Wizards of Greed: Leave it to corporate cupidity (and I mean you, Comcast) to upset a perfectly nice weekend afternoon. This is nothing near an apocalyptic anecdote, just one of those minor aggravations that remind of the seeming inability to enjoy anything these days without some sort of money-grubbing on the part of those insatiable behemoths that control the telecommunications process.
To continue the story, we happened to check out Comcast’s “On Demand” movies on a recent Sunday and ran across The Wizard of Oz, which was listed as “Free.” With a catch, of course: no less than ten minutes into the film we’re bombarded with at least five minutes of commercials, most of them pitching Comcast’s Xfinity services. I figured it was maybe a one-time interruption, but several minutes later, same deal. (At that point, we said our goodbyes to Oz.) Then, to compound the displeasure, I saw movies like Miracle on 34th Street and Meet Me in St. Louis (old as the hills and which also happened to be broadcast elsewhere for free that day) being offered at $3.99 a pop.
Consider this a roundabout introduction to some thoughts on the ongoing debate about “net neutrality,” and which pits that same avaricious offender, Comcast, along with other broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon, against believers in the concept that users of the Internet should have free and open access to high-speed service regardless of their usage.
Comcast is not happy with the fact that a large chunk of its resources is consumed by byte-intensive websites like Netflix and YouTube, and would prefer we pay extra for the privilege, freeing up their faster speed lanes for bigger-pocket, ostensibly business, subscribers. AT&T and the others apply the same idea in their tiered (non-Wi-Fi) data plans for mobile devices, where you are allowed a certain amount of high-speed data access and then are “throttled” down to lower speeds after you meet your cap. It’s a simplistic explanation of the issues involved, but you get the picture. Big business trying to wring that last penny out of all of us.
It will be up to the FCC to decide, but in the meantime, excuse me while I dig up that old video of Wizard of Oz. At least it’s commercial-free.