Don’t take Bandwidth for granted.

Last week, I took Dave Winer to task for suggesting that RF spectrum didn’t matter in a world of things like iPodder helped people route around the traditional broadcast media. Such a view was, I thought, shortsighted, because without open spectrum and cheap transparent internet access, innovative new applications like iPodder are dead on arrival. Without it, the big companies who control DSL and Cable net access are likely to seek to restrict our choices, both for how we access the net, and what we do with it.

To highlight that fact, I want to call your attention to this appeal from the independent ISP I buy net access from.
The River Report: January 2005

Almost 30 million people connect to the Internet through an independent Internet Service Provider (ISP). An Independent ISP is any business (such as The River) outside the largest providers such as AOL, MSN, Cox and Qwest. We need you to take action to preserve your ability to choose how you connect to the Internet.

The time to act is now, whether or not you use an independent ISP, whether or not you have DSL or cable net access, this matters to you. The remaining baby bells are trying to garner FCC support for limiting choice in most markets in the US, this will decrease competition, which will almost certainly lead to increased prices and/or decreased quality of service. It’s also a step closer to giving to putting these big companies in a position to control what you can use the net for by blocking or otherwise degrading your ability to use third party communications tools and services, like instant messenger based video and audio conferencing, and cheap feature rich net telephony services like Skype and Vonage. And don’t even think about multi-player Halo2 without kicking in an extra $20 month for their “gamers package.”

Please, don’t wait. People in Qwest territory only have the remainder of the day to comment. People in other territories don’t have much longer. It will only take a few minutes.

For all the info and links you need to comment and help framing what you should say, please see the link above and a copy of the comment text I submitted below.

I am writing to ask that you help keep US Internet access open and competitive. I am a Qwest DSL customer in Seattle Washington, I use Qwest’s DSL to connect to an independent ISP that offers a different package of services from Qwests own Internet access offering. I have often considered using Qwest’s offering, but continue to use the 3rd party ISP because of the particular mix of features and quality of service they offer, even though their price is somewhat higher. I’ve also considered the options offered by other independent ISPs in the area.

All these choices are important to me as a consumer, and to the business customers and employers I’ve acquired Internet access for. It is important to maintain, if not expand these choices.

I’m concerned that reducing these choices will result in higher rates and lower quality of service from the baby bells and cable access providers. I’m also concerned about the loss of network transparency as non-competitive access providers try and force users into using proprietary offerings for things like video and audio communications by various means, including blocking or otherwise hindering 3rd party applications and services like Skype or Vonage. Such attempts to control the network also have the potential to crush innovation by blocking nascent applications created by upstart companies and creative individuals.

Please maintain open access.