Thursday, January 17, 2008

If the telecoms were media companies...

Ever think about the strange behaviour of media companies? They are really used to making their own rules, and politicians and other lawmakers are really used to letting them behave like five-year-olds who simply say "GIMME!" and take things from other people.
If the telecoms behaved like the record companies, things would look like this;
Having a Sk*pe or chat client installed would make you a thief and give them the right to kick in your door and go through your private life to see how much money they could shake you down for. If they found chat logs, they would calculate how long you have been online chatting, assuming you type six words a minute. They would then take this time and estimate a net loss, based on the tariff that you were calling the Galapagos Islands at nine bucks a minute, and sue you in court for a few hundred thousand bucks using a dozen high-powered lawyers that could flatten your legal defense regardless of what it was.
Every time you picked up the regular phone you would have to sit through a five-minute "motivational speech" where someone calls you a thief and a pirate and warns you that you cannot hide, sooner or later they WILL nail you and drag you to court. You would have to pay full usage charges for these five minutes of abuse, of course.
Every now and then the voltage in the phone lines would change, frying or just disabling your old phone equipment. This would be the countermeasure to keep you from attaching a computer to the phone line to chat or make voip calls. When customers complain to the telco they (and the press) would be met by an arrogant manager saying "customers don't know how the equipment works, why should they worry about these things?" and then ignoring them for the time being.
The press would, for the most part, agree with the telcos and write lots of articles about the net losses by phone companies and how Al, the cable guy, is now laid off because these chat bastards have stolen his income. The phone companies still make billions, of course, but they present nice diagrams showing a drop in income of sixteen billion dollars per week due to piracy and since modern journalists are trained to write instead of question, they write.
The phone companies would pressure the IP providers to tell them which clients show a "chat like usage pattern" and to block certain ports used for chat and VOIP (or else). This would make the postal service sit up and take notice, and contemplate demanding a two dollar tax on every e-mail. Unfortunately the mail services do not pay quite the amount of ...contributions... to the lawmakers that the other Market Forces do, so the mail tax falls by the wayside. Instead the politicians add a tax of a hundred bucks onto every handset designed for Sk*pe, since they are quite obviously designed for lawbreaking activities from the start. (If you think this one sounds weird, check sweden out. A swedish company was an early starter in the portable mp3 player field and had a design that was really superior compared to other clunky things available at the time. The swedish govt did their damndest to shut them down, including trying to add a huge fee onto the pricetag to compensate for piracy and demanding that some features be disabled, like the built-in fm transmitter used to local-broadcast to stereo receivers. The company never had a chance, and were later stomped by the iPod. If they hadn't been crippled by the remote-controlled lawmakers they could have been contenders. So much for trying to make innovations in sweden.)
The phone companies would offer their own version of VOIP or chat, of course. It would be slightly different from the free services. First of all, you would pay per minute just like you would on a regular phone call. You would only be able to call other numbers supplied by the same telco. You would only be able to make VOIP calls from your own home - using someone elses phone while you're at their house would be prosecutable. It would be illegal for anyone else in the room to listen in on your end of the conversation. The software purchased to use this legal chat system would require frequent updates as fifteen year old hackers poke holes in the badly written code and use it for whatever they feel like on a daily basis.
You would have no guarantee that you can connect to anything, anywhere, using this new "legal"
software since the telcos change their standards so often to curb the aforementioned hackers that even minor revisions of the software cannot talk to each other. You still have to pay for
every update, though.
Through all this the companies would gripe about thieving customers every time they get five seconds in the media spotlight. Their lobbyists would haul out examples of starving telco bosses being forced to sell their mansions and moving into smaller (40-room) houses and with tears in their eyes sell off limos, race horses and cigarrette boats (but keeping the heli and the learjet, of course). They would demand special tax breaks, and get them. They would demand special taxes for YOU, and get them. And they would all sit there praying that no-one would point out that the emperor has no clothes.


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