Duopoly Fear Factor: Metered Access or a Thousand Flowers

rk_a_thousand_flowers_5315-4_teal_750.jpg EFF mentions “unmetered” once regarding how the duopoly currently says “unlimited” yet stifles BitTorrent or whatever else it thinks is too much.

George Ou flips that one word around: EFF wants to saddle you with metered Internet service. Scary, eh?

You know, I remember real metered pay-per-byte telephone charges, where Ma Bell would charge you a flat rate for the first three minutes and cash in for every minute thereafter, and the European PTTs would also add in exorbitant international fees. That’s not what EFF is recommending. They’re recommending an Australian model in which you can buy unlimited access, or you can buy up to a certain number of gigabytes per month, after which traffic shaping applies, plus overage charges. This is pretty much how telephone companies currently charge for cell phone use, as George Ou even notes. Users would like this? Maybe not. Better than getting cut off arbitrarily for protocols and reasons that the ISP won’t admit? Yes. And a big difference from the old telco metered charging model is that you can buy unlimited access that really is unlimited.

Another ZDNet blog points to the real problem:

This is only a problem if users are not then free to change ISPs. Which is the point. Right now, we’re not. We’re stuck with the duopoly, most of us.

The ultimate answer is competition. The answer is to force open phone and cable infrastructure, as was done in the 1990s, or break up the monopolists entirely, as was done in the 1980s, as was done a century ago with Standard Oil.

That’s what the cable operators are fighting against. That’s what the Bell companies are fighting against. That’s what the EFF really wants here.

Fear Factor in BitTorrent debate, Dana Blankenhorn & Paula Rooney, Open Source, ZDNet, December 4th, 2007

I bet somebody will offer a plan with a one-time cap on overage charges for the grandma problem George Ou notes, and grandmas will flock to it. And somebody else will offer flat fee for everything, and more users will flock to that. Which is of course what the duopoly is scared of.

Let a thousand rate plans bloom, with a thousand competitors to water them. Then we’ll see who picks the flowers. Even three or four would be better than just one or two.