ISP Says Internet Usage Is Like Eating Oreos

/ 7 years ago


This is one of these articles that either will make you laugh, cry, or scream in anger – and maybe it will do all three things. In a filing with the FCC last week in response to Netflix asking the FCC to declare data caps on home internet unreasonable, the internet service provider Mediacom compared internet usage with eating Oreos among other things in order to try and push their agenda of being allowed to cap users data usage.

Mediacom is a US cable company with over 1.1 million internet subscribers in 22 states, so there’s a lot on the table for them when companies such as Netflix fight the users and their own battle in order to give them the data needed to utilize their service. On the other hand, ISPs want to cap your data in order to get more pay from the customers, but their analogies don’t add up.

Imagine you are out for a walk and experience a sudden, irresistible craving for Oreo cookies. You only want to spend two dollars, which means that you will be able to buy a two-pack or maybe even a four-pack but for sure you cannot get the family size of over 40 cookies. For that many, you have to spend more. Of course, it would be nice if your two dollars bought you the right to eat an unlimited number of cookies, but you know that is not the way our economy works.

The above statement, while true, doesn’t really add up when it comes to internet usage. But that is their argument why people shouldn’t complain when ISPs impose data caps and charge more when people go over the caps. “Even though virtually every other industry prices its products and services in the same way, some people think that ISPs should be the exception and run their businesses like an all-you-can-eat buffet.” 

But the analogy fails to take some very important things into consideration. First of all, the internet doesn’t disappear when it is used like Oreos do when you eat them. ISPs also don’t pay you back for data you didn’t use but paid for, yet they want you to pay more when you use more and that’s a very one-sided argument.

Mediacom went on with a different analogy to make sure that the good people at the FCC understood what they were talking about, just in case they didn’t like cookies. They said that they shouldn’t be criticized for charging for both higher speeds and higher data caps, saying that it’s just like a truck manufacturer charging separately for a bigger engine and for more cargo capacity. Beyond Oreos and trucks, Young extended his pay-more-to-get-more analogy to socks, coffee, iPhone and Xbox One storage capacities, video games, gasoline, water, and electricity.

But all these analogies fail as hard as the Oreo one. It is easy for customers to choose different socks, coffee, cookies, and phones, but it is very difficult to choose another ISP as they’re limited and often monopolize an entire area, leaving the customer with no choice at all. Water and electricity comparisons also fail, since you don’t pay for more than you use there and as said earlier, ISPs don’t pay anything back when you don’t use as much as you paid for.

And Mediacom doesn’t take all the unwanted data that you might use into consideration either, ranging from imposed advertising to denial of service attacks which could flood the user’s connection and quickly use up all the bandwidth. That part is carefully left out and not mentioned in any form. Ultimately, Mediacom Senior VP and General Counsel Joseph Young concluded, Netflix and others that complain about data caps “are just looking for some free cookies” – but to me, it sounds like Mediacom is the side that’s looking for not only free but also imaginary cookies.

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