A hungry Congressman gets things done

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Time-Warner’s plan to begin “internet consumption billing” in my area. The billing plan was, quite simply, a way to screw consumers, as Fighting29th ably explains here, here, and here.

I live just about on the border of New York’s 28th and 29th Congressional districts. The 28th is represented by Louise Slaughter, the powerful chair of the Rules Committee, the 29th by freshman Congressman Eric Massa. I emailed both Massa and Slaughter about the cap. I heard nothing back from Slaughter. Massa’s office told me that they thought it was a serious issue, that they were getting complaints from a lot of constituents…and then sprung into action. The opening line of the video below (via) is “I plan on putting the entire full force of my incumbency and all the risk associated with that behind stopping this very, very ill-thought out decision by Time-Warner.”

Shortly after this, Time-Warner shelved their cap plan. Apparently, it was all a “big misunderstanding.”

In the ultimate sign that making TWC back down is a good move politically, Chuck Schumer is now trying to take credit for the whole thing.

Here’s Massa’s campaign web page if anyone wants to show support on this. He’s in a brutal district for Democrats (a +5 PVI for Republicans).






44 replies
  1. 1
    leo says:

    This is important — especially for progressives!!!

    Let’s face it, our only real outlet for information is the web. We’ve got no place else to go. The moment some corporation puts a cap on that traffic, it’s a direct limitation on our ability to organize and communicate with each other.

    Again, we’ve got no place else to go.

  2. 2
    DougJ says:

    Again, we’ve got no place else to go.

    Yup.

  3. 3
    john b says:

    i really questioned their intelligence when they named austin as one of their test markets. i mean wtf were they thinking?

  4. 4
    Ian says:

    Wow, what a great congressman. (maybe not, but he did good here)

  5. 5
    cleek says:

    i have to admit, i really don’t understand the opposition to this. is it the way TMC handled to trial ?

    yes, i get that TWC is a monopoly, etc., and that they’re going to make even more money from customers by doing this.

    but, when you get right down to it: why should a person be allowed to use an unlimited percentage of a shared resource for a fixed price ?

    if one guy is soaking up all the bandwidth in my neighborhood, shouldn’t he pay more than the rest of us ?

  6. 6
    flounder says:

    DougJ, I got a pretty funny question in at the WaPo chat today:

    Prescott, Ariz.: Torture is the story of the day and you don’t want to deal with it? Do you know if the president is getting any better at bowling?
    Ed O’Keefe: CIA Interrogation tactics are the story of the day, indeed, but since I do not cover national security or CIA issues on a regular basis, you’d be poorly served by my only basic understanding of the issues. Dana’s the one you want to ask about those issues.
    Bowling? Don’t know that one either.

    In other news, going underground at a teabagging with a sign blaming Reagan for "generational theft" was largely a failure. I got really depressed being around that much hatred. Plus it was really cold and I ran out of battteries in my flip camera. The people with the really crazy racists signs acted embarrassed with them, so I couldn’t film them either. On a positive note, a larger number of people than I thought actually liked my sign.

  7. 7
    Bill Teefy says:

    I donated to Eric in 2006 when he narrowly lost to Kuhl. I immediately began sending him what I could after that election when he decided he wasn’t going to give up. If it is only for this issue it will pay more than 10-fold.

    But, as he mentioned in the video, it is deeper than just the cost of doing business – and my entire business only exists because the internet allows me to be an independent business.

    This is a back-breaker to free exchange of information and a total death blow to the US economy as compared to countries that would not charge like this.

    You can forget all the Minute Men and Tea Bagger crap. If you want to fight for freedom this is the battlefield. It is the free and unfettered press and the right to assemble of the 21st Century.

  8. 8

    One interesting sidelight was the almost complete silence by area Republicans in the face of significant anger over the caps. Their "market is good" rhetoric is so simplistic that it doesn’t allow for the possibility that monopolies or unregulated utilities might be a problem.

