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I guess truth is not an option for telcos


y Scott Bradner


Network World , 10/30/2007


If I wanted network neutrality laws passed I could not think of a better pair of allies than Verizon Wireless and Comcast. By their duplicitous behavior, both have been doing a very good job of showing lawmakers just why such laws may be needed.


For quite a while Verizon Wireless has been selling "unlimited" wireless broadband. I do not suppose it was a shock to many people when it turned out that the carrierŐs definition of "unlimited" dropped the "un." More than 10,000 customers who assumed that Verizon Wireless was using the dictionary definition of "unlimited" suddenly became ex-customers when their accounts were summarily canceled. They got letters saying, in essence, that they were using too much bandwidth so they must have been doing something bad.


The New York attorney general apparently can read the dictionary and just got Verizon Wireless to agree to clarify its terms and to pay about a million dollars to compensate the terminated customers. http://www.networkworld.


It is good that someone is looking out for truth in advertising, but I find it hard to understand why it should have taken a nine-month investigation to figure out something that was very clear to more than 10,000 people a few seconds after they got their goodbye letters. Note that $1M is less than three minutesŐ worth of income for Verizon itself. I'm sure that is a major deterrent for future flat-out lies in advertising.


In mid-October the Associated Press reported that a series of experiments it had performed had proven that Comcast was blocking the use of BitTorrent. AP tried to download a version of the King James Bible but was blocked by Comcast two out of three times. Comcast was sending a forged hangup signal to AP's computers that appeared to come from the BitTorrent servers. Comcast said, being too clever by half, that it did not block "access to" BitTorrent — true enough, the service provider was just blocking the "use of" BitTorrent. It was lying by failing to tell the whole truth.


In both cases the carriers were not doing anything illegal other than lying about it. But why not just be upfront and clear about its services and let the customer decide if the offerings are worth the money?


The main thing the carriers have achieved is congressional interest. It looks like there will now be hearings about this. The carriersŐ actions have reinvigorated the pro network neutrality folk since they are perfect examples of what the telecom industry has said it will not do. (See ŇFather knows best about net neutrality.Ó)


I suppose we who would like to see the FCC take its head out of the sand on this issue should thank Verizon Wireless and Comcast for their help.


I do wonder why these service providers were so greedy that they could not wait a few months until the net neutrality issue was fully dead before they exposed their true intentions. But then again, they are what they are.


Disclaimer: Harvard, in general, understands that doing things at the right time can take a while but it has not offered an opinion when itŐs the right time to lie, so the above opinion is mine.


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