Recently, FCC boss Tom Wheeler stated that he found Verizon’s efforts to throttle unlimited LTE users unless they move to a metered billing plan “disturbing,” expressing concern that Verizon was using network management to drive profits, not to protect the network. Verizon’s response was effectively saying that everybody is doing it, the company highlighting similar practices by T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint.
That response appears to not have sat well with the FCC boss.
“‘All the kids do it’ was never something that worked with me when I was growing up and it didn’t work with my kids,” Wheeler has said. “My concern in this instance is that it is moving from engineering and technological issues into business issues.”
Verizon does have a legitimate point that Wheeler oddly appears to be singling out Verizon, when other wireless ISPs engage in similar behavior. Then again, it wasn’t all the other carriers that sued the FCC in court to strip away network neutrality protections.
Of course, wireline and wireless carriers have used network congestion as a bogeyman to justify all manner of anti-competitive behavior and profit grabs for most of the decade, leading one to wonder if this realization is new to Wheeler. Using network congestion or fake-technical justifications to justify cash grabs or turf protection is kind of what Verizon does best if you’ve tracked the history of the company.
The Internet was more or less officially born Jan 1st 1983. Back then I was just out of college selling advertising for a major London magazine using a rotary dial phone and paper index cards. It feels like a million years ago. Back then we enjoyed creative content through, commercial soaked radio stations, dead tree products like newspapers, network TV, vinyl records or tapes and VHS all of which we paid through the nose for through commercials or fairly large stacks of dollar bills. The networks could deliver vast prime time audiences, record companies, newspapers and movie makers were rich and powerful media giants and if you wanted to find something you had to go look it up at the library. A year or so later as a wet behind the ears sales guy if I wanted to send a sales letter I dictated it to a secretary and send it by snail mail.
An interesting side effect of this slow rolling revolution is the impact of the web on advertising as a whole. For example; I recently purchased roughly 75 episodes of Big Bang Theory on iTunes to watch on long flights. Each episode costs about $1 and buying them saved me watching or zapping through roughly 15 hours of ads. I have seen believable data which puts my value as an ad viewer at about 5c per 30 second commercial. That mean that by spending $75 to own the content the network lost about $18 of advertising, a pretty good deal for the network even factoring in fees to iTunes etc. This equation of trading dollars for interruption through platforms like iTunes, Netflix and Amazon Prime will likely continue to drive the advertising world half insane in 2013. Add to that that the pervasive but confounding social media it’s clear that the Internet will continue to confuse advertisers who traditionally move at a glacial pace.
At the same time the web has obliterated music, yellow books and newspapers it has given birth to massive new markets, freed us from the sway of media giants who often don’t have our best interests at heart, facilitated real social and political change and as a bonus allows us to live pretty much commercial free if we choose to. It has put the information of a large chunk of humanity at our finger tips and allows us to be much more connected with family and friends if we choose to be. I experienced this myself just last week in London. By some oversight I didn’t have the UK added to my data roam program, so I found myself in London unable to call, search, navigate or email for as long as it took me to resolve with Verizon….about 6 hours. Those were 6 of the most uncomfortable and confounding hours I have experienced recently. After 30 years the Internet married to mobility has truly addicted many of us to the point where being without it is just about unthinkable. Hi, I’m Tim and I’m and Internataholic….Hi Tim! Here’s to the next 30 years
I reported a week or so back that there was an obscure and opaque conference happening in Dubai which might have significant impact on Internet access, search and beyond. As always the battle was between the totalitarian bad guys (Russia, China and the Islamic dictatorships etc) and the countries of the West. Although the ITC conference was originally designed to regulate traditional phone service it has evolved into a potentially global online regulatory organization. There was much discussion and behind the scenes machination with dueling memos and much fighting around language most of which didn’t even mention the Internet but could be used to regulate. The short read is that the bad guys were looking for a global treaty which they could use and hide behind to allow them to regulate free speech under the disguise of regulating against spam, porn and other bad stuff.
In a move culled straight out of a Dr. No plot the axis of Internet Evil attempted to push through language giving states pretty much Carte Blanche to regulate the Internet and under keen encouragement of Google, Verizon and other good guy lobbyist at the event the US led a walkout of 54 “good guy’ states which effectively scuppered the entire thing….for now.
It’s unlikely that this issue will stay down. The Internet is a big scary thing to people who would rather that their people be kept quiet an ill informed. It has fueled or at least empowered revolution in a good number of despotic hell holes this year and will likely do so again in 2013. Although incredibly dull, this issue deserves more attention than it gets. If the next phase of the Arab Spring gets set back to winter because their government is able to shoot down Twitter the chattering hoards in the west will be horrified. We averted that option last week…for now.