Internet connectivity as a utility, not a service…

So Verizon Wireless has made headlines the last couple of days with talks of trying to squelch out its unlimited data plans. They later apologized for the confusion and then reaffirmed that they intend to do this as customers upgrade from 3G to 4G services, which frankly I think is absolutely retarded.

Sure, you can move to the faster network, but you’ll have less bandwidth and you’re going to hit that cap and start paying overages even faster…

Download caps have bothered me for a while, both with wireless as well as home broadband services, and today I think I finally figured out what my beef is – essentially the ISPs are trying to double bill us for the service … both for the speed as well as the volume of data we consume. We buy a device that operates on Verizon’s 3G network and gets speeds of roughly 800 Kbps, but then also has a 4 GB download cap. At full throttle 24×7, we’ll hit that 4 GB cap in about 11 days and end up paying overages for the remaining 20 days of the month!

And granted, most people aren’t going to be consuming data 24×7 – in fact, Verizon counts on it because their network couldn’t handle everyone consuming as much data all of the time.

My point is that just like electricity or water, Internet should be treated like a utility, not a service. When we sign up for electricity with the local power company, they don’t advertise that we’re getting 2,000 kilowatt of throughput with plan #1, and then if we need more electricity service, we should move up to the 5,000 kilowatt service to make sure that we have enough electricity to power everything in our home. We simply pay a fixed amount per kilowatt hour used, which then may be tiered if we move into higher rates of consumption.

The problem is, these ISPs don’t want to be utilities simply providing network services to your home or wireless device. They want to provide services that they can bundle with other content services like television or premium web content. That was the big hubbub that we saw a few years ago with Net Neutrality because ISPs had to be told that they couldn’t tier off parts of the Internet based on who was willing to pay them more money.

It’s kind of funny because a few years ago I was strongly against download caps because I thought they were unfair to people who download large amounts of data, but I’m starting to flip-flop on the issue because I realize that bandwidth is a finite resource that the ISP has to be able to manage somehow. That said, they still need to be able to provide us with whatever they’re selling us, and it’s simply not fair to sell me on an advanced, 25 Mbps fiber line into my home, but then tell me that it’s capped at a measly 250 GB/month when in reality it’s capable of handling 8,000 GB/month. Pick one or the other, but of course, it doesn’t provide nearly as convincing of a marketing argument to advertise 250 GB/month when all of your current sales material boasts that we should be able to do streaming video and gaming across multiple devices in our home thanks to that 25 Mbps speed when in reality that kind of consumption would burn through the cap in no time…

I don’t care which you pick – selling me a 25 Mbps connection or a 250 GB data plan – but pick one.

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