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The Internet

Cable Firms Limit Users' Freedoms 399

Passacaglia writes "An article in the Washington Post reports that a coalition of companies, including Dell, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, and even the BSA, have filed a report with the FCC complaining about how cable providers are placing restrictions on how subscribers use broadband access. This is in the wake of the recent FCC ruling that cable providers need not open their networks to competition from outside ISPs. The restrictions include limits on VPNs, servers, and many things that would make broadband really worth having." Meanwhile, TWC sent nastygrams to people it suspects are using unsecured wireless networks, skimming the info from the public database of wireless access points.
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Cable Firms Limit Users' Freedoms

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  • Most users have no idea how the tech works and interacts together. So the solution to huge support costs is to dumb things down. Even helping a user troubleshoot on the phone is an ardous task. Now I don't mean the average slashdotter who knows more than the support people. But the average user who only knows who to click the icons on the screen.

    As far as servers, bandwith is expensive. You're always free to purchase the business package which lets you run servers. It's always the small minority who are the bandwith hogs and want it all for less than the cost of providing the service.
    • So why can't I run a server without a "business" package, even though my upstream is capped? Wasn't the whole point of an upstream cap to *discourage* people from running servers while not banning it altogether?
    • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @04:10PM (#3788997) Homepage Journal
      As far as servers, bandwith is expensive.

      I have a web server. It serves a text-only page that has info about my fan speeds, CPU temperature, etc. I access it a few times per day, each time downloading about 5K of data across my cable modem. I have an FTP server. I only access it about twice a week and then I don't move anything big. Usually just a .zip file or two. It's password-protected and I'm the only user. Neither one of these servers causes excessive bandwidth usage, yet both are banned under the newly amended TOS/AUP at my cable modem provider.

      If the ISP is concerned about my usage of bandwidth, then they should publish bandwidth limits and/or tiered pricing to reflect usage rather than banning things that often have nothing to do with the "problem."

      Of course, the real problem is that they want to force computer hobbyists, to whom the connection is most useful, to pay big bucks for a "business service." That's why they keep putting up red herrings like "servers" rather than just limiting bandwidth or charging for tiered service.

      • Of course, the real problem is that they want to force computer hobbyists, to whom the connection is most useful, to pay big bucks for a "business service."

        I would more readily believe this if, in fact, ATT offered business-class service where I live...but, in fact, ATT doesn't (residential service only), and have told me they have no plans to do so. Then again, the area where I live isn't served DSL, either, so maybe ATT knows a good thing when they see it.

        Of course, this doesn't stop me from running my own mail and SSH server. But I'd rather not have to do it on the sly...
      • Of course, the real problem is that they want to force computer hobbyists, to whom the connection is most useful, to pay big bucks for a "business service."

        COX does not alow home servers of any kind for any price. They have a bunch of M$ fueled shit sitting someplace and they want to charge money for a few megs on it. My "business" plan gave me little more than a fixed IP and difficlut to use email address that had the "@" character in the middle of the user name! Port 80 and 25 are still blocked and the TOS still forbids all "servers".

        The point of this is that COX thinks that they can become a monopoly publisher. If it was about bandwith they could rely on their upstream caps. If it was about security they would forbid the use of known insecure software like Outlook MSIE and Windows. It's about control and power. The current publishers will do everything they can to prevent the comming communications revolution. Can you imagine only 4 national "internet broadcasters", paying by the minute for long distance calls, and only five big music lables in the future? I can, it's called DRM and COX is part of it.

        The Washington Post claims that Bush wants to avoid legislation on this. I'm pissed about that. With the FBI raiding people's houses to enforce bogus service agreements, the government could not be more involved than it is. Oh yeah, there's always Carnivore. The future is evil. Clinton built it in the 90s, no supprise from a man who loved China and bent backward to please Fidel Castro. Bush is milking it now. That's supprising from a party that used to stand for smaller government.

      • Look, you need to realise that different price points have little to do with "What's most expensive to provide" (beyond obviously covering costs).

        It's much more to do with "how much do customers want it enough to pay for it." The stuff which makes broadband useful is obviously more desirable to technically competent customers such as ourselves than a 'faster version of dialup'.

        So if I'm the owner of a cable company, I apply simple supply & demand and say "You want the good stuff? Sure you can have it, for a price"

        Now I think there's a tier between the bog standard consumer and the business customer who has a net financial gain from their connection - call it the 'clueful consumer' offering. If I were running a cable company, I'd be offering it at a price a bit above the standard consumer offering, which would allow:

        1. Servers not open to the public (ie all services have to be p/w protected and the URLs not generally advertised)
        2. Faster speed (I'm thinking 1024kps download)
        3. Mostly static IP - no SLA on it, but the DHCP hands out long leases (a month+)

        By some odd coincidence, that's what my cable provider is offering [blueyonder.co.uk]. Although only the extra bandwidth is part of the premium service rn - I get everything else. The AUP [blueyonder.co.uk] explicitly allows me to run servers:

        Telewest blueyonder hi-speed internet opens up new possibilities of use with its features such as 'always on', and while subscribers are able to benefit from these features, Telewest must also ensure that the Service is not abused to the disadvantage of the Service and subscriber group.

        You must not use, nor allow anyone else to use the Services to provide Internet Protocol services to the Internet populace as a whole, including other blueyonder customers. Internet Protocol services includes, but is not limited to, HTTP, games, telnet and FTP services.

        However, you may provide Internet Protocol services from your computer for personal use. An example would be the running of an authenticated FTP service to enable you to access files on your home computer remotely. The following conditions apply:-

        • Any Internet Protocol services you use require authentication eg. You are not allowed to provide anonymous FTP servers; and
        • You are not allowed more than ten concurrent connections to the Internet Protocol services you use.

        Which is nice [bbc.co.uk]

    • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @04:13PM (#3789015)
      You're always free to purchase the business package which lets you run servers.

      The business package the cable company in my area offers is the same as the residential package with 5 more e-mail addresses and 4x the price. There's still a dynamic IP, a proxy, a port 80 block, and the support is still clueless.

      I think we need to come up with another word other then "server", because "Server" has this big expensive price tag associated with it. Why can't I run a finger daemon, or sshd, or sendmail and imapd? That's an insignificant amount of bandwidth. What's the point of a dedicated internet connection if you disallow all the advantages? How is that "unlimited" internet? If you only want to surf the web, you might as well have dialup. If bandwidth is expensive, then companies should put a price on it. You get the amount you pay for, and you can do whatever you want with it.

