Thursday, March 17, 2011

North Carolina House Bill 129

I do most of my research work in networking and I am constantly amazed by how far behind the US lags in comparison to other developed countries in providing affordable high-speed Internet access.  As a consumer I am more often frustrated by my lack of options and how the price continues to climb even as service quality declines.  

The stark reality is that being an ISP is not glamorous nor is it as lucrative as being a content provider.  Your cable Internet provider charges the same amount if you watch streaming video every night or if your connection sits idle.  As more and more people use the Internet for more things their connections are idle less often.  For the providers this means that it is getting harder and harder to borrow from Peter to pay Paul.  Think about it this way, if the cable service promises you and your neighbor that you can have a 10Mbps connection to their house, historically they could get away with only providing a touch over 10Mbps for both of you under the assumption that it is unlikely that you both use 10Mbps at the same time.  In the past this wasn't an unreasonable assumption, because it was unlikely that we would both download a large file at the same time.  Times they do change, and now it is very likely that we both are trying to watch a show on Hulu or Netflix at 8:00 in the evening.  Now the cable companies can do one of two things, they can make the improvements to their network that were long overdue to keep customers happy, or they can rely on the fact that there isn't a viable alternative for most people and allow service to degrade over time.  It seems that there has been a move towards the latter outside of large cities where it is more common to have competing vendors.

I am not going to get into a debate about the value of competition and how that will effect the level of service etc, but I will say that the state-of-the-art is broken.  Something needs to be done soon.  A handful of municipalities have taken matters into their own hands and deployed their own networks to provide competitively priced Internet access, but for the last four years in North Carolina the cable companies and telecoms have been lobbying for a bill that would prevent cities from developing their own networks.  You should decide for yourself about this and I encourage you all to write (not email) and call your representatives to let them know how you feel about this.  

To be clear this is not about more or less government.  This isn't a partisan issue.  This is about giving people choice and encouraging competition in a market that has become stagnant.  As consumers we need to demand more and this seems to be the only way to get the Internet providers to listen.  Their greed has led them to this point and if they continue to be greedy it will lead to their decline.  I hope that you agree that this bill will do a lot of damage to progress in North Carolina, and that the cable company has been taken enough of your paycheck in exchange for crappy service!  But if you don't feel that way that is your right...

Please help in making sure that all of our representatives receive a very clear message that we want them to vote NO on House Bill 129.  Here is what to do...

  • Review the information on the best way to contact your representatives at
  • Look up your representatives here (I suggest looking by zip code).
  • Get the mailing addresses and/or phone numbers for the above representatives.
  • Write a simple polite message to the representative (even if you plan to call) making a couple key points:
    • First clearly state that you live in their district.  Back this up by providing your address and phone number.
    • State that it is important that they vote No on "House Bill 129" (Senate Bill 87 if you are writing to your State Senator).
    • Only after you have done the preceding provide any reasons or argument for your feelings.  Please be concise and polite throughout.  The longer or more argumentative your writing the less likely it is to be read.
  • Mail or call your representative with the above message.
  • Follow up by encouraging others to do the same.  Use Facebook, Twitter and email as a way to let friends and family know that this is something we can have an effective impact on that affects us all.
Above all please remember that no matter how you feel it should be expressed calmly and logically.  Here's hoping that your Internet connection will be fat and low latency for years to come.

Want to know how bad your Internet connection is...
Visit and run the tool.  You will be amazed at the results when they are not being influenced by the large ISPs.