Up Front: Should broadband providers offer customers tiered service?

What's Now | What's Next main bannerEric Massa, a freshman congressman from New York's 29th District, introduced a bill yesterday that would keep ISPs -- including those providing mobile service -- from abruptly changing usage rules on accounts or slapping undocumented "we know it when we see it" overage caps on so-called "unlimited" accounts. The Broadband Internet Fairness Act (HR 2902) would require most large ISPs to submit plans to the FTC and undergo hearings if they wishes to institute metering-based plans.

House of Reps examines usage-based caps

Morning of June 17, 2009 • A first draft of Rep. Massa's bill (PDF available here) would stipulate, in long and explicit language, that any broadband service provider wishing to offer service tiers to consumers must provide explanation to the Federal Trade Commission first as to how it breaks down the need for such tiers. The FTC, then consulting with the FCC, would then decide whether that breakdown is valid.

The bill would not ban service tiering -- such a move might be viewed as too much government regulation, you see. But you can't have too much government bureaucracy, thus the need for an expensive analysis on a per-case basis...which cable providers probably would find taxing on their calendars, at least, resulting in a kind of de facto ban on tiering.

"Cable providers want to stifle the Internet so they can rake in advertiser dollars by keeping consumers from watching video on the Internet," Rep. Massa stated yesterday. "But so long as Americans can't choose which cable channels they want to pay for, I don't think cable operators should be able to determine consumers' monthly Internet usage. Additionally, charging based on a bandwidth usage is a flawed model when the cost of usage is totally out of line with the price. Consumers are much better served by plans based on the speed of the connection rather than amount of bandwidth used. Competition is crucial to our economy and I refuse to let monopolistic corporations dominate the market and gouge my constituents."

Voicing its opposition to the bill is the American Cable Association, naturally, whose member CATV providers happen to provide the most cable modems. ACA's argument, voiced by its president and CEO Matthew Polka, is that the bill would preclude its members from being able to offer competitive pricing options to its customers.

"Consumption-based billing plans will give consumers the ultimate control over how much they spend each month for their Internet access," reads Polka's statement. "Rep. Massa's bill would have a chilling effect on broadband operators offering these types of consumer-friendly options. During his Senate confirmation Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission member Robert McDowell noted that Americans today are watching a staggering 17 billion online videos each month, a use of the Internet that he said is growing at 16% per month. With these increases coming, Internet usage payment models will allow broadband providers to better manage their networks by imposing higher costs on the heaviest users who often are the ones responsible for slowing speeds for all users on the Internet.

Today, John Timmer at Ars Technica explains why Massa, whose district covers an area in western New York including Rochester, is in a prime location to be "exquisitely sensitive to the US broadband market."

Microsoft's got a Bing thing going

Afternoon of June 17, 2009 • The claims that Microsoft's new search has Google running scared seem painfully overblown (and really, a little paranoia -- the fiber in a corporate culture's diet -- couldn't hurt the search giant), as PaidContent's Joseph Tartakoff points out. But comScore's got numbers for the second week since Bing's launch, and the numbers are certainly interesting, with Microsoft's share of search results up 3% in the past 14 days.

Wired allows how a gain like that isn't likely to be giving Sergey Brin nightmares, but that the gains are "nice improvements for Microsoft's perpetually sub-10 percent share, third-place search engine." (We do not speak of Carol Bartz's nightmares, as the Yahoo CEO is presumably made of sterner stuff; it's possible in fact that nightmares have Carol Bartz.) Mashable pokes at the numbers and notices that though the number of searchers is up, the number of queries per user is down. Passing fad or better results? Time will tell.

Broadband popularity is up -- and so is its price

June 17, 2009 • The Pew Internet and American Life Project continues to compile longitudinal data about how we live with the Net, and their latest study indicates that we love our broadband -- so much so that we're tolerating stiff price increases. Broadband adoption is up 15% over last year, and up $4.50 (about 13%) in price as well.

The Associated Press cast its coverage around the accelerated adoption by traditionally slow adopters (elderly people, poorer households), and noted that people pay less for broadband where there's competition (surprise). EWeek noted that respondents said they'd be more likely to cut back on cable or cell phone (!) plans than to give up broadband. And the wonderfully named Daily Yonder (motto: "Keep it rural") really dug into the numbers, looking at the correlations between their demographic and what the numbers tell us.

RIM earnings report

June 18, 2009 5:00 pm EDT > Analysts expect the handset manufacturer to report earnings per share of around 94 cents for Q1 2010.

So long, Centrino (sort of)

Q1 2010 > Confused by Intel's convoluted product lines? You're not the only one, and in a blog post on Wednesday, Intel's Bill Calder explains how the company means to simplify that. The "hero" Core brand is the core, with high-, mid- and entry-level chips called the i7, i5 and i3 respectively; below the Core line is Pentium (still officially a brand, representing all those old pre-sub-micron processors still in inventory), Celeron is below that, and then there's the Atom line for netbooks and such. And leaving the pack altogether is Centrino, off PCs and onto Wi-Fi and WiMax products starting next year.

Our Scott Fulton takes a nostalgic look at Centrino this morning, while dutifully noting that there's some shrewd anti-AMD reasoning behind the brand change, too. Also, Xbit Laboratories does a nice job of breaking it down to bullet points, and AnandTech breaks it down to cores, threads, and nanometers.

AFTER THE JUMP: Thursday's tech headlines...

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