      Cable modems should be priced like burstable T1's used to be. You get a peak bandwidth, which you can use for x number of bytes per month, and you get a typical rate, which is sufficient for the rest of the time. Software enforces the limits, and you can do whatever you want with the bandwidth you pay for. There shouldn't be some nebulous definition of "unresonable use". You should just not be allowed to do what you're not allowed to do. That way you couldn't have "bandwith hogs" in the first place. It sucks that I have to pay $99 a month for 1.5Mb SDSL just because I need the speed sometimes (8 hours, 1 day a week) but I can't use my connection for what I need it for if I have a cable modem.
      • by Combuchan ( 123208 ) <sean&emvis,net> on Friday June 28, 2002 @05:23PM (#3789385) Homepage
        I wholeheartedly agree that people should be able to run 'low-bandwith' daemons--provided they stay low bandwith. The problem is that 95% of your cable company's customers haven't heard of sshd, 4.9% have, and .1% actually want to run an sshd server. Sorry, you're not in the target market.

        Let's explore this further. I should be able to run a low-bandwith web server and serve small personal pages. However, the reality of the other 99% of the customers is this: Code Red/Nimda. Idiots who didn't even know they had a webserver running got wormed and turned a low-bandwith web server into a massive pipeleech that made my Internet connection horrendously slow for about two months and logged tens of thousands of 404's to apache running off my cable. You mention you want to run sendmail. You gonna leave that an open relay? No, I'm sure... but a majority of everybody else who would run an MTA (either accidentally (it came with my WinInternetSharingProgram32 Lite!)) or purposefully isn't smart enough to lock it down, and this further compends the spam problem. Same with people who run NNTP servers and screw up news for everyone else.

        Broadband customers as a whole are too irresponsible to run servers and should be prohibited from doing so. That's why this is prohibited in the Accetable Use Policy. It's a bitter reality.

        I however, should be free of such restrictions as I'm smarter than most other broadband customers, but until I can prove that to my cable company and/or they see a market in letting intelligent people run servers, I'm ... somewhat SOL.

        I run sshd, and ftpd for myself. Cox doesn't block it, but they do block SMB (139/tcp), HTTP, and telnet (23/tcp). They have the technical measures to block problematic ports, and I'm quite frankly glad they do that for the nimda reasons discussed above. I run apache off of port 8080 and cox doesn't seem to mind, else they'd send their AUP Gestapo after me

        "Cable modems should be priced like burstable T1's used to be. "

        Burstable T1's run today in my part of town (Phoenix metro) for a unnegotiatable local loop fee of $400/month, plus data fees of somewhere around $700 - $1200 depending on the provider. I know I'm misconstruing your statement, but as I understand it, Cox.net has an OC-12 coming in to what I assume is the entire Phoenix metro area (3 million people) A pricing structure that would allow for profitability and burstability up to T1 speeds and beyond and the ability to run servers would be only somewhat more cost-effective than an actual dedicated circuit with the added disadvantages of being far less reliable. Cox.net does offer a business rate plan, but it's not nearly as flexible as a T1 feed would be, probably for these reasons.
        Moreover, people who want to run servers generally can afford colocation (which is far more cost-effective) and/or pay for their own line.

        I'm in the same boat as you, I'm a poor geek who likes high bandwith and apache and php and MySQL and all that good stuff, but we're few and far between to even be considered a blip on MassiveCableCo's radar. Maybe, in time...

        My $0.02
        • Burstable T1's run today in my part of town (Phoenix metro) for a unnegotiatable local loop fee of $400/month, plus data fees of somewhere around $700 - $1200 depending on the provider. I know I'm misconstruing your statement, but as I understand it, Cox.net has an OC-12 coming in to what I assume is the entire Phoenix metro area (3 million people) A pricing structure that would allow for profitability and burstability up to T1 speeds and beyond and the ability to run servers would be only somewhat more cost-effective than an actual dedicated circuit

          I'm not saying you have to offer T1 speeds, but the burstable T1 pricing structure. Joe web surfer doesn't need 786kbps. They should have 256kbps with bursts up to 1.5mbps. Also, the majority of the price of a burstable T1 is the SLA. If you get a line without a 24 hour service contract and guaranteed uptime you lower your price by 80%. You can get a FULL T1 in any metro area in the US for $699 a month. You just don't have a service level agreement. If a backhoe cuts your line on saturday morning, they're not even going to start working on fixing it until Monday at the earliest. Your $1500 burstable T1 will be repaired in 12 hours or less.

          Furthemore, it is almost trivial to set up a system where savvy users can enable services that are disabled by default to protect the clueless. My ISP has one. It probably took one guy two days to set it up. This facility has to exist in order to spawn new uses for the internet, and create demand for the broadband service. These providers are digging their own grave by blocking access to everybody. The internet as it is right now is not worth $50 a month to most people, and unless creative programmers have access, there won't be new applications developed to make the $50 tab more worthwhile.
      • server (ser`-vr) n. When a customer can locate their machine without sitting in front of it.


        That's in jest. As a netadmin for an ISP, though, I feel that if a customer wants to run a server on their connection, fine. They probably are never going to call in for support because they're either clueful enough not to need to, or scared enough that they didn't want to get caught (never realizing that our AUP doesn't forbid it, ironically). Seems that about 3 out of 128 people were running web servers. I wonder how many knew it.

    • You're always free to purchase the business package which lets you run servers.

      Ummmm, no, not you can't. I can buy cable IP access and 1 to 5 IP addresses. I can't buy any busniess service at all. Which is a shame because I would pay about 4x as much, which is what my DSL provider was getting before they went under, and is about what all the other DSL providers charge...except they can't reach my home!

      I don't even really want a lot of bandwidth...just to be able to ssh back home and check things, to play sounds to amuse my dog, and to irratate my wife, and to handle my own e-mail so when the next ISP goes Tango Uniform I don't have to care. Of corse having them cleverly have their cable modems crash once a day or so really puts a damper on that...anyone know where to get a good serial or ethernet controled power strip?

      • by weave ( 48069 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @05:33PM (#3789435) Journal
        I don't even really want a lot of bandwidth...just to be able to ssh back home and check things

        Create an IPTABLES rule like...

        iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -s x.x.x.x/32 -dport 22 -j ACCEPT
        iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -dport 22 -j reject-with tcp-reset

        They can scan for you all they want. Just sub -s with your CIDR of choice where you want to come with, and anyone else trying to connect to port 22 gets connection reset, making it look like nothing is listening on the port.

