Thursday, July 12, 2012

Xfinity is Closing The Door on Unlimited Broadband.... This Is A Troubling Sign For You and The Country!




Xfinity (aka Comcast)  dropped a service announcement in my inbox a few days ago. The announcement isn't news in so far as the death of "unlimited" broadband has been the subject of chatter for several months. The "roll out" of this evolution to my geography (and Xfinity account) is new.

I find many aspects of our current economy, political system, and morality disheartening and truly hazardous to this country's longstanding promise of innovation and prosperity through self-driven hard work. I could easily list a dozen events and trends spanning local, national, and international theaters which bring real concern not only for myself, but (immediate) future generations. Some of the issues I take umbrage with span "hot button" topics.

Sadly, some of  my most profound concerns serve as flash-points for often derisive political diatribes amongst my friends and family. This site is devoted to technology and more broadly how technology impacts business and personal lives for better and at times, worse. I shall continue to try and refrain from using this "dais" as a sounding board for broader economic and political circumstances which don't have a direct impact on technology, business, and/or marketing.



Click to Enlarge- Chart from The Next Web

Xfinity's decision to formally cap broadband access is a harbinger of a trend which can cripple our fragile economy more than many other forces today! Let me provide a bit of a macro perspective before opining about the impact of this change on society at large, my clients, and business. As the nearby chart details (you can see the original chart here), the USA lags fourteen (14) other industrialized countries on every important broadband metric! The United States has far slower access (4.8 mbps versus globe leading Japan's 61 mbps); broadband penetration (around 75% versus nearly 90% in Iceland and the Netherlands) and cost per month per 1 mbps  ($3.33 versus 27 cents in Japan; 45 cents in Korea and others).


These statistics are shameful! If the United States is going to have any hope of leading the world in innovation  this century, we must also provide a twenty-first century infrastructure to allow a free, ubiquitous, flow of ideas, thoughts and information. Not only have we willfully allowed ourselves to fall to the middle of the international pack on all these metrics (and this is a kind analysis), this "highway to the future" isn't getting any meaningful discussion outside of tech circles.

Our politicians, lost in election year posturing, infighting, and a seemingly limitless ability on both sides of the aisle to spend vast sums of newly minted dollars on pet projects while arguing about "shovel ready jobs" and "rebuilding our country's roads and highways," don't ever bring up the most important highway project of the coming twenty-five years, the "information highway!" Rapidly, the USA is becoming akin to a one lane, unpaved, road in a backwater third world, whistle stop! This isn't a "sexy" topic, or something which is likely to incite "swing voters" to go to the polls next November, but is a terribly important component of our ability to compete (or not) in an unarguably global marketplace.

And this situation is getting worse.... Xfinity is taking the "slippery slope" approach to ending unlimited broadband in exactly the same fashion the country's mobile providers have shoved the same capped restrictions down consumers' throats in recent months-- arguing this change will only impact the top "one percent" of users who take up a "disproportionate amount of resources." And by the way, for the rest of you, "don't worry" you aren't going to see anything change! Hell,  Xfinity tries to make this sound like a "win:"

The vast majority of XFINITY customers use far less than 300 GB of data in a month. Based upon your
recent usage history, it appears this new data plan will have no impact upon
you, and you won't need to do anything, or change your Internet usage. If you are
not sure about your monthly data usage, please refer to the Track and Manage Your Usage
section below.


We want our customers to use the Internet for everything they want and your
service will not be limited to the 300 GB monthly data allowance we provide as
part of XFINITY Internet. While we believe that 300 GB is more than enough to
meet the Internet usage needs of most customers, you can always buy more data
in additional blocks of 50 GB for $10 each.



In other words, "Don't worry, be happy!" this will only impact the "elite" users, you are going to be just fine..... If you believe this propaganda, I have a bridge (to nowhere) I can't wait to sell you! Once capped and tiered plans are introduced, all bets are off. If 300 Gigabytes doesn't effect "enough" users for the company to make its bottom line quarterly profit targets, the cap will simply be lowered. If your behavior doesn't change as the company desires (e.g. You Netflix and YouTube cable cutters who are no longer paying for those 200 channel HDTV cable packages any more in favor of a Roku box or Apple TV and a "dumb" internet pipe better "come back" and watch traditional cable television again!) the company will literally make you pay! (Since it is "illegal" and downright insensitive to throttle traffic based on competitive considerations-- there is already vocal concern that carriers such as Comcast are discriminating against competitors such as Netflix in terms of bandwidth-- the alternative is to classify heavy internet video customers as among the "elite one percent of users" and get their pocketbook and attention in this manner.....

This is just the literal tip of the iceberg. Your local coffee shop, restaurant, or watering hole which offers free wi-fi today may well change their policy after receiving their next xFinity bill. Hotels in this country will routinely charge for wi-fi access or face yet another uncapped fee eating into already slim profit margins. You may start telling your kids to stop using Facetime (Apple's marginally popular video phone service which until now has been relegated to wi-fi only use in part to keep users from burning through capped wireless data plans) when talking with their friends at home.


