Solution, We Have a Problem
Solution, We Have a Problem
Solution, We Have a Problem

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    The telcos and the cable companies don't like Net Neutrality, but wireless providers (cell phone companies, represented by CTIA) are REALLY REALLY opposed to Net Neutrality.

    What are they so afraid of? What is it they want to do that net neutrality won't let them?

    All signs point to a converged future where cable, telephone, satellite and cellular all offer broadband services that compete with one another. Of course, right now all these technologies have different rules. Personally, I'm glad I'm not the regulator who has to sort all of this out. The fight over net neutrality is part of this process, the convergence of the heavily regulated telephone networks and the comparatively unregulated cable networks. Telephone networks were required to be neutral, cable networks were not (or at least, not explicitly so until the Supreme Court said so), and when the two started competing the weaker regulation prevailed.

    Now imagine what happens when cell phone companies and telcos and cable all offer the same service. To some extent, they already do: the discredited FCC broadband penetration figures that net neutrality opponents keep citing consider wireless broadband services like EVDO equivalent to cable modems and DSL. Yet the services they offer are much different, and the differences go a long way toward explaining why wireless providers are so opposed to net neutrality.

    Consider Verizon's EVDO service, which offers broadband speeds over cell phone networks, for use with mobile devices, or even fixed routers. But as customers are finding out, Verizon's “unlimited” wireless broadband is not, in fact, unlimited. The customer agreement (scroll down) clearly stipulates this:

    Unlimited NationalAccess/BroadbandAccess services cannot be used

    (1) for uploading, downloading or streaming of movies, music or games,

    (2) with server devices or with host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, Voice over IP (VoIP), automated machine-to-machine connections, or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, or

    (3) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections.

    Doc Searls directs us to a customer who found this out the hard way. From the Verizon letter terminating the service:

    We recently reviewed your Verizon Wireless National Access and/or BroadbandAccess account and found that your usage over the past 30 days exceeded 10 Gigabytes. Your usage was more than 40 times that of a typical user. This level of usage is so extraordinarily high that it could only have been attained by activities, such as streaming and/or downloading movies and video, prohibited by the terms and conditions.

    Verizon will tell you that these restrictions are imposed because they have limited bandwidth, etc. But as Mitch Ratcliffe at ZDNet points out, there's the small matter of this Verizon service, which, curiously, seems to encourage EVDO subscribers to engage in “uploading, downloading or streaming of movies, music or games,” so long as they're Verizon's movies, music and games.

    Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem? There's your problem.

    Looking forward to that bright broadband future.