What changed about the ‘net?

So “What changed in the last 15 years of the Internet?”

It’s not actually the Internet we’re talking about regulating. The truth is, in the USA, we’re talking about preventing Comcast and Charter.

On paper, Comcast’s internet subscribers passed their TV subscribers in 2015.

On paper.

I’m listed as a Comcast phone subscriber: They offered me an almost half-price deal if I would take Internet+Phone. Many take similar 2- or 3-play bundles, and their contracts listed as something other than Internet.

The number of people who had an account with Comcast primarily for Internet access surpassed TV long before 2015.

Speed changed and speed means cable, and cable used to mean which of the 3 monopolies owned the turf your property was on. Now, it means Comcast or Charter.

On paper today, 3/4 of Americans still have a choice of 3 providers for DSL-speed Internet.

In reality, there’s no actual choice. In the rare cases where Comcast and Charter are present in the same town, the consumer doesn’t actually get to choose which one will service their address. Or any say when the companies exchange turf and the next bill arrives with a letter saying “Welcome to Comcast!”.

So claiming “The internet has been free for the last 15 years” is disingenuous. American’s haven’t had an actual free market internet for 7 years. Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox, Road Runner, … Now there’s just Comcast and their buddies at Charter.

Sure – anyone could start an ISP business to compete with them.

There will be some challenges if they choose to provide service over cable, since they’ll need Comcast/Charter to provide them access to utilities. Or they can lay their own. Assuming Comcast/Charter don’t block them.

Anecdotal story: “The first available appointment they could make for us with a senior-enough engineer was 10 weeks. We waited. The engineer had to reschedule. Week 11. The engineer got stuck in traffic, we said we’d wait. He’s already turned around. Well, we cleared our afternoon. If he’s not coming, we can always go see our law firm 2 blocks down… Oh, he’s on his way back. He arrived at 4.30pm. This particular equipment had been traded to the other cable co sometime in the last 11 weeks, he couldn’t say when. All the labeling still said his company name, but he told us ‘This is Xs equipment, I can’t help you’. Week 15, we were finally able to extend our cables down to the next pole only to find that the equipment trade? It included exactly those two poles…”

Laying your own cables? Can’t happen.

Wireless? Just gotta get past the FCC and the anti-competition lobby by Comcast/Charter; concerned individuals at FCC hearings who may actually need to identify themselves as “Soandso of Comcast, but here in my capacity as an individual”… Opening a frequency for you would allow others to compete with Comcast unfairly, so that’s out.

Perhaps tall towers with lasers or microwaves? Comcast/Charter employees are very concerned about the environment. Not unreasonable. You could build here or there. But, … how will your service reach the towers?

Ultimately, lets take a moment to consider the company we’re talking about here: Comcast.

This is a company that sells a DVR service that requires you to first subscribe to pay-per-view. That smell? Fishy. You don’t actually record stuff on your DVR. If you introduce noise to your cable line, your DVR playback quality decreases. If you unplug your cable connection, your DVR playback stops.

If your “recorded” shows fall off of pay-per-view, they also simultaneously “expire” from your DVR.

There are more technical ways to prove that the DVR doesn’t record content (actually, it *will* write content to the drive, but only if you perform some very obvious monitoring activities; there’s literally software running on the DVR so that if it thinks you’re testing to see if the DVR is a DVR, it’ll read/write content, but if you don’t tamper with the box, or if you tamper with it to a higher degree than the regulatory investigators are allowed to – as restricted by Charter lobbying – you can easily demonstrate there is no recording. You can ghost the drive, and compare the image later).

For an average HD customer, you are billed for ~400 channels.

Close enough to half of those are HD channels. In many cases today, the sources are HD, so when you pay for the HD channel you’re actually paying for not having the channel down sampled to SD. In many of these cases the HD/SD and stereo etc overlays are actually overlaid by the receiver, they’re not embedded in the channel.

Also, you’re being charged for the channels *as well as* for the HD service? Hmm.

Further, half of the channels are the same channel with foreign-language audio.

So you’re actually being provided 100 channel streams (it’s a little higher: the handful of actual foreign channels such as BBC America, News China, Vietnam Now, etc, of which you want exactly one or zero).

Of these, 56 of them are free, over-the-air channels.

Lastly, this is no-longer 1995, the cable is not analog.

You’re being sent HD SAP streams for 100 channels. The free/base packages actually require you to decode and downsample that to SD, and the receiver has to modify the stream to *prevent* you accessing SAP.

When you upgrade to the “HD” receiver, it’s the same device. The “HD” service consists of being able to see the channels without downsampling.

If it turns out you don’t speak Spanish or English, you don’t get to choose your package. You have to pay extra and use the lets-pretend interface to hear the audio-stream you want.

This is the company that republicans want you to believe doesn’t need regulation, that wants to “innovate” on the *consumer’s* behalf… This is the company that has fought tooth and nail against streaming services from the very beginning, on the basis that channel-based subscription services are “better for the consumer”.

We don’t *need* to regulate the Internet. We could fix the problem by taking away Comcast’s control of the cable infra, or by dismantling Comcast the way we dismantled Bell Labs, one of the best things that happened to the US Communications industry for decades.

We know that Comcast and Charter lobbied heavily against NetNeutrality. But take a look at how much they spent on lobbying to keep the regulations that they manipulate to keep others out of the cable business…

 

 

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