Should we be able to do *anything* on a network?

After I had the fun experiences flying along in our car on the Interstate while being connected to the Verizon Wireless network on my trip back from Florida with my daughter (see Internet Access at 80mph and iChat at 75mph), one of my readers kindly pointed out that my instant messaging, video transmission and the like was a violation of Verizon’s terms of service as is the moblogging I’ve done with the application Typepad delivers that runs on my Treo 700p (my emphasis):

UNLIMITED DATA PLANS AND FEATURES
Unlimited Data Plans and Features (such as NationalAccess, BroadbandAccess, Push to Talk, and certain VZEmail services) may ONLY be used with wireless devices for the following purposes: (i) Internet browsing; (ii) email; and (iii) intranet access (including access to corporate intranets, email, and individual productivity applications like customer relationship management, sales force, and field service automation). The Unlimited Data Plans and Features MAY NOT be used for any other purpose. Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following: (i) continuous uploading, downloading or streaming of audio or video programming or games; (ii) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing; or (iii) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections. This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services and/or redirecting television signals for viewing on laptops is prohibited. A person engaged in prohibited uses, continuously for one hour, could typically use 100 to 200 MBs, or, if engaged in prohibited uses for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, could use more than 5 GBs in a month.

For individual use only and not for resale. We reserve the right to protect our network from harm, which may impact legitimate data flows. We reserve the right to limit throughput or amount of data transferred, and to deny or terminate service, without notice, to anyone we believe is using an Unlimited Data Plan or Feature in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts our network or service levels. Anyone using more than 5 GB per line in a given month is presumed to be using the service in a manner prohibited above, and we reserve the right to immediately terminate the service of any such person without notice. We also reserve the right to terminate service upon expiration of Customer Agreement term.

They reserve the right to “protect our network”. Ahh…but I think they’re interpreting this “protection” to include protecting their revenue streams. With Verizon selling VCast and other media services, I’m sure they’d prefer that only they can profit from the expenditures they’ve made building out their own network. Damn you customers for wanting to use other applications! Damn you innovators for trying to outmaneuver us by offering more competitive products and intruding on our ability to make profits!

All kidding aside, without incentives Verizon or any other network provider won’t invest. I’m a capitalist and most of us don’t realize what it takes to create and deliver a wireless network of this size with a continually growing footprint. People, trucks, towers, routers, computers, and all the other infrastructure doesn’t just appear…someone has to buy it, figure it all out and make it happen.

I don’t begrudge them the ability to offer services but, for example, I’m only going to buy their voice and data plan and I’m currently giving them over $100 per month. My use of their broadband access is relatively modest, and I’d like to be able to do even more with my smartphone. I have dozens of applications running on my Treo that leverages their network (e.g., instant messaging, Google Maps, Typepad moblogging, iSkoot (uses Skype to make calls but it sucks), directory assistance, flight status and many more). Should Verizon Wireless be in a position to tell me which application I can use? How could they monitor the packet traffic in any event? And Verizon doesn’t even offer the applications I use or goof with daily.

Our desire to fully utilize any Internet connection has slowly-but-surely been colliding with many of our own needs to leverage these connections — and this is only going to grow. Now it’s the big boys turn to drive clarity around what is and is not acceptable for a network (and yes, I think this is central to the network neutrality debate) . Russell Shaw has an excellent post about what Skype is doing right now to lobby for access to wireless networks…including Verizon’s…that will give you a senses of the stakes involved about how much power any Internet service provider (wireless or wired) can have to close out innovation and control the network.

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4 Comments

  1. JD on March 21, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Seems to me their protecting their bandwidth capacity so they don’t have to invest an additional $billion in more infrastructure. How much you willing to pay a month for unlimited bandwidth usage? Clearly, the pricepoint to allow them to offer unlimited bandwidth and still earn their required rate of return is greater than the $50 a month they charge for data usage.



  2. Lenny on March 22, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Contrary to the TOS, I decided to go ahead and get the BroadbandAccess from Verizon. I got tired of waiting for Cingular to get with it (I need an ExpressCard for Mac). Anyway, I did some research prior, and it appears that as long as you stay under a 10GB per month, they will leave you alone. So I’m sure that video (including video chat) is OK, but could use up your bandwidth if not careful. I think they would much prefer you using the internet on one of their V-Cast enabled phones, in which they scale down the content to be faster.
    The truth of the matter is that if everyone used the wireless to the max, then it would bog down everyone.

    With that being said, Verizon should be more upfront with their marketing. “Unlimited” does not mean unlimited bandwidth as we all know. What I “think” it means (in their twisted brains) is unlimited time online, as compared to metered voice plans. This probably would be their argument.

    Right now, the big cellular companies have the control. And those of us who must be connected everyplace are going to pay as somewhat early adopters. We need a shakeup in the wireless data market, in the same way that VOIP changed the rules for landline calling.

    Will it be WiMax? Perhaps a new MNVO? When will we get the “bandwith we deserve” and good value for our money? I don’t know, but I do know that I pay too much for my communication products. And it adds up -Cingular ($70), VZW (~$75), cable internet ($58), Vonage voice & Fax ($30). That’s over $230 per month. It’s a car payment.

    And for $230 per month, I have limits on each one:
    Cingular: 500 peak minutes on the family plan (but I never use them. Rollover minutes!)
    VZW: 10GB Month
    Internet: This is a grey area. But they have caps and a friend of mine was warned for downloading too much
    Vonage voice: 500 outgoing mins. Usually enough
    Vonage Fax: 500 outgoing

    I’m getting tired of paying for all of these services with the limits and high prices and restrictions. Not to mention the fact that the cell companies advertise a monthly rate excluding all of those telco taxes that whack you with 12% or more in taxes. That’s another issue altogether.



  3. Carlito Sanchez on March 23, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I think the way forward is companies like http://www.barablu.com and integration with Skype in that manner



  4. Treo 700p Sale on April 5, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Treo 700p Sale

    Nice jump from a 600, though.I really don’t understand the ergonomics of moving the menu



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