  • Film at Eleven... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:49PM (#3788842) Homepage Journal

    Imagine that, the Hardware folks want the bandwidth folks to lower restrictions on bandwidth usage so that new computer hardware (and software) becomes more desirable. It strikes me as pretty funny that Microsoft (king of the PC monopoly) wants to force the cable companies to open up their networks, and yet they have fought tooth and nail against measures that would make the PC software business more open to competition.

    • It strikes me as pretty funny that Microsoft (king of the PC monopoly) wants to force the cable companies to open up their networks

      Nothing funny about it-- courtesy of a one billion dollar investment in 1997, Microsoft owns a chunk of Comcast, who is poised to become the largest cable company in the country.

      If the stupid usage restrictions are lifted on broadband, more people will get it, and Microsoft will make money. If more people get broadband, those people will be more likely to buy shiny new Microsoft OS-laden hardware to take advantage of the fat pipe, and Microsoft will make still more money.

      And if they pull off this .Net shit, the restriction-free fat pipe will be needed for people to use pay-per-use apps, and Microsoft will get paid again. And again. And again, ad infinitum.

      ~Philly
  • Wait.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iONiUM ( 530420 )
    Wasn't the BSA the ones cracking down on the huge warez a few years back on IRC? This seems odd... the cable companies are doing it to stop the mass amounts of warez (and pr0n/mp3) from being transferred, that would indirectly help a lot of those companies (ie. less pirating of Windows)...
    It just seems weird that now all of a sudden they're more interested in keeping people online with unlimited bandwidth...
    • BSA is in the interest of selling more software. They believe this can be done by keeping the internet from being heavily locked down. Don't think they're evil before and good now, they're still promoting the same interest: green stuff in their member's pockets.
  • Broadband and DSL services are really starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth, and I'm ready to say that the very AT&T broadband service that I once lauded has now turned to crap. It's perhaps a sign of the times that in the same month that my service began to get really flakey I received a notice from AT&T saying that, even though I own my own cable-modem, I get to pay an extra $7. Curiously, those people who are renting their modems will continue to pay the same rate they have always paid, which is now only $2 more than what I pay. I guess investing in that cable modem at AT&T's suggestion was a smart idea, eh? Of course, to make the inanity truly corporate-level, AT&T decided that they'd help us modem-owners out and send us coupons. Yes, coupons. Paper freaking coupons. The same company the provides me with digital cable and a broadband connection wants me to send in a separate silly piece of paper each month for 6 months to enjoy my original rate for just a while longer.
    • The same company the provides me with digital cable and a broadband connection wants me to send in a separate silly piece of paper each month

      Oh, that's not stupidity...just an extra helping of evil. I'm sure it is the same reason many things are sold with rebates rather then a reduced price. The figure a lot of people lose the rebate/coupon or forget it, or decide not to bother. So the get the benifit of people buying for the lower price, and still some of the benifits of charging the higher price.

  • Cable vs Phone Lines (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Eric Peters ( 586095 ) <peterse@princeton.edu> on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:51PM (#3788858) Homepage
    I can understand how phone lines should be open to all when they were put up with government subsidies (ie your taxes), but what I don't understand is the argument that the cable lines should be treated in the same way. Look it up: cable lines were mostly put up through totally private money. The cable companies paid to put them up, they should have sole right to them.

    Furthermore, the cable providers can only limit users' "freedoms" if the users allow it. And clearly the users are doing just that. The ONLY reason these companies are filing with the FCC is because they want to be able to make more money. They couldn't care less about your "freedoms".

    Seriously, if you don't like the way cable providers treat their users and you are one, cancel your subscriptions. DSL is a great alternative, and broadband is NOT a necessity. Go back to dial-up if you must. Just keep the government from getting further involved because as history has shown, that's the quickest way to make things even worse.
    • by rot26 ( 240034 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:58PM (#3788908) Homepage Journal
      Cable companies use public right-of-way to deploy their services. THAT makes it my business.

      Of all the monopolies/utilities, cable has been the most successful at having their cake and eating it too. (I.e. behaving like a utility but not being regulated like one.) Screw 'em. Nobody is going to be able to afford cable modem in 2 years anyway.
      • Nobody is going to be able to afford cable modem in 2 years anyway.

        How do you figure?

        (full disclosure notice: I work for a cable ISP)

        The cost of cable modems has gone down from hundreds of dollars to a mere one hundred or so, so most home users can even buy their own if they want. As for the service, that's consistantly gone down for every cable ISP I've ever heard of over the last 3 years. The exception is AT&T, who recently hiked their rates a bit, but as I said, they're the exception. And even if rates do get hiked a bit ($5-10 a month), who cares? Eat at McDonalds 2 fewer times a month and consider how much more worthwhile your broadband access is than a couple shitty wormburgers. If rates were to go up much more than $5-10 more, the market would heat up and the prices would start dropping again.

        Actually, I wish we'd just offer a "power user" service - a better upload (no, not symmetrical - you're not getting a full T1 for $35 a month ya greedy bastards), and the ability to run any kind of server you like, and we could charge a bit more for it. For now, cable users usually have no choice in this regard, which would really piss me off if it weren't for the fact that I can set my *own* QoS. ;-)
        • by mjh ( 57755 )
          If rates were to go up much more than $5-10 more, the market would heat up and the prices would start dropping again.

          Market? What market. Most of us don't even have access to a single broadband provider. Of the rest, most of them don't have access to multiple broadband providers. What competitive forces are going to keep costs low?

        • > As for the service, that's consistantly gone
          > down for every cable ISP I've ever heard of
          > over the last 3 years.

          You talking about the cost of service or the quality of service? Or both? Cable modem service where I live (Seattle) sucks ass. It's worthless. The tech people at the Cable company are brain damaged, the sales people are crooks, the reliability is horrific, and the speed is erratic.

          Luckily, we have plenty of great companies providing great DSL service, who aren't paranoid assholes, who don't assume I'm stealing just because I'm using both sides of the pipe, and who actually know what I'm talking about when I mention that I'm using FreeBSD. Not to mention the fact that the billing is clear and consistent. I'd rather go with dialup than go back to cable.
        • Cable companies get to act like utilities without being regulated like them. That's why they raise rates faster than inflation or their capital investments would justify. That's why companies like AT&T change their rates to take away the value of the cable modem you purchased.

          if the cost went up another $20, no market would heat up and there would be no competition because the overwhelming majority of people have only one choice for broadband, if that. no, it would just slow the adoption of broadband. certain retards can blame the lack of adoption on the lack of downloadable movies, but they can't see that raising prices reduces demand.

          I'd be happy to give the zero dollars I spend on mcdonalds as my next rate increase, but i don't have that fucking choice. how about you pay me $10 a month not to steal your phone. you can always cut back on your spice channel viewing.

