Something I’m having trouble finding these days is a dumb pipe. I just want a dumb pipe to the internet going to my house, and to the computer in my pocket. Let me give you money for bandwidth, and then butt out.
Residential ISPs tend to mean cable companies. That, or telecoms who want to replace your cable company. It’s in their vertically-integrated interests to make it harder for me to get to Netflix and easier to get to their own networked services. Instead, I’d rather they focused on making it easier for me, their paying customer, to get to connect where I want and stay out of my way.
Mobile ISPs tend to mean cell phone carriers. Since they subsidize devices here in the US, they’re always looking for new ways to make up that cost. So, it’s in their interest to “add value” rather than just get out of my way.
Granted, I haven’t had much issue at all with Sprint, and that’s why I’ve been loyal to them for over 10 years. They could turn evil and value-addy at any minute, especially since they broke the bank to get the iPhone, but they’ve been good to me so far. (Although, I do miss that Sprint Premier program they started and then couldn’t afford any more. I just hope that unlimited data isn’t next.)
In other news, I just activated a Chromebook on Verizon’s network. There are pay-as-you-go options for when the 100MB free per month runs out. Seems pricier than I’d like, but that’s living in the USA (see also: device subsidies). But, the logistics of that sign-up process were pretty much what I wanted: Get a device, not from a carrier and not under contract, and just hook it up to a dumb pipe.
Of course, Verizon just recently asserted that the pipe I’m paying for is their microphone and platform for free speech. So, I didn’t just hook up to a dumb pipe – I hooked up to an insidiously intelligent pipe with an agenda. It will probably be at cross purposes with me, a paying customer, at some point in the future.
Really, I’d just like grown-up internet at my house and in my pocket. I give you money, and you give me bandwidth. Beyond that, let’s not bother each other. There are options, here, but they tend to approach $1000’s per month. And, as far as I can tell, they don’t perform nearly as well as the kid-stuff alternatives.
You know, we have dumb roads here: They let any vehicles across as long as they’re not too wide, and not so heavy that they bust up the pavement. They don’t generally charge more for certain kinds of vehicles, though I suppose that might be different on certain toll roads in the country. (We don’t really have those near where I live.) But, even then, they don’t charge differently for delivery trucks from one vendor vs another. They don’t make you use a certain kind of fuel, or tires from a specific company. They don’t give you an incentive to drive a Ford versus a Chevy.
I’m willing to bet that if all our roads were privatized – a free-marketeer’s fever dream – we’d have all the above in full effect.
But, I haven’t the foggiest idea how to change this situation. My way of life generally depends on plentiful bandwidth, so a boycott is generally impractical because I’d pretty much have to abstain from using the entire industry. If the roads were in this shape, it’s not like I could just decide not to drive anywhere. So, government intervention seems like the only feasible way to go – get someone with a bigger stick, who ostensibly represents my interests better than the carriers, to make things change.
Of course, that’s imperfect, because the people who should represent me seem more often than not to represent their paying customers. And, oddly enough, those customers often happen to be who I’m paying for a service. That’s just screwed up.