    The one Republican Congressman in the region, Chris Lee, said that "government should get involved only as a last resort". As if govt isn’t deeply involved with cable providers already.

    Massa, and Schumer at the end, got all the publicity and credit for this victory. If Republicans could have loosened the ideological straitjacket for just a moment, they could have shared in the win.

  9. 9
    Punchy says:

    @cleek: I’m a complete tech idiot (and apparently an idiot w/r/t just about everything, it seems), but I have a feeling this plan would just FLEECE the tech stupid.

    Peeps not realizing how much bandwidth it takes to download songs, movies, etc. would get nailed with whopping bills (happened to the roomate). At least with a cell, I know I’m charged per minute, something I can easily track. But non-geeks prolly cant easily measure how much width they’re about to use to download 16 new albums from iTunes. And then the bill comes for a ridiculous amount.

    Just MO.

  10. 10

    It doesn’t surprise me that this died a quick death. If you want to make a bunch of strange bedfellows just start fucking with our internet access and consumption. The last failed attempt had the right and left joined in opposition to corporate attempts to limit access to providers who did not pay them a fee. I don’t recall the name of the proposed legislation but I’m sure someone here will refresh my memory.

  11. 11
    WyldPirate says:

    Schumer. What an opportunistic prick. He’s part of the problem with his a@@-kissing of his deep-pocket donors, but he plays/plays to the Dem base just like Bush played the religious right.

    I’m surprised Cong. Slaughter had no reply. I liked her when I was a Rochester resident and one of her constituents.

  12. 12
    DougJ says:

    if one guy is soaking up all the bandwidth in my neighborhood, shouldn’t he pay more than the rest of us ?

    He’s probably not soaking up all the bandwidth, there’s plenty to go around.

  13. 13

    @cleek: The opposition is based on a couple of things. First, the caps TWC proposed were absurdly low (1/4 of what Comcast and AT&T use). Second, TWC’s justification was full of scare tactics and b.s. — they talked of "Internet brownouts", when in fact growth of Internet usage has slacked off over the last year or two. Finally, their own 10-Q showed that their cost per subscriber has actually gone down over the past year, and that they expected that trend to continue because Internet bandwidth is getting less expensive. TWC made something like $3.5bln on $140m of Internet expense last year.

  14. 14
    Zifnab says:

    @leo: Progressives, nothing. This would do to industry what the oil spike did to the public at large. Do you have any idea how much data my company handles in a given day? As a small business that earns in the ones of millions a year we do easily ten to fifty gigs when it’s not data dump time over the weekend.

    We live or die on internet connectivity. If we started getting capped, we’d be completely screwed and our clients with us.

  15. 15
    DougJ says:

    @flounder

    Funny.

  16. 16
    joes527 says:

    @cleek: I haven’t heard _anyone_ suggest that flat rate is the only fair solution.

    I am a power user and it would be reasonable for me to pay more than my parents (who check email once a day)

    What folks are objecting to is the assumption that the current unlimited rates are a fine floor (so my parents bill doesn’t go down) and the rate progression is steep enough that power users end up paying hundreds/month and STILL end up capped below what they need.

    If there were actual competition, then this could sort itself out. Since in many (most?) location, the providers have carefully worked with cities to prevent consumers from having even 2 options (and almost no locations have enough providers to create an actual competitive market), then something else is needed to keep the companies from soaking the consumers.

  17. 17
    DougJ says:

    I’m surprised Cong. Slaughter had no reply. I liked her when I was a Rochester resident and one of her constituents.

    I agree with her on issues, but she’s not hungry enough to deal with things like this.

    In fairness, she’s supposedly fighting very hard for high-speed rail thru Rochester, which would be a huge win.

  18. 18

    @cleek: We already pay very high prices for mediocre service and relatively slow connections. The rest of the developed world pays substantially less for more service. The cable companies are doing just fine they don’t need anymore money we need more service for the dollars we already pay.

