Podcast Thirty Eight: Nothing But Net

A warning shot across the bow about the upcoming Text Nothing Day on Sunday, March 15th and every 15th of the month following. See smsless.com for details.
A simplified and metaphorical look at net neutrality.
And, finally, how the annotated bibliography has been replaced by the favicons on your bookmark bar.

lovehate: Net Neutrality for Dummies (by one)

Alright, here's the deal. For those people who don't know or care much about net neutrality here are some basic facts and analogies you can use to understand it or explain it to your friends. And while I know that many of you do know this stuff, and will find this interpretation minimalistic at best, just remember: Celebrity Psychic Puppet Babies

The Basics

Net Neutrality says that data is data... I know, it sounds like an Aristotelian irreducable primary, but apparently Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobility providers don't seem to agree. Even if I asked the average 18 month old to put a picture of a cookie beside a picture of a like cookie, they could do it. Conclusion One: CEOs at ISPs are younger than 18 months old, violating innumerable child labor laws and human rights.

When your PC's data is EVIL

When you pay for your internet connection, you are allowed to view hundreds of thousands of webpages every month and your internet service provider allows you download on your merry way. If, however, your ISP detects that you are using peer-to-peer technologies (Limewire, Bit Torrent, etc.) they will throttle your throughput without even knowing what you're downloading. Much like arresting you for travelling with an old Adidas gym bag because drug dealers often use old Adidas gym bags, ISPs are punishing you for your choice of delivery device instead of what's inside. Conclusion Two: ISP Execs are psychic because they know you must be breaking the law. Forget about the copyrighted text you could be reprinting in MS-Word or the html code you could be cutting and pasting into your new website via Notepad.

Thank you Psychic Babies may I have another?

When you pay for a data package on your cellphone or like mobile device, you would expect that all data would be included for the 20 bucks or so that you might be forking over. You would be wrong. Even though SMS/text messages are just data, you are asked and willing to pay for the extra service. In fact, the overcharge of 15 cents to send and 15 cents to receive a 160 byte text message equates to an obscene overcharge. How obscene? I will borrow the math from the fine folks at rantblogger.com.

"Let’s assume that all text messages sent in the U.S. are exactly the maximum size allowed, 160 characters. That translates to 160 bytes of storage space per message. One terabyte is equal to 1,099,511,627,776 bytes and a terabyte costs $100 to store. Therefore, the cost of storing and transmitting one text message is approximately $0.00000001. If carriers charge $.20 per text message, that means the markup is almost 20,000,000%!"

Now, you may say that the transmission of the text message is where the real cost is buried, but according to University of Waterloo professor Srinivasan Keshav, "it doesn't cost the carrier much more to transmit a hundred million messages than a million."

I'll try and reduce this math down to a manageable work-a-day example. Imagine you pay a dollar for a Happy Birthday sign at your local Dollar Store. You're more than happy that the sign which probably was made for two cents in labor and five cents in packaging, with twenty cents in shipping and a wholesaler markup of twenty-five cents is only costing you a buck. Can you imagine feeling grateful if you walked into the Two Hundred Thousand Dollar Store and bought the same sign? Guess what? If you and a friend are paying fifteen cents out and in, you just bought a $200,000 sign and loved doing it. Conclusion Three: You would think that this would make the Psychic Babies evil, but instead it just makes them like celebrities. A Hollywood A-lister can ask anyone to do anything for them and get away with it.

The Puppet Masters

But you can't have a Celebrity Psychic Baby without a scheming manager. If you're wondering how the government allows all of this to happen, it's due to The Puppet Masters who ply politicians with megabucks. If I represent a record label or movie studio that knows some people are pirating songs and movies, and using peer-to-peer software to do it, I want to convince ISPs to punish people for using the software with a blanket practice instead of actually doing the work and confirming who the pirates are. If I, as the head of a multi-national mobile technology concern, can convince government regulators like the FCC and CRTC to look the other way as I gouge customers for ridiculous amounts, why wouldn't I - especially when people are lining up to pay? 

