Names like Comcast, Verizon, SBC, RoadRunner, Cox, Charter – control the vast majority of the ‘last mile’ internet running into many homes. A fact of today’s economy in the United States is that in any particular geographic area, you only have a handful of providers that can provide high-speed access to the internet. For example, in the Philadelphia region there are only 2 serious options – Verizon and Comcast.
The reason for this is that being able to provide a high speed access line to a home involves running a LOT of wire or fiber – and this has an enormous investment in capital and technology. Only large companies have the resources available to provide these services and keep them stable. They also will buy many smaller companies that pop up – both for their technology or because it also eliminates some of the competition. Comcast has done this in our area and has largely bought many alternatives to their cable service.
Television, on the same hand, has traditionally been controlled by a handful of local companies. Largely due to copyright restrictions and content agreements, smaller non-geographically centered companies have been unable to gain access to popular content. Therefore most television providers are behemoths and there are not many smaller options.
Now in theory, we now have the internet bandwidth to have full streaming, HD television content to come right over your internet connection. There is a great deal of bandwidth involved in such a service – so the technology many companies use to bring video streams to your desktop (or other display) uses Point to Point protocol (P2P). This distributes the bandwidth across many clients so instead of having one source for the video bandwidth, it is more evenly distributed.
Perhaps you see where this is going. Many major ISPs now offer television services over their connections. Likewise, many Television companies offer internet service as well. The prospect of a customer going to another company and purchasing a television package, using your ISP/Television Company’s internet bandwidth (that you already pay for), is a frightening prospect for them. Right now, cable programming is a cash cow. I would say the majority of television users watch a handful of channels on a regular basis, however all cable television companies force you to purchase a ‘package’ with hundreds of channels. They have largely resisted a-la-cart programming options.
What it comes down to is choice. The choice to be a smart consumer and not be tied down to a single company for any service – whether that be internet, television or phone. Of course, the companies who provide these services would love for you to have to use their other services, and in my experience many consumers do go for these ‘triple play’ packages. In their minds, getting phone, internet, and TV for $99 (Even though this is a teaser rate, and will likely go up to $140 a month or more after the initial period) is a great deal.
So what can you do?
So how can the consumer fight for this choice? The companies certainly are not going to fight for you.
- In the United States, the FCC has some power to regular the big companies that deliver internet to your household. Some people (including myself) do not completely trust in this entity to serve the best interests of consumers.
- Ultimately, in today’s free enterprise economic system – your wallet does the talking. If your ISP decides to throttle, delay, or otherwise impede P2P traffic – run for the hills and choose the nearest alternative. Let them know this is the reason you are leaving.
- Finally, educate anyone willing to listen about this problem. It goes largely unnoticed by the general population, and the more people who know about this issue, the better.
So what happens when there are no other choices? Well then it may be time for a new breed of ISP to enter the landscape, but I’ll save that article for another day.
For more information or to contact your representative, see http://www.savetheinternet.com/.