  19. 19
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    why should a person be allowed to use an unlimited percentage of a shared resource for a fixed price ?

    The question becomes whether TWC is doing it on account of strict resource-sharing, or because it doesn’t want people, say, cancelling their cable TV and watching stuff from Hulu or the network websites. And that’s before factoring in torrents or other unauthorised methods.

    Thing is, contended bandwidth is oversold. If everyone was using their, say, 6MB connection at capacity, the infrastructure would fall over. It’s the principle of the all-you-can-eat buffet. You could set a price for uncontended connectivity, but it wouldn’t be competitive.

    Quota-based internet is standard practice in Australia and NZ, but the infrastructure costs are different — most of that data has to come across the transpacific pipe from the US, at a higher cost than Americans pay. There are soft (and hard) quotas in the UK as well.

  20. 20

    In the ultimate sign that making TWC back down is a good move politically, Chuck Schumer is now trying to take credit for the whole thing.

    Yeah, that’s how you know for sure.

  21. 21

    OT: DougJ I thought you might appreciate this one:

    20th Congressional District candidate Republican Jim Tedisco submitted a petition to the Dutchess County Supreme Court Thursday asking the judge to declare him the winner of the extremely close special election race, despite the numbers currently being in favor of his opponent, Democrat Scott Murphy.

    Of course Murphy still has the most votes but hey what the hell does that have to do with anything.

    (via)

  22. 22
    PeakVT says:

    @cleek:

    First, people already pay different rates based on the connection bandwidth, which how commercial service pricing has worked for a long time. Second, we’ve had unlimited local calling forever in this country, which is "unfair" but few people have objected because the cost isn’t so high. Third, there is no reason for costs to go up. This is a tech area, so the cost of backbone bandwidth should be (and is) falling. And cable companies already have a huge pipe to everyone’s door – one that has long been paid for. This is unlike the phone companies – there’s only so much data that can be pushed through 26 AWG copper, and so they are now laying fiber in many places.

    This proposal reminds me of how much of a scam ATM fees are. Back in the 1980s usage was free everywhere. Now it costs $2+$2 at a "foreign" ATM??? B.S.

  23. 23
    gopher2b says:

    Chuck Schumer is the 4th or 5th worse person on the planet.

  24. 24
    Bill H says:

    I wish we had more representatives like this. A good speaker, yes, but additionally one who researches the concepts and knows what he is talking about. More importantly, one who represents the people of his district and not corporate interests.

  25. 25
    Zifnab says:

    @gopher2b: Wow. What? He doesn’t even make the top twenty in the United States. Just by Senators, I’d take Schummer over McConnell or Inhofe or Feinstein or Bayh any day of the week.

    He hasn’t openly shoved a knife in Massasa’s back, and that’s about the nicest thing you can ask for in the current political climate.

  26. 26
    Peter J says:

    Of course Murphy still has the most votes but hey what the hell does that have to do with anything.

    Murphy is now up 264. Considering that Tedisco’s other plan, to challenge enough votes so that he would be in the lead after the absentee votes had been counted and then blame activist judges for electing Murphy, has now failed miserably, I guess this is all he got left.

    And a tip of the hat to Congressman Massa.

  27. 27
    Shawn in Showme says:

    Wow. What? He doesn’t even make the top twenty in the United States. Just by Senators, I’d take Schummer over McConnell or Inhofe or Feinstein or Bayh any day of the week.

    By definition he’s a whole sight better than every GOP senator outside of Snowe and Collins. And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite snake, Joe Mentum. Now if you want to narrow it down to the fifth most vain senator, I’d go along with that.

  28. 28
    DougJ says:

    @TGP

    I’m going to write about that race later.

