Whats the Problem?

This site is going to be used as a central collaboration point for a petition and potential boycott of services offered by Time Warner Cable in protest of their proposed broadband consumption cap.

The problem is that Time Warner Cable, in many areas the only broadband provider, is planning to change their pricing scheme from a already unreasonable and uncompetitive rate, to a tiered pricing scheme based on the amount of data you download. The tier starts at 29.95 for a 5 Gb cap (which is less than an average movie), up to 75 dollars for 100 Gb, with overage charges of a dollar per Gb. The apparent targets of this increased pricing scheme are people who watch television and movies from services such as Netflix, YouTube, and network endorsed websites such as Hulu, NBC.com, and Fox.com. The reason is that their sub-par on-demand service cannot compete, and their cable business cannot compete. So, they need some mechanism to lock out the competition. This is an anti-competitive practice, and is illegal. So, to disguise their true intent, they lie and say it is to compensate for ever growing demand and infrastructure costs.

This increased scheme, however, has unintended consequences. Consider that the intended goal is to lock out media on demand services such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. There are other services that do not compete with their cable services, such as iTunes, eBooks, and media rich websites. In the case of media rich websites, such as MySpace and Facebook, visitors don't have any idea how much bandwidth they are consuming due to images, flash media, and banner adds. Why should unsuspecting users be charges to view adds that they have no desire to see?

Average web surfing will become an expensive proposition, which will affect how people use ecommerce sites, how kids will do research for school, and how people use everyday common Internet utilities such as email. No more pictures of the grandkids for grandma through email. And in an already familiar scenario, when the younger kids come over, they like to use the Internet if its available to chat with friends, use webcams, and so on.

There is also potential costly consequence. It becomes easier for victims of virii and malware to suffer financial damages. Currently, there are a number of virii and malware in the wild that attempt to steal personal information. However, it wouldn't take much for a maliscious individual to create a program thats sole purpose was to propogate and run up the cap usage on an indivudals network. And considering the current level of customer service that Time Warner offers, their complaints would fall on deaf ears, and would be forced to pay those fees.

It now becomes uneconomical for telecommuters to work from home. In instances such as the oil price surge of last summer where employees were urged to work from home by their employers in order to save money on transportation costs, it would now be too expensive for customers of Time Warner to do so, and would have to either take a hit economically due to fuel prices or due to a broadband cap. Desktop sharing, video conferencing, VOIP, and other business services for on call employees can add up very fast.

For information technology professionals, the cap also provides a problem. It has become a popular trend, especially among Linux enthusiasts, to download installation images of operating systems through Bittorrent, and to help the community by participating in Peer-2-Peer sharing of these files. This reduces bottlenecks on distribution and mirror sites. This is also a popular method inside of companies, where developers will post their builds or software used internally for development with the appropriate plug-ins, and other employees need to download this software remotely. For example, if a user works in a Eclipse-based development shop, and they use a specific set of plug-ins for Eclipse, the company hosts them internally for easy retrieval. This becomes an expensive option when caps are put into place.

Gamers are also affected by this. The current generation of gaming consoles and PC games are heavily embedded in the concepts of online communities. Online gameplay suddenly will not be such an attractive option in the face of a bandwidth ration. On top of that, the option to download and try demos of games before buying has the potential to cost too much. With games for consoles costing in the order of 50 bucks, try before you buy is an attractive idea. However, if you run the risk of going over your cap, users are discouraged from trying demos before purchase, and ending up wasting money on games that aren't worth the 50 bucks.