          Face it, the fatcats decided to divvy up the broadband world: DSL for business, cable for the masses, and they can keep you from having real bandwidth, making sure that the future of broadband is your fat fucking ass planted in your chair, swallowing the swill they feed you. cable co policies - plus their close alliances with major media companies - are de facto proof that this is what they are trying to do: they are free to try, and it benefits them, therefore they are, ipso facto fuck you and your dog.

          that being said, a "power user" service would be a smart thing. when i can have this option AND i can get DSL instead, i'll figure that there's real competition. until then, i expect that the cablecos will rake their customers over the coals whenever they think powell jr isn't looking.

    • You make some good points. Indeed, government has a limited role, and indeed, restricting freedom is not what is foremost on these companies' mind - "making money" is.

      Still, the objections do have some merit. First of all, for serious use, broadband *is* a de facto necessity. Try serving a web page, emailing a powerpoint presentation, or downloading an MP3 on dialup. I think the move to broadband adds qualitatively to the Internet experience.

      Also, this is a monopoly. That is the essential point. Monopolies should be watched. I cannot go to another cable company: by law, there is just one. I cannot even get ADSL, and even if I could, ADSL is usually just as restrictive: a duopoly is not much better than a monopoly. In a free market the government should butt out - so, amke this market free!

      Sometimes the motivation is indeed freedom - or rather, restrictions thereof. Outgoing port 25 is blocked on more and more services: Verizon in the US, Simpatico (here in Canada), our Hong Kong provider have all recently blocked 25: misery for us sysadmins (TIP: we moved SMTP to port 8025: no-one has blocked that yet:).

      The Internet became big because of what it is: a service that transfers bit from any port on any IP to any other port on any other IP. If restrictions are necessary, so be it. But if they are placed without good justification (port 25 is an example) then that worries me.

      Michael

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:51PM (#3788863)
    Dear xxxxxxxxx;

    We have information indicating that you or omeone using your Road Runner account has been transmitting the Road runner service over a wireless network so that anyone with a wireless network card can tap into our service without authorization from us.

    Use of your account for this purpose violates your subscription agreement and our Acceptable Use Policy in a number of ways, including Paragraph 5(d) of the agreement, which states that subscribers are prohibited from reselling or redistributing the service, or any portion thereof, whether for a fee or otherwise. This activity also violates a number of federal and state laws, including 47 U.S.C. 553, which allows for civil remedies of up to $50,000.

    You should be aware that this is a very serious problem that goes beyond the theft of our services. Individuals utilizing the Road runner system in this manner to carry out criminal activity, would be able to do so in an anonymous manner. In such circumstances, when law enforcement attempted to trace such activity, the trail would end with your account.

    It is not our desire at this time to sue you, and we assume it is not your desire to allow unknown users to anonymously plan criminal acts through your account. However, your wireless broadcast of the Road Runner service must cease and desist.

    If we do not receive written assurances from you within three (3) business days of this letter that your account will not be utilized in this manner, or if the unauthorized use continues, we will suspend your account and we may pursue our legal remedies. Your written confirmation should be sent to:

    Gregory Powell
    Abuse and Security
    Time Warner Cable of New York City
    41-61 Kissena Boulevard
    Flushing, New York 11355
    Internet.security@twcable.com

    Please contact Internet Security directly at either (718) 670-6621 or internet.security@twcable.com if you have any questions.

    Sincerely,
    Gregory Powell
    Abuse & Security, Supervisor
    High Speed Online Services
    Time Warner Cable of NYC

    • Gregory Powell
      Abuse & Security, Supervisor


      So according to his title, Mr. Gregory Powell supervises the abuse of roadrunner customers as well as their security, right? He is the Abuse-Master!

      Do you think he is related to the other Mr. Powell (Jr.) who supervises the abuse of all telecommunications users collectively?

      Or maybe his father, the other Mr. Powell (Sr.), who will then come to bomb your home to stop the "anonymous criminal activity"?

  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:53PM (#3788874)
    I can see the server issue somewhat - what if they get /.ed. Then again, with bandwidth caps, that becomes somewhat of a non-issue.

    The same thing goes for the Broadband routers. It reminds me of the 80's when the cable companies insisted you pay for every TV hooked up - no splitters unless they were authorized. This was fixed and it was decided that the cables companies rights ended at the wall to your house.

    So why not the same thing for broadband connections? Why am I not allowed to have my desktop and notebook on at the same time? My modem limits the amount of bandwidth I can pull, so that can't be it. (Actually, they are probably worried that instead of bursting at 500K I'd be able to use a sustained 500K, which I can do with one machine :)

    Same thing with the Wireless really - just means it's not tied to where a wire runs. I guess their worry there is that my neighboor might get free service off me with a wireless card (can't even get a signal in the neighboors yard!)

    If you want to sell me 500K/128K service, then do so and fuck off. Don't tell me I can't run a server on that 128K, so I can web in and check callerID logs. Don't tell me what machines and OS's I can use to pull down the 500K. Don't put a transparent proxy between me and the web. Don't block incoming port 80 requests. Just give me the pipe and accept your checks.
    • Simple.

      They are selling you 500K/128K with the implicit assumption that you are using a traditional home-user access pattern (i.e. occasional bursts when you hit a good porn site, lotsa intermittent email and ICQ traffic, etc.)

      My biggest problem is that I could see why they don't want to allow full-scale hosting. Makes sense, because it distorts their network load equations. The big advantage of an always-on broadband connection is that you can run little servers for you and maybe one or two other people. Like you said, to check your CallerID logs. Or turn on/off the lights with X10. Or run your own mail server. So what the proper AUP is that you outlaw spam sending, heavy sustained traffic in over x GB/day, commercial hosting, and other things that could destabalize the network.

      But because I like to SSH and VNC in to my machines and would like to eventually host mail on my machines instead of my ISP, I gnaw my fingernails off every time that it looks like Covad is in trouble because once CLECs dissapear, I won't be able to even SSH and VNC into my home machines.
      • Don't worry - most cable ISPs (I work for one) don't check for SSH servers, nor do they appear to care about it. SCP is crappy for distributing warez and pr0n, as it requires *shell accounts* on the box giving out the files, and thus there's no anonymous access, plus SCP is cpu-intensive, so the incentive to use SSH at home for anything but "legit" means is very very low.

        As for VNC, you've got me there. Not because the ports are blocked, but because 128kbit upload is crap for VNC. ;)
      • They are selling you 500K/128K with the implicit assumption that you are using a traditional home-user access pattern (i.e. occasional bursts when you hit a good porn site, lotsa intermittent email and ICQ traffic, etc.)

