“…We continue to believe that consumption based billing may be the best pricing plan for consumers.”
Now Patrick Knorr of Sunflower Broadband has gone on the record by saying metered bandwidth pricing (including caps and overage fees) are a foregone conclusion. He made this statement Tuesday during a press conference at the American Cable Association’s annual summit in Washington D.C. An especially notable quote by Mr. Knorr was;
“I would like to pay the same price for my heating bill all year round, but I have to pay more in winter, when I use more.”
Both Mr. Knorr and Mr. Britt seem to be implying that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the same as the other household utilities like electricity and natural gas. If that is the case, the subject of Consumers being able to monitor their consumption is not the issue at hand, but how that monitoring is done.
The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is the utility provider cannot be the one who provides the monitoring tools – it is a conflict of interest.
The next time you are filling up your car at the gas station, look on the pump. There is a small sticker that says “Certified accurate”, or something to that effect, most likely from your state’s Weights & Measurements department. Laws dating back to the early 1900s were put into place to ensure Consumer protection from fraudulent dispensing of gasoline, and are still proving their worth to this day.
Your home has a physical meter that measures your consumption of electricity. The device is constructed by third parties, independently verified accurate by a Federal or state agency and, like a gasoline pump, is also surrounded by multiple laws governing the behavior of the the provider, protecting the Consumer from fraud.
If bandwidth caps and metered billing are a “foregone conclusion” then objective, independent monitoring of consumption is too.
The tools will not be allowed to come from the ISPs, simply because the precedents set in other industries. Any attempt to allow the fox to guard the hen house will be met with the same anti-trust and fraud laws you see represented in that little “certified accurate” sticker on the gas pump.
The specifics of what the physical meter would look like, what its component pieces are, is fodder for a future post, but some basics are assumed;
- Supports plain old telephone wire (POTs), coaxial and fiber optics
- Accurately records throughput in both directions and protects against throttling or packet injection
- Serves as a Quality of Service log since it knows when the connection is down
- Most likely built with Open hardware, running Linux and Wire Shark
Consumers are protected and get true piece of mind when the monthly bill arrives. Surprisingly, there is an additional, potentially greater, Consumer benefit of independent monitoring tools; the manifestation of the mythical “god box” .
When electricity arrives at your home, after passing through the meter, the influence of your local power company ends. What devices and appliances you use is out of the of control of the utility provider (Imagine mandatory use of an electric company provided washing machine with all other brand names forbidden!) The same goes for your natural gas hot water heater or furnace, or the kind of automobile you pull up to the gas station pump.
In a post metered bandwidth billing world, the ISPs will no longer have any right to dictate what physical devices are making use of the data after passing through the meter, as described in the FCC’s long delayed yet to be implemented “Plug and Play” law;
With “Plug and Play” the FCC requires all cable companies to make available CableCARDs, which enable anyone to offer an alternative to set-top boxes. The CableCARD is slotted into a compatible device like a TV or a DVR, and then that device acts as a set-top box. Inter-industry agreements force anyone who wants to create a CableCARD-compatible device to get licensed through a private organization jointly run by cable companies called CableLabs.
- Excerpt from “Who Killed TiVoToGo? ” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fortunately the declaration by Mr. Knorr and Mr. Britt that ISPs are indeed Utilities, and not private service providers, will break the legal log jam.
The same momentum propelling the “inevitable” bandwidth caps will fast track Plug and Play into reality, opening the door for the “god box” to reside in all our homes!