The Not-So-Basics

So, to sum up, the self-evident equation A = A or data = data is what the advocates of net neutrality are proposing. In such a world, your bandwidth would be wide open no matter what you were using it for, your text messages would all be included in existing data plans, and the Ones and Zeroes that make up the data streams would not be discriminated against because their names were P2P or SMS. If you would be outraged that you could only go half the speed in your minivan because all minivans can hold more illegal goods when used in a criminal enterprises, you should be supporting net neutrality initiatives. If you think that a bank giving you a penny change for a $1000 bill is somewhat unfair, you could text all your friends about it, but instead you should support net neutrality. If you believe data = data, buy into the logic by taking action.

If you remember only one thing from this deconstruction of net neutrality, make it this: Celebrity Psychic Puppet Babies are costing you money and controlling your internet and mobile phone experiences. Fight the Celebrity Psychic Puppet Babies. So say we all.

Impromptu Podcast 28: Flipping Bell the Bird

Those of you in the US probably haven't been following the #belltwit hashtag on Twitter to know that Bell Mobility in Canada has been giving us an example of how NOT to market to a web-savvy generation.
After Twitter removing SMS updates in Canada a few months back (to great dismay) Bell scooped up the monopoly on SMS tweets only to announce that there would be a 15 cent in and out charge ON TOP of existing text plans as tweets were considered "premium".
That was modified 18 hours ago to only include outgoing (which is still ridiculous). Just earlier this evening the issue was finally resolved in Bell "cutting a deal" with Twitter to use its API in a way that would cost any additional amount to those already on text message plans.
Please check out smsless.com to find the real disturbing stats on the price gouging that occurs with SMS/text messaging and join "Text Nothing Day" on the 15th of each month.

thinglets: SMS/Text Message Gouging Explained

from smsless.com

In this article from the NY Times, we get a comprehensive explanation of how the economy of SMS/text messaging is clearly a price gouge, and that the idea of message numbers going up does NOT indicate proportional cost increases for the providers.

A few key quotations:

"All four of the major carriers decided during the last three years to increase the pay-per-use price for messages to 20 cents from 10 cents. The decision could not have come from a dearth of business: the 2.5 trillion sent messages this year, the estimate of the Gartner Group, is up 32 percent from 2007. Gartner expects 3.3 trillion messages to be sent in 2009."

"The lucrative nature of that revenue increase cannot be appreciated without doing something that T-Mobile chose not to do, which is to talk about whether its costs rose as the industry’s messaging volume grew tenfold. Mr. Kohl’s letter of inquiry noted that “text messaging files are very small, as the size of text messages are generally limited to 160 characters per message, and therefore cost carriers very little to transmit.” A better description might be “cost carriers very, very, very little to transmit.”"

"Srinivasan Keshav, a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, said: “Messages are small. Even though a trillion seems like a lot to carry, it isn’t.” Professor Keshav said that once a carrier invests in the centralized storage equipment — storing a terabyte now costs only $100 and is dropping — and the staff to maintain it, its costs are basically covered. “Operating costs are relatively insensitive to volume,” he said. “It doesn’t cost the carrier much more to transmit a hundred million messages than a million.”"

"Once one understands that a text message travels wirelessly as a stowaway within a control channel, one sees the carriers’ pricing plans in an entirely new light. The most profitable plan for the carriers will be the one that collects the most revenue from the customer: unlimited messaging, for which AT&T and Sprint charge $20 a month and T-Mobile, $15."


smsless.com - the fight for cheaper texting



After finally reaching the breaking point over cell providers overcharging ridiculous amounts for SMS text messaging, DyscultureD has decided to fight back. We propose to make the 15th of every month "text message" free. That means NO text messaging or SMS at all on this date. Most providers in the US pocket 20 cents EACH for the send AND receipt of a message that's 160 bytes or less. Many of these charges are to users who are already paying a rate for data (as if SMS wasn't data).

If you support the idea of raising awareness of this price-gouging activity, please visit the website smsless.com or join the smsless Facebook page.

We look forward to a small group going text message and SMS free on December 15th, with a larger group every month after that.
If you like the idea, please forward the information to friends, relatives, and anyone who has been burned by an extra 20, 50, or 100 dollars on their monthly bill due to text message charges alone.