Control by Large Corporations: It’s Already Starting
True to form, the week of March 15, 2011, AT&T announced that it would limit the amount of data its DSL and U-verse broadband subscribers can access per month. Beginning in May, AT&T will cap broadband use at 150GB a month for DSL and 250GB for U-verse (fiber-optic line) users, and will charge $10 for each additional increment of 50GB. In doing so, AT&T is throwing into question the future of online movies, gaming, programming and VoIP calling. Ma Bell’s monopoly is coming back in a big way. By exploiting its near monopoly on DSL services, for example (which was largely excluded from the unbundling and wholesale requirements of the 1996 Telecom Act courtesy of the AT&T lobby), AT&T is positioned to control just about everything we do on the web these days, and much of what innovators are trying to create.
Consider Netflix. The service allows customers with high-speed Internet access to watch movies and other programming via their high-speed Internet connection. It’s a runaway success, in part due to the fact that Americans have become accustomed to watching TV on their schedule, and often without commercial interruption. It’s also a cost-effective service. At $7.99 a month, it is giving AT&T U-verse, Comcast, and others a good run for their money. This all stands to go away if the large content providers have their way. This is because the 150GB of data AT&T proposes does not buy all that much in the way of movie content. If you exceed that amount, and are an AT&T DSL user, you have to pay extra to AT&T. As an example, if you stream a movie such as Avatar in HD, you’re probably going to use 3-4GB of data. A single 44-minute HD episode of Brothers & Sisters saved to your computer for later viewing potentially eats up 3GB, based on my own personal observation. As a rough estimate, this means only about three hours of TV programming a day, before you ever surf the web, read email, access Facebook, tweet, or make a VoIP phone call.