        And I'm purchasing with the explicit assumption that what they promise (500K/128K) is what they give. Go figure.

        After all, were I to try and sell something like a printer and promise a "lifetime supply of color ink", you can bet there'd be a stink if when the printer ran out I come back and say, "Sorry, we sell that with the implicit assumption that you'll only use the black ink.."

        I believe that could easily be construed as fraudulent advertising, if not as direct fraud.
    • by PD ( 9577 ) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Friday June 28, 2002 @04:55PM (#3789249) Homepage Journal
      Bing. Everyone used to look at me crazy when I told them that I was on a modem and would not EVER sign up for the cable modem that was available. DSL became available to me a couple months ago and I signed up right away.

      The only need that I had was the right to run my own servers. I could have done something like that on the cable modem, but it would do me no good. I wanted my own domain to host my own web page and host my own e-mail. I someone would have sold me a 56K full-time modem with static IP account for a reasonable price I would have jumped all over it.

      Seriously, for me it wasn't about the bandwidth at all, it was about the right to be a real node on the internet.

      DirectTV DSL gave me 1 static IP and the explicit statement that they don't care what servers I run on my own line. The only time the connection went down it was because of SWBell's incompetence. DirectTV has been really great so far.
    • by The Wing Lover ( 106357 ) <awh@awh.org> on Friday June 28, 2002 @05:19PM (#3789362) Homepage
      Just give me the pipe and accept your checks.

      I dunno, it still sounds dirty to me.

    • It reminds me of the 80's when the cable companies insisted you pay for every TV hooked up - no splitters unless they were authorized. This was fixed and it was decided that the cables companies rights ended at the wall to your house.

      This was still going on as late as 1995. When I moved back into my condo after repairs from the Northridge quake, TW cable insisted I pay a hookup fee for all three drops, because their records showed that I only had one TV connected. Of course, all three drops were there when I moved in 8 years earlier.
  • same old thing... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mike77 ( 519751 ) <mraley77.yahoo@com> on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:53PM (#3788875)
    It's the same thing we've always seen. A company states that it will give the us something we want for a reasonable price. Lo and behold, when the time actually comes to do it, they screw the customer over. The question is why? The answer is that it has become an acceptable buisness practice to operate in this way, maximizing your profits and screwing the customer, who you have conviently signed to a long term contract.

    Microsoft does it, Sprint PCS does it, and now the cable companies are doing it. The buisness's sole purpose is to make money for their stockholders (profit). They do it any way they can, and well the current model hasn't shown that it won't work yet. Maybe it's time to start some serious boycotting of individual companies?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:54PM (#3788884)
    http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/47usc553. htm

    47 U.S.C
    553. Unauthorized Reception of Cable Service

    (a) Unauthorized interception or receipt or assistance in intercepting or receiving service; "assist in intercepting or receiving" defined

    (1) No person shall intercept or receive or assist in intercepting or receiving any communications service offered over a cable system, unless specifically authorized to do so by a cable operator or as may otherwise be specifically authorized by law.

    (2) For the purpose of this section, the term "assist in intercepting or receiving" shall include the manufacture or distribution of equipment intended by the manufacturer or distributor (as the case may be) for unauthorized reception of any communications service offered over a cable system in violation of subparagraph (1).
    • This was discussed on the nycwireless list so I'm not gonna go into it but basically the cable companies lobbied not to have internet service included in the definition of cable so they wouldn't be under same restrictions selling internet service as they are under cable. With cable they are subject to regulation which often has must serve provisions.

      Also the $50,000 quoted in the letter is only for reselling the cable television service. The fine for non-commercial cable tv service sharing ranges from $100 to $1000. However they may go after the fees they could have charged your neighbor in a civil suit.

      Thankfully in New York there are plenty of DSL providers, and some such as AceDSL and Bway.net explicitly encourage wireless sharing. Others will sell you a business line for $60/mo so there is no good reason to use a Cable modem.
  • While I was looking through the ATTbi policies on verboten stuff, apparenly web servers _aren't_ expressly forbidden. As if they expect a LOT of things will work on port 80 and short of stateful inspection, they're not going to be able to enforce it...

    Naturally, I can't find it now because i'm looking for it, but I discovered it while reporting script kiddie attacks to my home webserver.
  • Bandwidth? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:56PM (#3788896)
    Ok, first off, it says in my Service Agreement with AT&T that the purpose of disallowing us to run servers is to prevent us from using too much bandwidth that OTHER customers use. Mind you, in a cable connection, we all eat off the same plate. Not like DSL...

    Now, I had a long talk through several emails (trying to pick a fight) with AT&T support over the server issue. The thing is, we're not allowed to allow INCOMING connections to our servers. Reason we can't run a game server: bandwidth. Reason we can't run an ftp server: bandwidth. Now, there are almost certainly other legal liability issues they're trying to avoid, such as MPAA coming after them because one of their customers wants to run an FTP server that's full of movies, or RIAA going after the mp3's on my box (most are legal, believe it or not, but some aren't).

    Furthermore, I have a router setup. AT&T doesn't object, in fact they ENCOURAGE users to set up home networks. So, I told him I've got 4 boxes plugged in, one's a Windows client and the rest are Linux (the Windows client belongs to the upstairs lady that has to call me whenever she turns it on to ask how). He explained that I can run a local LAN server, so long as I didn't let in things like VPN traffic, and stuff. They're also concerned about mail servers (read: SPAM).

    I see AT&T's side, and I support them. BUT, I think they should set something up where you get a certain amount of traffic covered in your plan, and the extra you pay for. Or something like that. Let them work out the details, and then I'll either agree or go somehwere else. I DO think that I should be able to run an FTP server AND a MAIL server that allows incoming connections. I want a static IP address that I can register a domain and run my own mail server. I don't want to depend on my ISP's mail server ANYMORE. I don't want to use Hotmail anymore either. I want my own mail server, private, and secure.

    They DO need to allow us that. Problem is, there's plenty who will abuse it. Where's the happy middle?
    • My cable modem supplier keeps changing the rules on running servers, but what it boils down to is that they don't want you eating "too much" bandwidth.

      So you can run web servers, email servers, news servers, whatever, that are private to a group of friends and they won't mind at all, even in a week when their Ts&Cs say it's forbidden.

      Run a publicly advertised server with free stolen porno videos, though, and you might expect them to notice and close you down.

      VPN similarly seems to be "allowed" some weeks and not others, but they've never actually blocked it, and I've always been able to use it when I want to. Running an entire network off the cable modem is "not supported" - but of course everybody does it, and they even provide a self-help newsgroup for people to tell each other how to set it up. One imagines however that they'd get upset if you ran a multi-person company behind one cable modem on a domestic tariff and saturated your 512K for eight hours a day.