The changes will be far reaching and in many regards black swan events (inherently unknowable). No matter how individuals and companies modify their behavior and pricing, it will make us less competitive in the global marketplace and the changes will stifle the free flow of information and thought. This isn't about that Nerd down the street locked up in his room running a Bit Torrent Stream downloading dozens of illegal movies a month!, it is about capturing incremental revenue for the companies who have been given a de facto geographic monopoly to provide broadband access across our fruited plains!

And monopolies require regulation.... One can argue that wired broadband spectrum is fundamentally different than wireless data. There exist technical differences between moving data across federally regulated airwaves and landlines which have very different technical bandwidth constraints. There are some pundits who argue that wireless data should be treated more like a traditional metered utility (i.e. water; gas). This argument is far harder to credibly make for wired broadband. xFinity has ample "pipe" to provide a seemingly endless number of HDTV channels (as long as they can find willing lemmings to buy this "content"). The same lines that feed you seven or more HBO channels can also bring you NetFlix, YouTube and more..... Follow the money, it always works!

Further, every major metropolitan area in the country has four or more wireless carriers vying for your business. In Nashville, as in all other markets in which Sprint competes, you still have at least one mobile carrier differentiating itself with unlimited wireless data plans. (In point of fact, AT&T has continued to get my cellular patronage solely because they have "grandfathered" my iPhone and iPad accounts with unlimited data plans.) I would LOVE to have the option of switching to Verizon's wonderful FIOS product but it appears the company has severely curtailed, perhaps capped, expansion plans! The reality is, the majority of Americans have far less choice in broadband providers than wireless carriers! As far as I can discern, the only constituency which might be proactive about this trend toward capped data plans are Comcast/TimeWarner/Charter/et. al. shareholders who believe their stock appreciation from this change will outweigh whatever individual costs they may incur from the announced data tiers....

Sadly, I predict the company's will successfully mollify the clueless politicos by granting unlimited access to public schools (for the kids), public libraries, and government buildings (for the gatekeepers). Once again, the losers will be the small business owner and working middle class who will pay more even as we watch our country fall further behind the world we helped create.

Sadly, the "usage meter" applet xFinity is so kindly providing may become your "best friend" if you pay the bills in your house! Add "Internet Usage Police" to your roles in the family, if you have teenagers, they are sure to love you all the more! A few months ago, I argued that the big mobile providers should provide rollover data in addition to rollover minutes. By the end of September, I will extend this rant to include my broadband provider, what a shame and we are letting this happen in front of our eyes.....

If this development troubles you, please forward this post! Share through Google+, Twitter and Facebook! We welcome your comments (which you can provide via the comment form below). The complete xFinity/Comcast Change of Service Notification is included below for those of you wishing to read the company's response unedited and in full.










 
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Companies: Comcast




This commentary is not meant as an endorsement of any company or to provide financial advice.  If the author has any financial interest in any company mentioned at the time of this article’s posting, it will be explicitly noted. I welcome feedback and comments. 


Dear XFINITY Internet Customer:
At Comcast, we recognize the ways our customers are using the Internet are
evolving, and that our services should evolve as well. Starting on August 1, 2012,
Comcast will introduce a new Internet data usage management plan in Nashville
that increases the data usage allowance for all XFINITY Internet customers from
250 GB to 300 GB and provides more options for usage.
What This Means for You
The vast majority of XFINITY customers use far less than 300 GB of data in a
month. Based upon your recent usage history, it appears this new data plan will
have no impact upon you, and you won't need to do anything, or change your
Internet usage. If you are not sure about your monthly data usage, please refer
to the Track and Manage
Your Usage
section below.
We want our customers to use the Internet for everything they want and your
service will not be limited to the 300 GB monthly data allowance we provide as
part of XFINITY Internet. While we believe that 300 GB is more than enough to
meet the Internet usage needs of most customers, you can always buy more data
in additional blocks of 50 GB for $10 each.
In order for our customers to get accustomed to this new data usage management
plan, we are implementing a three-month courtesy period. That means you will
not be billed for the first three times you exceed the monthly 300 GB allowance
during a 12 month period. Should your usage exceed the monthly allowance after
the courtesy period expires, you will automatically be provisioned for
additional $10 blocks of data each time you exceed the 300 GB allowance.
For more information on the data usage plan, please visit
www.xfinity.com/datausageplan/nash
Track and Manage Your
Usage

Comcast provides you with several tools to easily track and manage your data
usage:


  • Usage Meter
    - See how much data you have used with our usage meter, available in the Users and Settings
    tab at www.xfinity.com/usagemeter.

  • Data Usage Calculator - Estimate your data usage with this tool available at
    www.xfinity.com/datacalculator.
    Simply input the quantity of your typical Internet activities and the
    calculator will estimate your monthly data usage.

  • In Browser Notices and Emails - We will send you courtesy "in-browser"
    notices and emails to your Comcast.net e-mail account letting you know
    when you reach 90% and 100% of your monthly data usage allowance.

If you have any additional questions about the
new data usage plan, please visit
www.xfinity.com/datausageplan/nash.
Thank you for being an XFINITY Internet Customer.
Sincerely,
Comcast 




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