Yes, he actually said this

In case any of you had been sitting on your laurels thinking that the internets were a series of tubes in which every man, woman and child were equal, please be aware that you’re about to get what they refer to in the scientific community as an ass kicking.

Back in March Time Warner Cable had schemed to test a tiered internet program, which gave an upper limit to the number of Gigabytes you could download each month under your specific tier.  If you happened to exceed this ‘cap’ you would be charged per Gigabyte at a completely made up, not to mention extremely obnoxious overage fee.  The test markets where they had planned to enact this theivery were Austin, San Antonio, Greensboro NC and Rochester NY.

Now here is a breakdown of what TWC had proposed for their pricing tiers direct from Gizmodo’s appropriately named article How Much Time Warner’s Broadband Caps Will Screw You:

• 1GB with 768kbps downstream for $15/month with $2/GB overcharges
• 10, 20, 40 and 60GB will go with Roadrunner Lite, Basic, Standard and Turbo packages, respectively, and maintain the same [current] pricing. Overage is $1/GB.
• 100GB will be the new Road Runner…Turbo (I’m not sure why there are two Turbo packages) which is 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream for $75/month. This is still an order of magnitude more restrictive than AT&T and Comcast, who have caps of 150GB and 250GB, respectively.
• A 50Mbps/5Mbps down/up speed tier is coming for $100/month when they launch DOCSIS 3.0. I’d expect this in FiOS-competitive markets first.

Not only are these plans outrageously expensive but they are unfair.  What does this say about high bandwidth activities such as online video games, streaming music and movies, or uploading your favorite pictures to facebook, Picasa and flikr?  It wouldn’t be hard to burn through 100 GBs in one week of intense gaming and facebooking.  Oh and then there’s hulu, which allows you to watch just about any television show currently on the air (many in high definition).  Could this movement be a reactionary punch in the teeth on cable’s part to fight back against losing their customers to internet-based television solutions like youtube and bittorrent?

A quick interjection: tiered internet pricing is nothing new to the likes of the UK and Canada, not to mention a few select cities here in America.  One such region in New York finally had a true American hero stand up for their rights as citizens of a democratic society.  Representative Eric Massa (NY-D) was the first to publicly oppose the changes and lobbied a bill which would make these practices illegal.  Coincidentally, this bill along with the protests in New York and Texas made Time Warner announce that they would hold off their tiered pricing trial runs until they could “better inform the consumer”…

That’s right, you’re no longer a customer in Time Warner’s eyes, rather a consumer of tubes.  So many tubes such that the internet will consume itself in 2010, which is exactly what AT&T’s VP for Legislative Affairs Jim Cicconi would have you believe.  At the Westerminister eForum he said that, “we are going to be butting up against the physical capacity of the internet by 2010”, indicating that we will be dumping so many stuffs into the tubes of our beloved ‘net that it will literally be full to capacity.  Only by enacting consumption-based internet service will we be able to stop the rapid expansion of the contents of the internet.  Because that makes absolute sense (in the game of Monopoly, maybe?).

To this day, the only argument that could even come close to being a justification of this practice is that all of your utilities are consumption based.  Water, electricity and gas are all priced by unit.  Logically, that would mean that your internet should be consumption based, right?  Wrong.  Those other utilities actually provide a resource that the company harvests/produces and you literally consume. Downloading bytes to your computer is not a consumption of resources (unless you consider the electricty that your computer and network nodes are using).  The cable company does not harvest or generate bytes on a byte farm.  They aren’t purified and stored in a byte reservoir.  And they certainly aren’t stored in gigantic byte tanks and forced through pipes to cross the Canadian wilderness (okay, well tubes maybe).  The cable company is simply letting you receive data that is being dumped into your household.

Here’s more nuggets for thought:  The data that provides this internet service to your home is a series of 0’s and 1’s.  The data that provides the television service to your home is a series of 0’s and 1’s.  The data that provides the telephone service to your home is a series of 0’s and 1’s.  All of this data is cramped into a single tube (okay, enough with the tubes already) called a coaxial cable.  That fat black cable that plugs into your cable box, cable modem, and VOIP phone box.  It all comes from the same source, over the same ether, on the same medium, through the same wire into your home.  All these boxes simply filter the data in different ways, yet each service has a wildly different, yet equally extravagant pricing scheme.  So the “utility” (data) is priced on different schemes based on what the ending node is.  Imagine if the electric company made you pay different prices for the electricity to your tv and the electricity to your lights…

Do you think the cable companies make enough money from over-charging their customers?  Obviously they don’t think so.  They need more money.  They say that this money gets used to fix their infrastructure and expand their networks.  If that were the case then why are there still residents in mountainous areas that cannot get cable tv or internet service?  And why are we still on the pitiful copper network that was built in the early parts of the 20th century?  Where are the 1GBps transfer speeds that many Eastern countries like Korea enjoy?  What ever happened to fiber optic networks?  I think the reality is that these companies are using the ridiculous amounts of money they make to fuel their drug habits, which explains how they can possibly justify the services that they offer.

Here are some final questions to mull over: Aren’t many areas only offered a single cable provider such as TWC, AT&T or Comcast?  Doesn’t that make these companies monopolies and this idea of consumption based billing completely unethical?  Here’s a hint: the answer to the preceeding two questions is yes.  If you disagree, it would be more than appreciated to hear your opinions as to why in the comments below.

To get involved, please contact your senators and state legislators.  Let them know that you feel that consumption based internet pricing is wrong and that you do not appreciate being bent over the barrell by the cable monopoly in your area!  For more resources on how to get involved, visit Stop the Cap!