      What it amounts to is that if their network falls over because of a few prats play silly buggers they'll deal with them, otherwise if you're sensible they don't in practice mind what you get up to.

      Seems reasonable to me.
    • Re:Bandwidth? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ok, first off, it says in my Service Agreement with AT&T that the purpose of disallowing us to run servers is to prevent us from using too much bandwidth that OTHER customers use. Mind you, in a cable connection, we all eat off the same plate. Not like DSL... Interesting how they say that their worried about you screwing up somebody elses bandwidth out of one side of their mount while somehow convincing a judge that SBC commercials that said that your cable performance could be affected by the internet habits of their neighbors were inaccurate. SBC was ordered to stop airing the commercials.
  • I hate Road Runner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OmniVector ( 569062 )
    Why? Because they decided to cap our bandwidth from 500kb/s down and 100kb/s up to 250kb/s down and 50kb/s. They had no reason to do this other than the fact that they didn't feel like upgrading and expanding their network to accomidate for the increased number of users and large bandwidth consumption.
    I remember when all those tech articles were boasting that the rate of broadband users joining the bandwagon was going to go up and up and yet it's peaked at a standstill, in fact, my service as I just said has accually gotten WORSE. I'm sure a large portion of it has to do with the @home cable company going under, and giving control back to the cable companies who now want to jack the prices and screw the users ridding on the wave of the future.
    This situation probably won't improve for awhile because companies like the RIAA and MPAA want to keep home users's bandwidth lower to control the "mass epidemic" of spreading illegal media. By now we could have had the whole country wired in T1 if some private organiations would get off their ass, lay the wire, and force the prices to drop by saturating the market. So expect congress to be lobbied to the stone age until Microsoft's DRM gets through the cracks.
    Then I can GUARANTEE that the RIAA and MPAA will even back up the companies who want to push for better broadband, so they can liscense more music/movies to users at more absurd prices than ever.
    • by alen ( 225700 )
      And where will that fictitious organization get the money to lay all these T1's? The costs of laying the last mile under the city streets is the most expensive. Then there is the access costs that have to be paid to the backbone providers. Keep on dreaming.
  • Power to the people!!! cept that the powell in charge of the fcc need not worry about things like freedoms. the man in charge of the FCC is an ass and these complaints will fall on deaf ears because of it.
  • If you want to host a server, just pay setup + $3.95 a month to have it professionally hosted, christ, oc48 vs 15k shouldn't take any thought. Yes, I have a server based off my home dsl, but it's kiddie crap, a simple mail server and a web server. If my ISP, verizon, decided to charge, or restrict, I'd switch in an instant.
    That said, cable (and fone) companies are cheap bastards who piss away money on stuff like sending trucks out to scan for waps, but what do you expect from an arrogant monopoly.
    Which is why I can get a dsl line in canada 1.5/768 w/3 static ips for $40 canadian and pay $60 a month for Verizon dsl down here.

    • Except if you want to do anything interesting on that server. Hosting is only cheap if it's a cookie cutter website with the lamest cgi around. Want to do weird things with BIND? Do you need to recompile a kernel to accomplish what you want?

      Too bad.

      We're paying for a service that can already do what we want, and as long as it isn't illegal or damaging their ability to provide the service, what's the big deal?
  • DSL vs Cable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conan_albrecht ( 446296 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:59PM (#3788913)
    It seems every article comparing DSL to cable focuses on the speed or technology. The primary reason I have DSL is because I have more choice in providers. The cable access is offered only by one large company in my area (read ATT) and I simply don't trust them to meet my needs as a geek.

    Contrast that to the DSL front, where I have the choice of many companies. I get a static IP, good speed, Linux supported, etc. because that's what I looked for when I subscribed.

    More reviews should look at choice vs. monopolies when comparing DSL and Cable.
    • This is precisely why I'm currently switching to DSL. Locally, Cox just severed from RoadRunner and became the sole supplier of cable-modem access in town. They immediately shrunk my service from 3 addresses to 1, and blocked about a dozen ports.

      Now, I'm not running streaming video over my web server; and I'm not hosting a warez site. I just want a few handy php utilities that I can use remotely. I'd be perfectly happy with a bandwidth cap. But instead, they chose port blocking as the solution. And in addition to reduced services, I also have to deal with being on an 8000 host subnet, so every time their router hiccups, potentially 8000 people lose their routes to the net. I don't know about everybody else's network; but my experience is that routing is the fragile part of the equation. It causes more problems than anything else.

      So I'm switching. My DSL equipment should arrive early next week.

  • by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Friday June 28, 2002 @04:00PM (#3788927)
    I myself have always been arguing with my ISP over this very thing. My standpoint is this, if an ISP claims that their service is compatibile with Windows 98 or 2000 or whatever, what gives them the right to then deny you the ability to use a feature of that operating system?

    Windows 98 included Personal Web Server. If you install Office you get Frontpage Server Extensions. 2000 server has VPN services. These are all part and parcel with the operating system. How then can my ISP say that even those Windows may let you share data on certain ports and protocols, we forbid it?

    Obviously the clause was designed to prevent someone from running a business website on a consumer connection. But they don't write the rules to target abuse. The terms don't say "you may not run a server that consumes excessive bandwidth" or "you may not turn your connnection into a gateway to dozens of users". No, they write it as "no servers, period" and "no sharing this connection, period".

    There are ISPs that don't do this. SpeakEasy comes to mind. When I was a SpeakEasy customer I ran web/ftp/vpn/shoutcast/dcc until my connection was absolutely saturated. I never heard word one from them about it. They even make a point to say they encourage you to runs servers (no porn sites, please!).

    But the majority of the big ones, the AT&T Broadband and the SBC Pacific Bell want you to pay for broadband prices just to use low bandwidth protocols like e-mail and web browsing. After all, they content, you don't need all taht bandwidth we said we would give you. The only people who need to use their full quota of data is pirates, right? No one has any legitmate reason to upload a significant amount of information.

    So, good for the tech companies. They have finally caught on that people aren't going to keep buying new computers and bigger hard drives and CD burners and all the trappings of a multimedia lifestyle if they get double taxed by having to pay for content. I consider my $50 broadband fee a global content tax and whether people consciously admit it or not, that's really what broadband is all about.

    Given a choice between siding with the content providers and the infrastructure providers, I choose to side against the content industry because the only thing they stand to lose is potential (read: imaginary) profit. The people who actually make and sell tangible products will go out of business if they are subject to the whims of the content industry.

