

        Second, they released the caps on wholesale prices first, but not retail prices. So you had end users with no incentive to conserve being fed by producers who had no incentive to lower prices because the end users were gobbling up as much as they could

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by characterZer0 (138196)

      Could the water shortages have been caused by simply having too many people for the amount of water nearby?

      • by Trahloc (842734)
        Exactly, might also be the dozen days of rain we get per year. There is a reason people from all across the globe come to live here and it isn't just hollywood or silicon valley. Huge influx of people without a massive increase in water resources... not hard to project what will happen with even a minor drought.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by codeonezero (540302) *
      If you want to say you don't want government involvement, that's fine as an argument, but there's evidence that deregulation in California and abuse of this deregulation by Enron and other such companies had more to do with the situation, than simply "treating 'utilities' like utilities" as you put it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ThePlague (30616) *

        Except California wasn't really deregulated, there were still caps on in-state kWh charges among other weird rules. They called it deregulation, but what they set up was a hodgepodge of conflicting laws that was just aching to be gamed. Or, in other words, the usual government incompetence in trying to set how a market works based not on sound supply/demand principles, but some social engineering agenda. We saw the same exact thing with the mortgage meltdown, largely caused by the effective requirement t

      • If you want to say you don't want government involvement, that's fine as an argument, but there's evidence that deregulation in California and abuse of this deregulation by Enron and other such companies had more to do with the situation

        CA energy was not deregulated but you like so many other have fallen for the lie that the rolling blackouts in CA were caused by deregulation. Sure some regulations were dropped but others were added. See this post [slashdot.org] of mine.

        Falcon

    • by spidercoz (947220)
      No, deregulation did that. It gave Enron the opportunity to create fake shortages and drive up demand to the point they were unable to handle it.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Has it occurred to anyone else that treating "utilities" like utilities is what's caused water shortages and rolling brown-outs in CA? Maybe it's not such a great idea to extend the process to ISPs.

      Someone already linked brown-outs and Enron, so I'll tackle water shortages.
      In a few words: poor planning + droughts

      Because more growth = more taxes, all those Western and Mid-Western states that are currently parched did fuck-all to limit growth. The water shortages are self-inflicted because no one that mattered had the foresight or policital courage to say "no more building unless you can arrange for your own water." This is 95% the result of failtacular (sub*)urban planning. The other 5% is the serious

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No it hasn't ecasue that's not true, at all.

      Brown out were caused by people operating illegally and trying to pressure a rate increase. You do notice that the company behind that ceased to exist, right? and that you still get power?

      Water Utilities don't cause water shortages. Lack of water for demand does.

    • Have you realized that in CA, the fact that CA had been refusing to build baseload power plants in the state for a number of years is the reason for the rolling brownouts? (Note: a baseload plant is one which produces continual energy need, and is a major component of what is needed for a stable power grid... wind and solar are NOT baseload plants because they are affected by the weather conditions and can not be relied upon to continuously output power 24/7)

      CA just finally started building new plants agai
    • by sjames (1099)

      It is already well established that the rolling blackouts in Ca were the result of a combination of felonious market manipulation made possible by de-regulation and of deregulating just part of the industry.

      The latter part was from wholesale prices rising while retail prices were held firm by regulation. Unlike the energy situation, wholesale bandwidth prices continue a downward trend driven by new technology routinely doubling (or more) the bandwidth that can be provided over existing fiber.

      The water short

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Has it occurred to anyone else that treating "utilities" like utilities is what's caused water shortages and rolling brown-outs in CA?

      No, your problem is you're NOT treating them like utilities. You're treating them like commodity brokers. Your brownouts and shortages are the result of underregulation, not overregulation. Monopolies must be heavily regulated; with a monopoly, there is no free market. I can't choose gas, electric, or cable companies. Hell, I have only one choice of high speed internet here.

  • What right has anybody to dictate contracts in that regard?
    Why should somebody producing little traffic pay as much as somebody who produces a lot?

    You dont pay your water bill by your pipe-diameter, or your electricity bill by your wire-gauge.
    So why should you pay your internet becaue of the maximum throughput possible?

    • by whiledo (1515553) * on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:54PM (#28375929)

      You dont pay your water bill by your pipe-diameter, or your electricity bill by your wire-gauge.
      So why should you pay your internet becaue of the maximum throughput possible?

      Only going to say one thing here - remember that trying to analogize the internet to make it the same as things that are not-the-internet has led us to some rather unfortunate conclusions.

      With that said, what I'd prefer is simply regulation that you can't call a service "unlimited" if it's not unlimited. That's my biggest beef. They should have to clearly advertise it as X gigs/month. "Unlimited" should mean "unlimited."

    • by geekoid (135745)

      First off, there are a lot of laws dictating ways contracts can be sued.

      Hiong as a utility is the best way you ahve of eventually getting pay for what you use plans.
      The current plan stems from the Cable TV model, not some government utility program.

