Friday, February 27, 2015

If you like your ISP you can keep your ISP..............yup!

With the seizing of regulatory power over the Internet by the FCC yesterday, America has received the promise that the white knights over there in the guv-ment are a gonna tame the evil corporate Cable Company beasts and save us all from massive unfairness.

They will do so by turning these wild savage corporate beasts into nice tame and friendly little "public utilities". How has that EVER worked out to the advantage of consumers. Right now, if my ISP jacks around with me and gives me crappy service, I just go buy my service elsewhere. Let the free market sort it out. Haven't we learned from hard experience that the more the feds try to run things, the less competition there will is, the worse the service and the slower they become at solving problems. And innovation just disappears. When phone service was regulated about the only innovation we had during the first 80 years or so was automatic dial-up and push button phones that imitated rotary phones so we wouldn't have to do that dialing thing. Mobile phones required a limo-sized vehicle to carry them around in, huge deposits and year-long waiting lists. Long distance calls could easily run five to six dollars a minute. When the giant government regulation supported phone company was deregulated, long distance rates dropped to 10 cents a minute in practically no time, you could carry a mobile phone in your pocket and customer service reps began to treat you with respect.

The one great thing central planners hate is too many different utility companies to regulate. When we deregulated the electricity delivery system and provided consumers with choices, the prices dropped quickly. All sorts of cool electricity plans were offered that saved us all money.

Why, by all the chocolate fondue fountains in Hollywood, do we want to regulate an industry that's already mostly deregulated. This cannot end well.

If the FCC wants to help, then investigate the ISPs that do all this evil stuff to consumers that you say they do on a case by case basis. The FCC needs no authority to do that. Any citizen could conduct such an investigation if they wanted to do the detective work. If they want to make these guys quit screwing customers, let the FCC give them a consumer rating index where they can mark their scores down for jerking customers around. For those that pinch off bandwidth, let everybody know it and give them a bad consumer service rating. When my bandwidth dropped during the evenings, I complained to Centurylink DSL. Next thing I know they boosted my badwidth by more than 50%. It still runs slower when all my neighbors are streaming NCIS at the same time as me, but I'm hearing from Centurylink that the company is investing in more fiber and if we're patient, we'll like the results. I'm willing to be patient in exchange for the promise of innovation.

This whole thing is a case of the feds offering to fix a temperary problem with a permanent regulatory solution that freezes the problem in place with a half-ass solution. The issue is that there is only so much bandwidth. If the ISPs don't have some freedom to juggle customers around a bit, the whole thing is going to lock up. You can't change the amount of existing bandwidth by merely passins a regulation that says give everybody the same bandwidth. To do that the ISPs would have to cut everyone back. There's only so much bandwidth. Unlike the president, real world Internet Service Providers can't crap bandwidth unicorns on command - at least not ones that will do anybody any good. 

If you don't let the ISP's juggle customer access speeds on the fly, you're just going to have to slow everyone down so that nobody is getting what they need. You can't tell an ISP provider, just to spend more money on fixing the problem without giving them a way to pay for it. All it means is that they cut other services and reduce everyone's bandwidth so that we're all equal, even if that means we're all stuck with inadequate bandwidth.

"So, just let them be satisfied with less of those nasty evil profits," say the manic-progressives on the picket lines. Just tell that to the stockholders and watch the Dow drop like a stone. And before you diss Verizon and Comcasts stockholders, you might want to check. You might just be one of those stockholders through your retirement plan, bank savings, money market accounts or savings accounts and not even know it.

Regulation is a sledgehammer tool and everything it touches is a spike to be smacked down. The providers are working hard to fix the problem you're talking about. Let's not tie the hands of the mechanic who is trying to fix our car. Do you want a temporary fix so you can drive while the right parts are coming or shall we all just sit in the garage and wait for the parts to arrive someday if the regulators don't decide that unless every car in the garage also gets the same part, the mechanic can't fix your individual car. After all, it wouldn't be the others if you had a newer carburetor than theirs.

Many non-cable ISP's, especially the independent ones are working to make wireless so good that you'll no longer need cable. There's talk of setting a geo-syncronous satellite overhead and beaming the Internet to you that way. When I don't have to pay $3000 to have a stupid cable run 500 yards to my house, I'm going with that ISP and Comcast be damned.

The cable companies are trying to figure out how to survive in a rapidly changing market. Consumers like me are sticking up antennas and plugging them into a hub that lets me switch between on-air stations, my computer's Internet connection, Hulu, Netflix, The Classic Movies streaming site, Youtube, Amazon Prime, two DVD players, a VCR and a hard drive full of movies I downloaded from Amazon. I'm happier than a dead pig in the sunshine and the cable TV guys get nada. I dont' think Net Neutrality bothers them at all. The cable companies would rather be public utilities. Their business gets protected that way and they don't have to work as hard to keep up with technology.

The straw man argument about changing bandwidth, unfortunately, convinces people that we need to regulate. The problem is consumers think if you subscribe to 12mbs, the ISP should deliver 12mbps 24/7. The problem is that the company doesn't have enough bandwidth for that. At some times of day it drops to 4mbps for an hour or two simply because lots more people are using the Internet. I just shift my tasks that demand a lot of bandwidth to times when the net isn't so busy. I can live with that while Centurylink builds out its bandwidth in my neighborhood. We all share the Internet. You deal with some issues when you're building something that's never been done before.

I'm working on the AI voice for a device that acts as a computer companion and helps run your house. It has what they are calling an "emotion" chip. It will attempt to recognize your facial expressions and speech patterns and learn to respond to you appropriately. It's hugely complicated and it isn't happening fast enough for some of the company's investors who heard "emotion chip" and assumed we could find one in some scientist's abandoned laboratory, stick it in Data and have him weeping or telling jokes in a couple of minutes.

Our gains are made in fits and starts, just like the incredible gains we've made on the Internet. Regulating in the way the FCC wants to regulate merely stultifies development. The Internet has thrived because it is flexible. Plenty of attempts to add new capabilities or create new capacity have failed miserably and been abandoned. The current spate of heads-up display devices that pull stuff off the Internet and flash it in front of your face is a case in point. Some looks promising. Some is just intrusive and stupid. It will sort itself unless the FCC decides it needs to "fix" heads up display technology through regulation and then *poof* innovation ceases.

Let the industry sort itself out. In the meantime, at least yesterday, if we didn't like your ISP provider you could change your ISP provider.

© 2015 by Tom King

1 comment:

Mark Milliorn said...

If Obama had been president at the end of the nineteenth century, he would have mandated that each of us buy a new buggy whip every year.