    - JoeShmoe

    .
  • BSA (Score:2, Funny)

    by Betelgeuse ( 35904 )
    Yeah. . . and if you want to do adminstration from a campsite. . . but really, Slashdot shouldn't be giving press to such blatant homophobes . . .

    OH! BSA [bsa.org] not BSA [scouting.org]!

    It's funny because BSA [scouting.org] was actually what I first thought of when I saw the story.
  • That internet access was simply unrestricted. I mean, I don't care if I have to pay twice as much for my cable modem and broadband internet access -- just don't restrict my usage!!!

    I wish at work, where we have a very fat pipe I could SSH over port 22! Instead of having to run sshd off a port which can be access through our LAN firewall.

    I know that at work they're paying me, whereas at home I'm paying Rogers [rogers.com]... But why the heck can't I just use what I'm paying for the way it's designed to work... It's ludicrous that I'm not allowed to run any servers from my home PC, or that I can't utilize more than a certian amount of bandwidth -- or that I can't uncap my cable modem (which *I* purchased!). The early days of broadband where one could get away with nearly anything are long gone -- these days i'm lucky that they haven't determined that I'm running sshd off that odd port and cancelled my service!
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @04:05PM (#3788966)
    ...the companies say that in the subscriber agreements of major cable Internet providers, there are prohibitions on the use of private corporate networks that allow employees to work from home; restrictions on adding hardware such as servers and game boxes to the networks; and clauses that reserve the right to restrict access to certain bandwidth-intensive sites, such as those for online gambling.

    ... the High Tech Broadband Coalition, also wants the FCC to ensure that cable companies don't unilaterally prohibit any type of Internet use. A separate filing by Amazon.com takes the same view.

    The cable industry supports the FCC's deregulatory effort and has been moving toward a system of tiered pricing for services that require faster connection speeds, such as access to corporate networks and graphics-intensive gambling.

    To summarize: The corporate group wants cable internet providers to move away from restricting how customers use their bandwidth, and instead only restrict how much. To summarize of the summary: Big Brother bad, bandwidth caps good.

    And this is all quite good and reasonable. Why should my internet provider be concerned with whether or not I'm operating a server on my modem? Or playing games? Or visiting gambling or *cough* porn sites all night long? Or working from home all day? It shouldn't matter what I'm doing with my bandwidth, and it's unfair to restrict what I do with it in the contract.

    But it's entirely reasonable and acceptable to charge me more if I use a high volume of bandwidth. My web hosting provider charges me a different amount per month if I exceed a certain amount of traffic; my cable internet provider can and should do the same.

    This deserves our support, Slashdotters. Read carefully.
    • by tshak ( 173364 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @06:25PM (#3789727) Homepage
      Or playing games?

      This is what boggles me. When I was younger I was on 16 player Quake servers all the time. This easily uses as much bandwidth as my current VPN usage. So why is VPN, a very practical and legitimate usage of a home internet connection, banned while gaming for hours on end during peak time accepted? It seems like these policies are being created by your friendly technology MBA "expert".
  • The telcos and cablemodem companies have never really liked to provide freewheeling internet access. The cable companies in particular have a "broadcast" mentality where someone pays to provide "content" and the unwashed massses pay to view the "content". Unfortunately for them, all the cool stuff requires two-way communications. A very unfortunate side effect of providing communication back from the "viewers" using TCP/IP is that the "viewers" can now do content themselves.

    DSL and cablemodem people have an ugly history of AUPs that prevent running "servers". They have a history of blocking port 80 (and other ports) inbound to their clients.

    There's two real problems inherent in this mess:

    1. TCP/IP doesn't make too much distinction between "client" and "server" except in the 3-packet handshake when setting up a connection.
    2. The traditional "content providers" (movie and TV studios, music recording industry) are totally bankrupt - morally, creatively and philosophically. When was the last time you saw a TV show that didn't copy some format pioneered in the 50s?

    So what does this predict for the future? A couple of things: first, MPAA and RIAA and whatever the TV and radio trade associations are will continue to try to legislate things, since they no longer have the mental or moral wherewithal to make any new art. Expect DMCA enforcement to continue to get worse. Expect legislatures to enact UCITA-like laws, or even stuff like Senator Holling's TBPDTPADTAPA abortion.

    You can also expect a technical thrust: replacing TCP/IP with some base protocol(s) that make a very strict distinction between "server" and "client". This might come from Microsoft and not from the MPAA/RIAA/legislative thrust. "Palladium" just might be part of this. The protocol might even be proprietary very costly to obtain the spec if one even exists. But it will cost tons of money to run a "server" for that protocol, one way or the other. Either the software will be pricey or a network hookup that accepts special "server" packets will be pricey.

  • I'm just curious how they detected his wireless usage. It seems like he could install a router with NAT between the cable modem and the wireless node, then call up and say "problem solved."

    Here's another question: Was he using encryption? If he's not, I can understand the company's point of view. (Note: I said understand, I didn't say I agree with it.) If he were to say 'its encrypted...', that should solve it.

    Hmmm sounds like a call to pre-emptively sue the cable/dsl companies for express permission to use wireless. When I signed on with @Home (and then ATT Broadband), they were advertising how to use multiple computers on the same connection. I even found a howto on how to do it. Here's the address: http://www.computers4sure.com/linksys/store/att_wi reless.asp [computers4sure.com]

    Note: AT&T's site linked me to this. When you go to this site before going to AT&T's site, you see the AT&T logo on the screen. Strange, eh? hehe.
  • things will work much better freedom-wise when the consumer starts buying bandwidth by the byte.

    Sure, it's more complex.. but it also reflects the actual limited resource being used.
  • by dotslash ( 12419 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @04:34PM (#3789133) Homepage
    If the first question you ask before hooking up with broadband is:
    "Do you have any service restrictions", then how long do you think this crap is going to last? Sure, there will be a lame cable provider who caters to mom&pop audiences, but if the majority of serious users become very selective, surely there is a big enough impact to make this a selling point. Even in limited competition that would have an effect.

    I think the problem really lies in the fact that very few users have enough of a clue to be demanding even when they do have choices.