  29. 29
    Tax Analyst says:

    Peter J
    Of course Murphy still has the most votes but hey what the hell does that have to do with anything.
    Murphy is now up 264. Considering that Tedisco’s other plan, to challenge enough votes so that he would be in the lead after the absentee votes had been counted and then blame activist judges for electing Murphy, has now failed miserably, I guess this is all he got left.

    \

    Don’t you know that for a Republican to lose ANY vote – be it a legislative vote or an electoral contest – the opposing party or individual must have at least 60% (Senate Fillibusters, CA budget – actually it’s 66.67% for that, Norm Coleman v Al Franken, and now, of course, Tedisco v Murphy).

    I am truly tired of this Bullshit. Frankly, I think the Democrats in the Senate should vote to unseat a Republican Senator, perhaps whoever has the least seniority, until Norm Coleman, et al, allow Al Franken to be properly seated.

    Yeah, it’s probably illegal. But if nothing else it would serve to focus some attention on the crap that Coleman and Tedisco are trying to pull and also perhaps shine a little more light on the Republican’s abuse of the filibuster rule.

  30. 30
    DougJ says:

    Chuck Schumer is the 4th or 5th worse person on the planet.

    The brother knows how to win elections, though.

  31. 31
    toujoursdan says:

    Quota-based internet is standard practice in Australia and NZ, but the infrastructure costs are different—most of that data has to come across the transpacific pipe from the US, at a higher cost than Americans pay. There are soft (and hard) quotas in the UK as well.

    Quota-based internet service is the norm in Canada too, but the quota is fairly high. My Vidéotron cable account in Gatineau Québec has a 20GB/mo cap, and Rogers in Ottawa, across the river, caps based on which tier you buy. For the standard tier, I think it is 30/GB a month.

    I have my Wi-fi radio on all day and download music and movies via i-Tunes and have never come near the cap.

  32. 32
    leo says:

    @cleek:

    "but, when you get right down to it: why should a person be allowed to use an unlimited percentage of a shared resource for a fixed price ?"

    As you said, this is a monopoly, so in fact the ‘shared resource’ might be far cheaper and more plentiful than the company is giving on.

    In fact, we know it’s cheaper since we have the example of other developed countries.

  33. 33
    TenguPhule says:

    Considering that Tedisco’s other plan, to challenge enough votes so that he would be in the lead after the absentee votes had been counted and then blame activist judges for electing Murphy, has now failed miserably,

    So now we know GOP power grab plan B: Lawsuits to tie up the election until the next one ad infinitum until something goes the GOP’s way. At which point they will cry for "moving forward" and dismissing any Democratic challenges as "sore losers".

    At this point I think only punitive executions (which I selflessly volunteer to perform in return for a living wage) will make these assholes stop this shit.

  34. 34
    Steve Finlay says:

    Consumption-based billing for Internet usage is the right thing to do. There is no way that someone who uses 10,000 times as much capacity as I do should get the service at the same rate as I pay. It is incredible that people who think that government has too much power (which is generally true) should be able to force suppliers to price a service stupidly.

    "Net neutrality" is merely a code word for: "Keep giving me my giant sized free lunch."

  35. 35
    Shawn in Showme says:

    It would be one thing if bandwidth pricing was at least comparable to our global counterparts. But to have a monopoly business itching to raise prices when we’re already paying 3x what the French pay and 4x what the Japanese pay? Their tone-deafness is even worse than US car companies — at least US car prices are competitive.

    Instead of trying to put the squeeze on customers maybe Time Warner should look in the mirror and ask why the rest of the world is able to deliver a superior product at a drastically lower price.

  36. 36
    anonevent says:

    @Steve Finlay: Yep, I paid $3000 for a computer 10 years ago that was about 1/10th as powerful as my $300 netbook today, and because there is only one real network provider in my area, I pay the same amount for internet access. I know the price of hardware has gone down even has power has gone up, so why am I paying the same price for the same bandwidth?

    Get some real competition in and let the market sort it out, which would ultimately be unlimited capacity.

