Time Warner Cable Fights For Its Monoply - InformationWeek

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4/15/2009
09:38 AM
Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto
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Time Warner Cable Fights For Its Monoply

I am one of those people who believes in universal access. I think it is desirable for those of us living in urban/suburban areas to subsidize telecommunications to rural areas. Subsidies help build out and maintain our telephone network resulting in a net benefit. So subsidizing broadband roll-outs with government funds a good as well. Too bad Time Warner and others are trying to strong arm the FCC into supporting a tacit monopoly with public funds.

I am one of those people who believes in universal access. I think it is desirable for those of us living in urban/suburban areas to subsidize telecommunications to rural areas. Subsidies help build out and maintain our telephone network resulting in a net benefit. So subsidizing broadband roll-outs with government funds a good as well. Too bad Time Warner and others are trying to strong arm the FCC into supporting a tacit monopoly with public funds.Matt Lesar over Ars Technica recent article Time Warner Cable tells FCC to shut up about net neutrality is spot-on when it comes to showing the lengths broadband companies will go to maintain non-competitive positions in the broadband market.

Time Warner Cable, along with other broadband providers, have been marketing their services as unlimited for years when unlimited has been technically and practically impossible. Broadband customers have suffered from less than stellar performance during peak periods-between 3:00 and 10:00 pm when the kids get home-but have accepted it as normal. The worst day broadband, it is perceived, is better than the best day on dial-up which isn't necessarily accurate. However, as more people jumped on broadband the broadband providers lagged behind in building more infrastructure. Exacerbating the problem is increased use of capacity hogs like P2P file sharing and real-time media like streaming video and VoIP over UDP (unlike TCP, UDP doesn't back-off and will suck up the capacity it needs regardless).

Bandwidth management can be an acceptable trade-off to manage high traffic loads fairly. If cable companies want to impose traffic caps on their customers, enforce tiered pricing, and ban some network application use, they are free to make those business decisions but there needs to be guidance and oversight particularly in areas there isn't any actual competition in the area which is most of the country.

For example, where I live there are two options--Time Warner Cable or Verizon (DSL or FiOS). The service plans are different enough, I think, to be competitive, but is that the case elsewhere? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Cable companies are in a sweet position. Towns have given exclusive rights to specific cable providers and unless the local telco has broadband service, there is no competition. Remember, cable companies are under no obligation to wholesale services to competitor ISP like the phone companies are. The result is defacto monopoly and no competition.

As Lesar points out, Time Warner Cable is being particularly strident in defending it's monopoly at the expense of the consumer. If you think net neutrality is something that won't affect you, wait until you can access those web services like Google/Gmail, Yahoo!, Amazon, Vonage, YouTube, Hulu, and others any longer or performance is degraded. Wait until your ISP says you are using too much bandwidth and you are cut off or priced per block of data. Broadband providers want to acquire every advantage they can-which is natural, they are a business after all. Once given is not taken away.

Get in the fight. Tell your Congress people what you think about bandwidth caps, application blocking, tiered pricing, anti-competitive practices, and the other shenanigans. Complain to your ISP and if possible, take your business elsewhere.

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