      "You don't pay your water bill by your pipe-diameter, "
      Actually that is a factor in many areas. It can also cause your sewer bill to change.

      "or your electricity bill by your wire-gauge."
      that as well.

      "So why should you pay your internet because of the maximum thro

    • They're not really going after the producers of traffic, just the consumers of traffic. Many traffic-generating sites do indeed pay for the bandwidth they use...just ask Slashdot how much they have to pay for their bandwidth costs. The costs gets skewed when you start thinking about Google and Yahoo and Amazon. Clearly they generate so much traffic that they must pay an extremely low rate for their bandwidth or they could not possibly be profitable.
    • by hax0r_this (1073148) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:38PM (#28376617)
      When you pay for water and electricity, you are actually buying them. The utility company produces them (well, with water they pump and purify it, and might have to pay for their water source depending where you are and how the service works) and sells them to you.

      Comcast doesn't produce the bits they deliver to me, they simply transfer them from someone else who I might be paying for the bits. If they can actually deliver the 16Mb/s they claim they can to me at any time of day regardless of "congestion" (of course they can't), then the cost difference to them of delivering nothing for a month and maxing out that connection for a month is negligible. Their routers might draw slightly more power, but the total cost of delivering an additional bit (or 100GB) is next to nothing compared to the cost of making the network available to me.

      The idea behind ISP transfer limits is totally different than paying per unit for water or electricity. With water and electricity you pay per unit (usually - in my hometown of Anchorage, AK water is actually a fixed rate I think) because it costs the company to sell you a unit. With ISPs, they want to limit your use because the speeds they charge you for aren't actually the speeds they can deliver if everyone actually uses their connection. So instead of telling you realistic speeds, they just make sure people can't actually use their connection, making it more likely that you will be able to use yours (until you too hit the cap).

      Of course there is the totally separate issue of most ISPs also selling content that they would much rather you get via pay per view, etc than via the Internet...
    • You pay by your water usage which is really just a means to charge for water treatment of your waste water which is not metered.
      If you use no water; you pay almost nothing, yet you can dump tons of horrible waste into the system like many businesses do currently without added expense. A friend of mine invented a meter for waste water but nobody wants it.

      I see nothing wrong with charging for throughput like we do with water and power utilities. Initial hook ups cost if you want a 'bigger pipe' but unless you

  • by Drakin020 (980931) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:46PM (#28375799)
    FTB

    13(a) PROHIBITION.--It shall be unlawful for major

    14 broadband Internet service providers to offer volume usage

    15 service plans imposing rates, terms and conditions that

    16 are unjust, unreasonable, or unreasonably discriminatory.

    I'm sure they can somehow find a way to "Justify" the caps.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Ah, but they have to Justify it in a manner that elected officials and consumer agree on.
      As opposed to now when they don't ahve to justify it at all.

      Overall, this sort of thing has worked out well.

    • by Trojan35 (910785)

      Well, that would be for a judge to determine. At least with this law you have the ability to argue they're unjust.

  • Does this mean that internet service is going to be provided by local monopolies like most utilities are? Oh, wait...

  • This is light on details on how people can help to push this through and make it law.
    • by mcwop (31034)
      It is light on details period. How do I know this might not actually raise rates? Or limit service? I would rather a bill requiring competition in localities that grant cable mopnopolies. That is right in many places governmnet prevents competition. Thankfully there are some alternatives not blocked (satellite, wimax, etc). I just dumped Comcast and adopted Xohm Wimax, which is working well.
      • by Dan667 (564390)
        ISP's have already let it be known that they intent to squeeze their government sponsored monopolies for their own benefit and that is why this legislation was made. This will stifle the economy and cause huge problems. They are not going to be allowed to do what ever they want using US tax payer land and subsidies.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Contact your congress person a let them knwo you support it and want them to show support.

  • Sure. Make it just like a utility. They won't be able to cap usage in their plans, but they will (eventually) be able to have rolling blackouts using the claim that their networks simply don't have the capacity for everyone.

    I'm not in favor of caps. I'm just anticipating how some of the carrier weasels will try to get around this one.
  • I'm not sure who this new Bill guy is, but I like him already.

    A lot better than most of the other Bills around.

  • by clintp (5169) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:53PM (#28375907)

    Trying to get a new water, sewer, or electric hookup can be an exercise in frustration because of the bureaucracy and safeguards in the system.

    Phone and cable have gotten better in the past 30 years. Landline phone and cable companies are so desperate for business that they're oftentimes pretty damned quick about getting a line out to you. (Unless you want something fancy like a business line or a T3, then welcome back to the Bad Old Days.)

    I invoke the ghost of Lilly Tomlin: "We don't care, we don't have to. We're the phone company."

    And if you think that usage on Utilities isn't capped, you're naive. If you didn't have those teeny-tiny water pipes and electric lines to your house you'd find out real quick there are all kinds of regulations and arbitrary rules about water and electric usage. For industry -- which have much larger access to electric and water -- there are often "monthy maximums" for water use, and obscenely high electric rates for peak usage.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      What? I have never had a problem getting a utility hook up.