    Top x questions (in no order):

    - Do you restrict the use of LAN's NATed behind a router?
    - Do you run any proxies (transparent or not)
    - Do you restrict any traffic by port, address, or protocol type?
    - Do you allow IPSec?
    - What are your plans for IPv6?
    - Do I have at least one non-NATed address?
    - How much for extra IP or netblock?
    - Do you have a bandwidth cap on volume or peak use?
    - Do you allow the use of public facing servers?
    - Do you allow the use of P2P?
    - Can I see your Acceptable Use policy and Terms & Conditions?
    - Can I see your Privacy Policy?
    - Do you have a security policy?
    - Do you monitor or collect customer traffic or traffic patterns?
    - Do you demand a subpoena prior to law enforcement access?
    - What is your policy on SPAM?
    - What is your policy on sharing of personally identifiable information?
    - What is your policy on sharing of aggregate use data?

    Make 'em sweat. Most sales people will happily go through this list, very politely. If not, you already have a problem.

    Don't know if you noticed, but broadband adoption is in the crapper and many people have reverted to dial-up. Who needs whom more?

    • ask them about their multicast IP support too. The mbone is all about shared bandwidth, yet it isnt always accessible
    • My DSL ISP would happily answer all these questions. They work in a market that is competitive, and it is Federal regulation which keeps them competitive, by forcing ILECS and CLECS to allow competing ISP's to use their facilities (for a fee.)

      The cable providers have no regulation. And no competition. And are more than happy to answer "no and goodbye" to the 3 percent of the market that might ask these questions and then turn around and make money hand-over-fist to the 97 percent that doesn't ask these questions.

  • Yeah, it stinks that cable ISPs are [legally] gaining [monopoly] control and the ability to squelch their competition.

    OTOH, this may also slow down the migration of commercial software to the network-based service model. Anything that keeps broadband prices high and single-sourced will be a disincentive for this migration.

    I doubt this possible benefit outweighs the liabilities, though...and Microsoft already has an alternative - if they can't force people to use net-based application servers for their software, they can own their desktop machines with Palladium.

  • I find it funny/scary/ridiculous that MS and content providers will stand behind the CBDTPA, whose claim is ostensibly to promote the adoption of high-bandwidth Internet connections (by limiting what users can do with their computers), and then turn around and accuse them of limiting the freedoms of users. I suppose it's just another case of self-serving interests.

    And BTW, since when is it the BSA's job to complain about other companies limiting user freedom? Don't they have enough to do finding "licence infringments" that they don't need to dip their claw in this?

    PrisonerCX
  • Just remember the following...

    Try to think as if you're an ISP:

    - Users doing anything on their computer that requires bandwidth costs you money.
    - Users running servers costs you money.
    - Users running servers that serve MP3s or movies costs you LOTs of money (lots of bandwidth), and could open you up to legal issues.
    - Users who telecommute should be able to "afford" to buy a business package for home. After all, if they lead such a wonderful life as to be able to work from home, then they SHOULD pay extra to us!
    - Users who run servers or share internet connections bother tech support.

    Solution? Deny all servers.

    If possible, deny anything that users may do other than web surfing and email. No telecommuting here!

    Infact, if it's possible to bill users without providing ANY service, that's the way to go!
  • DSL works unregulated for the same reason the telephone companies are now (mostly) unregulated: competition. The local phone company is required, by law, to give access to the lines to any Mom & Pop ISP that comes along. Sure, the phone company's ISP (they all own ISPs now) can charge less because they don't have to pay for access onto the data lines, but they're stuck with paying maintenance of those lines, regardless of whether the bandwidth gets used or not. The local ISPs have no incentives to regulate the bandwidth or services since their main cost is what the data company charges them for bandwidth sent into/out of their network, and the ISP can pass that charge through to their customers at a profit (pay-for-bandwidth, pay-for-data-transferred, etc). Heck, they want you to use as much b/w as possible under some scenarios.

    On the other hand, the cable situation is totally different, since the cable company has been granted a local monopoly, much like Ma Bell had before the telephone breakup. The cost of this monopoly is total FCC regulation. This isn't suprising, considering that cable technology is more recent than phones. Anyway, the cable companies started offering cable modem service (usually through @Home) back in the mid '90s. The problem was, @Home had a 7-year exclusive contract to be the ISP on each cable company, in exchange for spending the $billions to roll out the networks. There was no way the FCC could regulate internet access (on a regulated cable!) unless they invalidated the @Home contracts in court (not that they wanted to regulate anyway). Well, they didn't have to worry about it because the cable companies fscked up the marketing (they wanted to use internet access as an upsell for more cable TV subscriptions, when what people really wanted was the internet by itself), and @Home went under.

    So, the issue facing the FCC is whether or not to regulate internet access over cable. As I said before, they don't want to regulate it. They want the cable companies to pretend there's competition, and "play nice". The problem is, they won't, and the FCC is going to have to step in. Their options aren't pretty:

    1. Start regulating cable internet. This sucks, because they aren't regulating phone internet (DSL), and the cable companies are gonna cry foul and raise a big stink.
    2. Break up the local cable monopolies. This sucks just as bad, because the same thing that happened with the phone rates rising after the Ma Bell breakup would happen with cable. Raise your hand if you wanna pay $150-200 a month for cable TV.

    It gets even more interesting when you consider that the satellite TV companies are starting to offer internet access. Note that, in theory, there is competition in the satellite space, so the FCC doesn't have to regulate. (It's not quite that simple, but that's another story.) So there are companies out there offering bundled TV and internet already, but in a (mostly) unregulated fashion. Of course, the FCC is fscked here too, because the only way they can avoid regulating satellite systems is if they can guarantee competition, and they only way they can do that is by regulating the frequency space!

    My solution: if the owners of the medium (phone copper, cable coax, airwaves, etc) have been granted a local monopoly, then all services offered over that medium must be regulated. In other words, regulation based on medium, not service. I'm in favor of option #1.

  • DSL vs. cable (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @02:22AM (#3791162) Homepage
    The basic problem with cable modems is that they bottleneck in the outside plant. They're a LAN tied to a bridge on a phone pole somewhere, with some amount of bandwidth from the bridge to the headend. All the bandwidth bottlenecks are in the stuff that's outside.

    With DSL, you have a dedicated path to the central office, at which point there's multiplexing. But COs have vast amounts of fiber to each other, and it's much cheaper to add bulk bandwidth to a DSL network.

    The economics of the two systems scale quite differently.

    Bear in mind that bulk bandwidth is cheap, especially if you're a telco. Most of the costs are in the last mile.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @07:06AM (#3791544)
    Why just this morning I heard a commercial on the radio from Time Warner cable proclaiming the great freedom of choice people have, why, with AOL-Time-Warner's service, you can have RoadRunner *or* AOL, isn't that just great, not like you are forced to send all your money to one place or anything, no not at all.

    (Actually, to be fair Earthlink does have an agreement with them so they are also a choice, but I bet they have to pay out the ass for that presence.)

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