THE EFFECTS OF LOSING NET NEUTRALITY HAVE STARTED

Comcast forced Netflix to pay them a hefty fee in order to be able to stream content to their customers at a decent speed. 

To make up for it, customers will see raised netflix prices mostly likely in the next few months. It’ll go up three dollars to $11.99. IN ADDITION, that’s for ONE device. If you want to stream on more than just your computer, like an internet TV, game console, moblie device, etc, etc, you will have to pay EVEN MORE. 

This is just the beginning. Prices for internet are going to go up, and Comcast is well on its way to taking over everything and being a HUGE monopoly (it just bought Time Warner, the #2 cable company, and it going to buy all NFL content), which will, you guessed it, raise prices of everything even more. 

BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO TO STOP THIS MADNESS? 

Contact the FCC. Tell them to DO THEIR FUCKING JOB and classify broadband internet as a common carrier (like cable and mobile systems are). This will literally fix ALL PROBLEMS that the end of net neutrality is going to cause, and allow the internet to be equal and open to everyone once again. 

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR

Here are some helpful articles:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/04/21/the-shrewd-politics-behind-netflix-price-hike/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/01/16/net-neutrality-broadband-fcc-ruling-editorials-debates/4543059/

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/01/drop-regulatory-hammer-on-internet-providers-says-former-fcc-commish/

Ryan Block called Comcast, his internet provider, to cancel his account, but the ‘retention specialist’ on the other end of the line really didn’t want him to do that. The resulting conversation was painful to say the least.

Now Comcast has contacted Block directly to issue a cringe-inducing apology: “We are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.”

We All Lose

I’m sure you’ve heard about Ryan Block’s recent chat with Comcast about trying to disconnect his service. In short, the rep refused to disconnect the service without a reason from Block. This conversation of attrition went on for about 20 minutes, some of which was recorded. Listen to the exchange here.

The representative (name redacted) continued aggressively repeating his questions, despite the answers given, to the point where my wife became so visibly upset she handed me the phone. Overhearing the conversation, I knew this would not be very fun.

What I did not know is how oppressive this conversation would be. Within just a few minutes the representative had gotten so condescending and unhelpful I felt compelled to record the speakerphone conversation on my other phone.

Like many others, the call infuriated me. But I switched my tone after reading "Sympathy for the Comcast Rep From Hell" by John Herman.

If you understand this call as a desperate interaction between two people, rather than a business transaction between a customer and a company, the pain is mutual. The customer service rep is trapped in an impossible position, in which any cancellation, even one he can’t control, will reflect poorly on his performance. By the time news of this lost customer reaches his supervisor, it will be data—it will be the wrong data, and it will likely be factored into a score, or a record, that is either directly or indirectly tied to his compensation or continued employment. It’s bad, very bad, for this rep to record a cancellation with no reason, or with a reason the script should theoretically be able to answer.

[…]

Of course, it’s absurd that a company like Comcast is able to force two humans into combat like this in the first place. If you don’t take the existence of a near-monopoly company like Comcast for granted—and why should we?—the situation is as clear as can be: The rep didn’t abuse Block, and Block didn’t torture the rep. Comcast, the organization, is tormenting them both.

I can’t help but applaud Herman’s final line.

I hope this tape gets played in front of Congress.

Antitrust in the New Gilded Age

We’re in a new gilded age of wealth and power similar to the first gilded age when the nation’s antitrust laws were enacted. Those laws should prevent or bust up concentrations of economic power that not only harm consumers but also undermine our democracy — such as the pending Comcast acquisition of Time-Warner. 

In 1890, when Republican Senator John Sherman of Ohio urged his congressional colleagues to act against the centralized industrial powers that threatened America, he did not distinguish between economic and political power because they were one and the same. The field of economics was then called “political economy,” and inordinate power could undermine both. “If we will not endure a king as a political power,” Sherman thundered, “we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”

Shortly thereafter, the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed by the Senate 52 to 1, and moved quickly through the House without dissent. President Harrison signed it into law July 2, 1890.

In many respects America is back to the same giant concentrations of wealth and economic power that endangered democracy a century ago. The floodgates of big money have been opened even wider in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in “Citizen’s United vs. FEC” and its recent “McCutcheon" decision.

Seen in this light, Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time-Warner for $45 billion is especially troublesome — and not just because it may be bad for consumers. Comcast is the nation’s biggest provider of cable television and high-speed Internet service; Time Warner is the second biggest.

Last week, Comcast’s executives descended on Washington to persuade regulators and elected officials that the combination will be good for consumers. They say it will allow Comcast to increase its investments in cable and high-speed Internet, and encourage rivals to do so as well. 

