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I guess the truth is not an option


By: Scott Bradner


If I wanted network neutrality laws passed I cannot think of a better pair of allies than Verizon Wireless and Comcast.  Both of these companies have been doing a very good job of showing lawmakers just why such laws may be needed by their duplicitous behavior. 


For quite a while Verizon Wireless has been selling "unlimited" wireless broadband.  I do not suppose was a shock to all that many people when it turned out that Verizon Wireless's 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.   The ex-customers got a letter saying, in essence, you were using too much bandwidth so you 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.  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 9-month investigation to figure out something that was very clear to more than 10,000 people a few seconds after they got their good-by letters.  Note that $1 M is less than 3 minutes 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 they had performed had proven that Comcast was blocking the use of BitTorrent.  The AP tried to download a verion of the King James Bible but were blocked by Comcast two out of three times.  Comcast was sending a forged hangup signal to the AP's computers that appeared to come from the BitTorrent servers.  Comcast said, being too clever by half, that they did not block "access to" BitTorrent - true enough, they were just blocking the "use of" BitTorrent.  They were lying by failing to tell the whole truth.


These were cases where the telecommunications carrier was flat out lying about what they were doing.  In both cases the carrier was not doing anything illegal other than lying about it.  Why did they feel that they had to lie?  Why not just be upfront and clear about their services and the customer can decide if the service is worth the money.


The main thing they have achieved is congressional interest.  It looks like there will now be hearings about this.  The carrier's 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 Father knows best about net neutrality


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 Verizon Wireless and Comcast 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 its the right time to lie so the above opinion is mine.