      You didn't show any example of caps.
      Yes, you can't exceed 100% of your water pipe bandwidth. You can get a bigger pipe and meter.

      They aren't capped any any realistic way for the consumer. The exception being during shortages. But there sin't exactly 'bandwidth' droughts that appear.

      Plus as a uitility the consumer has a lot more power, and protections.

    • I invoke the ghost of Lilly Tomlin: "We don't care, we don't have to. We're the phone company."

      I agree with the sentiment, but Ms. Tomlin is, thankfully, still alive. At least, according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

    • Whoa, whoa, whoa, that article seems to be promoting a balanced viewpoint that denies a) that telcos are totally evil and b) that we should all be allowed to have as much bandwidth as we want and not have to pay for it. We'll have none of that nonsense on /.

  • Billed like water? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Albanach (527650) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:58PM (#28376025) Homepage
    My water is provided and billed by the local service authority.

    I'm billed for usage in tiers like this:

       0-3000 gallons    $3.30 per 1000 gallons
    3001-6000 gallons    $6.60 per 1000 gallons
    6001-9000 gallons   $10.00 per 1000 gallons
    9001+     gallons   $13.30 per 1000 gallons

    Presumably, utility style billing for internet connections would be similar - very cheap for the first few GB, then progressively more expensive where the heaviest users could find themselves a lot worse off.

    Not sure I like it. I suspect the internet companies would think it a great idea.
    • by $1uck (710826)
      If they billed the same way... I think it would be good. All the telcoms would suddenly be working very hard to get the fattest pipe into everyone's home. The bigger the connection the more you can use the more they can charge.
  • Finally! (Score:3, Funny)

    by bickle (101226) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:05PM (#28376141)
    Finally, some legislation to stop all those noobs from using Caps Lock!
  • Unnecessary... (Score:3, Informative)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:10PM (#28376199) Homepage Journal

    Just compel the ISPs to state that there is actually a limit to what they will allow you to use, the penalties/limits they impose if you exceed that limit, and what it takes to get past the limit. I'm not sure we should be legislating that Internet service be UNlimited. Sooner or later, someone will claim cell phone service is a 'right', and all plans need to be UNlimited. Not so smart, but it sounds good.

    In other words, make them say 'limited' when they try to say 'unlimited', and it is NOT.

    Truth in advertising. Yes, an oxymoron. Shouldn't be.

  • by Sandman1971 (516283) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:10PM (#28376207) Homepage Journal
    Hmmm something I don't get. They want internet access to be treated like a utility. Let's see...

    The more electricity I use, the higher my bill.
    The more water I use, the higher my bill.
    The more natural gas I use, the higher my bill.


    By treating internet connectivity like a utility, that would mean that I would get billed according to usage... Which is what bandwidth caps mostly are (pay extra if you surpass a certain amount of utilization in a month). So how does this bill have any type of impact, other than ISPs having to prove to the FCC what the cost:utilization ratio is.
    • Not every utility is metered by usage. Most landline telco providers provide unlimited local calling... and it's actually unlimited local calling. ...unlike many ISPs, who claim to provide "unlimited" use when they actually have hidden caps.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      But, if you are out of town for a month or you have no power for 3 weeks due to hurricane damage, you have a *really* low electric bill. But your ISP bill stays the same...

    • by freedom_india (780002) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:24PM (#28376423) Homepage Journal

      Yes. On the Utility part.
      Just because i use more doesn't mean my access is cut off.
      That is what this bill aims at.
      Nobody is disputing that internet can be billed on usage.
      Everybody is disputing that internet access can b e cut off, because i exceeded a limit set by my Telco.
      Get it first through your thick head before you post.

  • I pay my utilities by usage. They don't offer an "unlimited" water or electricity plan. Additionally, I pay a lower rate for the first X units of usage, then a higher rate for further units, in addition to the service fees..
  • by RobBebop (947356) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:12PM (#28376235) Homepage Journal

    Why do all articles that express certain ideas that haven't been implemented yet get the tag "goodluckwiththat" and articles that ideas that have just been implemented get "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense".

    Does it speak to the pessimism of the community to influence technology towards the mass market or is the /. crowd just a bunch of crabby whiners?

    Responding to the topic at hand... I don't think they should make the internet a regulated utility until such a time when the nation's government is capable of using it as a mechanism to broadcast emergency information/communication. For the time being, television for 1-way communication and telephone for 2-way communication are the standard and they should stay that way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797)

      Does it speak to the pessimism of the community to influence technology towards the mass market

      Yes. Our pessimism is borne out by experience.

      I don't think they should make the internet a regulated utility until such a time when the nation's government is capable of using it as a mechanism to broadcast emergency information/communication

      Why would that be a condition of regulation? Monopolies require regulation to keep them from screwing the consumer. If there were ten high speed ISPs in my town, the open mar

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