Opponents argue the combination will give consumers fewer choices, resulting in higher cable and Internet bills. And any company relying on Comcast’s pipes to get its content to consumers (think Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, or any distributor competing with Comcast’s own television network, NBCUniversal) also will have to pay more — charges that will also be passed on to consumers.

I think the opponents have the better argument. Internet service providers in America are already too concentrated, which is why Americans pay more for Internet access than the citizens of almost any other advanced nation. 

Some argue that the broadband market already has been carved up into a cartel, so blocking the acquisition would do little to bring down prices. One response would be for the Federal Communications Commission to declare broadband service a public utility and regulate prices. 

But Washington should also examine a larger question beyond whether the deal is good or bad for consumers: Is it good for our democracy?

We haven’t needed to ask this question for more than a century because America hasn’t experienced the present concentration of economic wealth and power in more than a century.

But were Senator John Sherman were alive today he’d note that Comcast is already is a huge political player, contributing $1,822,395 so far in the 2013-2014 election cycle, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics — ranking it 18th of all 13,457 corporations and organizations that have donated to campaigns since the cycle began. 

Of that total, $1,346,410 has gone individual candidates, including John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid; $323,000 to Leadership PACs; $278,235 to party organizations; and $261,250 to super PACs.

Last year, Comcast also spent $18,810,000 on lobbying, the seventh highest amount of any corporation or organization reporting lobbying expenditures, as required by law.

Comcast is also one of the nation’s biggest revolving doors. Of its 107 lobbyists, 86 worked in government before lobbying for Comcast. Its in-house lobbyists include several former chiefs of staff  to Senate and House Democrats and Republicans as well as a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.

Nor is Time-Warner a slouch when it comes to political donations, lobbyists, and revolving doors. It also ranks near the top.

When any large corporation wields this degree of political influence it drowns out the voices of the rest of us, including small businesses. The danger is greater when such power is wielded by media giants because they can potentially control the marketplace of ideas on which a democracy is based.

When two such media giants merge, the threat is extreme. If film-makers, television producers, directors, and news organizations have to rely on Comcast to get their content to the public, Comcast is able to exercise a stranglehold on what Americans see and hear. 

Remember, this is occurring in America’s new gilded age — similar to the first one in which a young Teddy Roosevelt castigated the “malefactors of great wealth, who were “equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil.”

It’s that same equal carelessness toward average Americans and toward our democracy that ought to be of primary concern to us now. Big money that engulfs government makes government incapable of protecting the rest of us against the further depredations of big money.

After becoming President in 1901, Roosevelt used the Sherman Act against forty-five giant companies, including the giant Northern Securities Company that threatened to dominate transportation in the Northwest. William Howard Taft continued to use it, busting up the Standard Oil Trust in 1911. 

In this new gilded age, we should remind ourselves of a central guiding purpose of America’s original antitrust law, and use it no less boldly. 

Netflix offers a technical take on why a “fast lane” for data is a bad strategy, and why the Comcast/TWC merger shouldn’t be allowed:

Comcast does not carry Netflix traffic over long distances. Netflix is itself shouldering the costs and performing the transport function for which it used to pay transit providers. Netflix connects to Comcast in locations all over the U.S., and has offered to connect in as many locations as Comcast desires. So Netflix is moving Netflix content long distances, not Comcast.

Nor does Comcast connect Netflix to other networks. In fact, Netflix can’t reach other networks via Comcast’s network. 

For all these reasons, Netflix directly interconnects with many ISPs here in the U.S. and internationally without any exchange of fees. 

In sum, Comcast is not charging Netflix for transit service. It is charging Netflix for access to its subscribers. Comcast also charges its subscribers for access to Internet content providers like Netflix. In this way, Comcast is double dipping by getting both its subscribers and Internet content providers to pay for access to each other. 

Side note: Here’s FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler rebuking critics of the commission’s proposed net neutrality strategy.

I’ve been attempting to explain the importance of net neutrality for years now, foretelling a world …

We should all fear what’s happening to Net Neutrality right now. This is a must-read article.

TL;DR: ISP’s have the ability to upgrade their service for consumers, but they’d rather pass costs onto you by pretending that they’re “running out” of bandwidth.

Reblogs appreciated. You really need to get upset about this shit

Comcast rep: “I’m trying to help you.” Customer Ryan Block: “You can help us by disconnecting our service.” Uh-huh.

The other day, tech guy Ryan Block called Comcast, the largest cable provider in the U.S., with a reasonable request to cancel his service—something plenty of people do every day.

What he got instead was a nightmare of a phone call from a Comcast service rep who, instead of simply disconnecting his service and telling him to have a nice day, stubbornly insisted on asking the same myopic questions, over and over again for at least 18 minutes straight.

Listen for yourself:

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