  37. 37
    Zifnab says:

    @Steve Finlay:

    Consumption-based billing for Internet usage is the right thing to do. There is no way that someone who uses 10,000 times as much capacity as I do should get the service at the same rate as I pay.

    Oh bullshit. Capacity is ridiculously cheap and abundant, and it is only growing more cheap and more abundant with every new mile of fiber (itself, cheap and abundant). We already have caps on service based on the size of the pipes we’re hooked up to, and the goal should be to expand that service as quickly and cheaply as possible.

    Right now you’re suggesting we give telecomm companies an incentive to provide less access. Make capacity more rare and it becomes more valuable. And then you can bill more. You’re asking to have people punished for efficiency. Data over wire is vastly cheaper and faster than postage, making dl’d movies via Netflix or iTunes both eco-friendly and cost effective. And you’re singling out the furthest outlayers – the guy that DLs 10 gigabytes to your megabyte – as argument to tax everyone in between.

    I pay hundreds of dollars a year for unfettered net access. And, when AT&T doesn’t fuck up, I never have much room to complain. Why should I suddenly have to pay more because you download less?

  38. 38
    Shawn in Showme says:

    Consumption-based billing for Internet usage is the right thing to do. There is no way that someone who uses 10,000 times as much capacity as I do should get the service at the same rate as I pay

    Our corporations have proven that even when they have a sensible argument, it’s a cover to do the wrong thing. Setting a floor for pricing is easy. But based on their past actions, these guys don’t know what a ceiling is.

  39. 39
    TenguPhule says:

    Consumption-based billing for Internet usage is the right thing to do. There is no way that someone who uses 10,000 times as much capacity as I do should get the service at the same rate as I pay.

    Dead Wrong.

    It’s not a resource in short supply. TWC is just trying to jack their profitable monopoly to the next level.

  40. 40
    andante says:

    As a home bound person, I value my connection immensely and already pay more than I can afford for it.

    Didn’t Ronnie Raygun promise us deregulations would keep things cheaper?

    Huh?

    Still waiting…..

  41. 41
    Bill Teefy says:

    I am not sure of all of the "government forcing business to blah, blah, blah." When did private industry build the internet. I realize a lot of benefits and upgrades have been developed by the private sector but isn’t the internet infrastructure something developed originally by the American people through the government? And a lot of the products and improvements developed by the private sector originated with the defense department and state sponsored and funded Universities and colleges. It isn’t like the original bell telephone company by any means. At least for a time that company could say it owned and built and was the reason for the system.

  42. 42
    MNPundit says:

    To those who don’t get why this a problem: A lot of people even online agree that you should pay more for more bandwith you use, but the problem with TWC was this:

    The limits were a crock. Bandwith gets cheaper every single day, and the prices they were charging were astronomical compared to cost and non-sensical compared to use. It a company comes out with a reasonable model that scales price to cost with a reasonable markup then people will not be nearly as mad, especially if they provide an easy way to track your bandwith usage before hand so you can see how much you really are using and how much it really is costing.

    TWC just wanted to screw its customers even harder in the ass then it already does.

  43. 43
    Ron says:

    I was very pleased when I heard TWC was shelving the plan. I live just outside Massa’s district as well, but in NY-24 and while I’m glad I never had to have Kuhl as my representative now I’d rather be able to call Massa my representative. He just seems to be one of the genuinely good guys in Congress.
    As for the whole "pay based on usage", I can see some reasonable version of it, but their version had you paying something like $55/month for a cap of 40GB/month and they were going to charge $1/GB overage fees. They did have a low usage plan. It would have been a cap of 5GB/month but that still was going to be $30/month.

  44. 44
    DougJ says:

    I live just outside Massa’s district as well, but in NY-24 and while I’m glad I never had to have Kuhl as my representative now I’d rather be able to call Massa my representative.

    I think a lot of people feel that way!

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