/ data-caps

Hard Truths: Politicians don't care what you think

From time to time I become influenced by the idealistic notion that I live in a country where the elected politicians take emails from their constituants seriously. On these occasions when I find myself in that mood, and I find an issue particularly offensive, I’ll take the time to type out a nicely worded email on a particular topic and email it to them.

The most recent issue to get me this riled up are the data caps that have recently been implemented by AT&T for their internet services. For those who aren’t aware, AT&T implemented a 150GB / month usage cap on DSL internet customers, and a 250GB / month cap on UVerse customers. These caps aren’t entirely new. Comcast has had a similar strategy, designed to discourage users from abusing their access to network bandwidth. Usually if you go over these limits, your connection gets throttled (a.k.a. slowed down) for the rest of the month. With AT&T’s scheme, you get auto-billed for your additional bandwidth. Additionally, while Netflix and Hulu will count against your monthly quota – AT&T’s own premium on demand video service will not. Convenient, right?

You can read the recent Ars Technica article for all the ugly details.

I decided to write to several representatives on this issue, being as idealistic as I am, and I received a response from Saxby Chambliss yesterday morning. I will reproduce the contents of the email below in italics, with my own comments in bold text.

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Dear Mr. Farmer:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) network neutrality regulations.  I appreciate hearing from you.

I wasn’t really emailing about this at all, but obviously you saw something in my email that seemed to imply that I specifically wanted to talk about this.

*The Internet is a vital communications tool for millions of Americans.  The speed and ease at which information can be retrieved over the Internet is unparalleled.  The applications and devices that can be used on the Internet enable families and friends to stay connected, businesses to accomplish their goals, and students to conduct research. *

Even in the midst of an economic downturn, private entrepreneurs and companies have invested billions of dollars in developing state of the art broadband infrastructure.  On December 21, 2010, the FCC voted 3-2 to move forward on plans to pursue an “Open Internet Order,” which would essentially give the FCC ultimate authority to regulate broadband Internet.  The broadband marketplace is not broken and increased government oversight of the Internet will dramatically slow the pace of future investment into broadband networks thus limiting economic growth.  Furthermore, by implementing network neutrality regulations, the FCC is vastly overstepping its authority by circumventing a decision that should be made by elected representatives in Congress.

First, this does not address the issue I wanted you to answer. That question was: do you see a problem with AT&T’s double standard of metering the usage of their competitors services, while not metering their own service?

It seems, Mr. Chambliss, that you are under the impression that the issue is whether or not people are willing to invest in the development in broadband networks. I would argue the bigger issue is whether or not people are willing to invest money into the applications designed to run on top of those networks. The broadband networks themselves are just dumb pipes: meaningless without the water flowing through them.

On December 15, I joined 28 of my Senate colleagues in sending a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski expressing my continued opposition to any net neutrality regulations.  I recently cosponsored a Resolution of Disapproval that would repeal the FCC’s order through a simple majority vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives.  I will continue to closely monitor this issue and strive to keep the Internet free from unnecessary government regulation.

Aw, that’s sweet. But while you’re busy policing against unneeded regulation, do you think you could also police against abuses that happen to the customers due to the duopolistic nature of the broadband internet market? That would be great, too.

If you would like to receive timely email alerts regarding the latest congressional actions and my weekly e-newsletter, please sign up via my web site at: www.chambliss.senate.gov.  Please let me know whenever I may be of assistance.

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Right, I’ll be sure to call you right up so I can hear some more pre-scripted text about something only vaguely related to the point I originally contacted you about.

Personally, canned responses like this make me ashamed to call Chambliss one of my representatives. Why do you even bother to publish an email address if that’s all you’re going to send me in response? Honestly, no response would have been better.

At least then I can hope that someone on the receiving end of the email actually cared.