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Re: [Latest draft of Internet regulation bill]

  • From: Leo Bicknell
  • Date: Sat Nov 12 19:58:00 2005

In a message written on Sat, Nov 12, 2005 at 01:32:39PM -0500, Sean Donelan wrote:
> So its just marketing.  Some cable companies charge you $5 a month
> more for HSIA if you don't buy the cable company's VOIP service and
> $10 more if you don't buy the cable company's video service.  As long
> as they use a brand name for the $15 discount package, they can have
> whatever restrictions they chose on the discounted packages?  Could they
> call it Internet++ or Platinum service and it would be fine?

No, this is all pricing.  You can sell "Internet Access" for $10,
or $20, or $200 for all I care.  It's still "Internet Access".  You
can discount my "Internet Access" by 50% if I also buy a hotdog
from you for all I care.  Doesn't change what you're selling.  You can
sell me faster or slower Internet access, companies never seem to be shy
about telling you the speeds, doesn't change the fact that it's
"internet access", and the customer is informed about what they are

> Is there some licensing body that surveys 99 out of 100 people to
> decide if something is "the whole internet?" That licensing body
> would then have the power to order ISPs to carry just those web
> sites? If 99 out of 100 people only access the top 20 or so web
> sites, is that the "whole Internet" for them, because they think the
> web is the Internet?  Would this be "must carry" for broadcast television
> stations that must be carried for free by cable systems?  Would the
> FCC maintain a list of web sites that that 99 out of 100 people use
> that all licensed ISPs must carry on their networks?  Would that then
> give the FCC the power to decide what web sites ISPs don't carry?

Whoa, you went entirely the wrong direction, and used entirely the
wrong analogy.  This is not congruent to channels on a cable TV
system.  I don't think anyone has ever tried to sell "cable tv
access" that magically gets "the" set of cable TV channels.  There
is no such common definition.

The cable TV analogy would be selling me "NBC", but not showing The
Apprentice, SNL, and the West Wing because the producers refused
to pay the cable company for "access".  If you chop it up, it's no
longer "NBC" but "select NBC shows".

The better analogy is to the phone company selling "Long Distance".
If MCI sold "Long Distance", but you couldn't call anyone on Sprint's
network because Sprint didn't pay the "access feee" then it wouldn't
be "Long Distance".

The sad thing is, these are not things with a precise definition.
You can invision defining "Long Distance" before there were cell
phones, and it might not have included them.  Of course, I think
if you stop anyone on the street and ask if they can call a cell
phone using their long distance service they would stare at you
blankly with a "of course, why wouldn't you" kind of response.

Rather, these things are solved by the FCC and/or the courts.
Someone tries to sell "Internet Access" which is missing part of
what many people believe is "the Internet", and out come an army
of lawyers to sue sue sue.  Think a class action lawyer wouldn't
love to sue SBC on behalf of all SBC customers that SBC sold them
one thing and delivered another?  They would jump all over it.  In
the end you ask who makes the call, 12 jurors, that's who.  Do they
believe it was "internet access" or not?

Which is why, in the end, this is a slippery slope that business
should stay away from.  You don't want to push the envelope becuase
the one who does won't know until it's too late (the lawsuit is
filed and/or decided) and once you do know you're probably so far
in the red from the lawsuit it wasn't worth the savings or extra
revenue you thought you were getting from short changing the customer.

Bottom line.  Selling "internet access" where you can't get to "the
whole internet" (which no one of us can define, sorry) is deceptive
advertising.  Bait and switch.  There's a litany of case law on the
subject from many industries.  If you're company is anywhere near such a
cliff, run, quickly, to the nearest exit.  It will be bad when they get
it wrong.

       Leo Bicknell - [email protected] - CCIE 3440
        PGP keys at
Read TMBG List - [email protected],

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