"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong his TV, Internet access and telephony services were terminated."
Franz Kafka, The Trial
The morning prior.
A telephone rings.
"Hello, Joseph K."
"Is this Joseph K.," a voice queried.
"Yes, this is Joseph K."
"Mr. K., this phone call may be monitored to assure quality customer service. Did you not receive our notice on your television screen last night."
"I did, I admit. But I haven't had time to...."
"Mr. K., our records show that you were watching the TV program Conan O'Brien, on TBS at 11:07pm when we sent the banner message over your screen requesting that you contact us immediately. Did it not?"
"Yes, I, I noticed the message in the lower part of my TV screen but I, I...."
"Mr. K., we do realize that our customers lead busy lives but how are we to manage your communications networks without cooperation from our valued subscribers. Mr. K., we are dedicated to providing the best services a communications network can provide. Need I remind you that there is only one communications network for you Mr. K!"
"If you would pardon me just this one time I promise to respond immediately in the future and"
"and I will send a note to your supervisor commending you on how wonderful you've been in communicating your displeasure with the lack of my response."
"Mr. K., I will still have to add a note to your file for review and evaluation."
"Mr. K., just because you pay your monthly fee on a timely basis is not the only qualification for becoming a valued customer of our communications network. You have broken our law. Your records show this is your third violation."
"I've been selfish, I admit, and may have caused communications discomfort to others but"
"Mr. K., I will note your contrition."
"But Mr. K., we must follow protocol. We are your communications network."
"Mr. K., the reason we contacted you is to inform you that your communications network has modified some of its policies and we feel it is our responsibility to inform our most cherished customers of these changes in order to keep you current on your rights and privileges as our valued customer."
"Our records show that you subscribe to our TV, Internet access and telephony services. Is that accurate?"
"Yes, a quadruple bypass."
"Amusing, Mr. K."
"Mr. K., as you are aware, your communications network endeavors to provide its customers with the best of quality services at reasonable and affordable pricing. Given unprecedented consumer demand for these services we are shortly instituting modifications to your original service contract and are notifying you of our new usage guidelines."
"Mr. K. very soon you will be receiving a 10 page addendum to our standard 21 page Subscription Services Rights & Related Privacy Policies brochure."
"A wonderfully informative piece of literature."
"Mr. K., you flatter us."
"Mr. K. these guidelines will effect how you utilize your subscription services in the future."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"Mr. K, your communications network has determined that in order to meet the growing needs of its subscribers and ensure that all of its customers are treated equally and receive equal access - without fear of interruption or lethargy - according to the terms and conditions agreed upon in their service contract, we must impose guidelines on usage by service. I've pulled up your service agreement, which I am sure you are familiar with. Let's start with your telephone service. I see that you have unlimited local and national phone service. In the future, we will be defining local as telephone calls made to persons within your zip code as well as providing you the opportunity to designate 4 phone numbers as part of our 'significant other' plan for unlimited phone calls. Calls made to other zip codes or states, will be re-classified as 'national' and limited to no more than 25 per month with a maximum speaking and listening time allotted of 4 hours."
"Well how will I know when I have exceeded my minute allocation?"
"That is why Mr. K. it is so important for you to respond back to us when we contact you through your TV, telephone or email. Do you understand?"
"Yes, you were very clear. If you don't mind me asking: what happens if I exceed my allocation?"
"Mr. K., if you respond immediately to our notices, you can negotiate additional minutes. If not, I'm afraid termination of service until the beginning of the next month - if that is, you wish to remain a valued customer of ours. Remember you always have a choice of whom you select to be your communications network. And please let me assure you Mr. K., that your communication network certainly appreciates your patronage. You are also an internet access subscriber, are you not?"
"Yes, I'm on all the time."
"We see by our monitors you are Mr. K. We believe, Mr. K. in safeguarding the ideal that our customers should have access to and visit any websites without impediment. However, our subscribers must understand that all websites are not bandwidth equal. Therefore, in the future we will be defining broadband usage as unlimited visits to sites for the purposes of text and graphics, and the opportunity to designate 5 video sites as part of our 'significant other' plan for unlimited video consumption not to exceed 5 hours of scripted programs per week or 80 user generated content or video snippets per week. Visitations made to additional video destinations will be classified as part of our 'significant other plus' program and limited to no more than 5 sites and with a maximum usage time allotted of 7.5 hours."
"And if I do exceed my allocation?"
"Mr. K., if you respond immediately to our notices, you can negotiate additional online minutes. If not, I'm afraid termination of service until the beginning of the next month - if that is, you wish to remain a valued customer of ours. Remember you always have a choice of whom you select to be your communications network. And please let me assure you Mr. K. that your communication network certainly appreciates your patronage. You are also a TV subscriber, are you not?"
"I'm afraid our television plan is a little more complicated, Mr. K. As you are aware people have opted to watch more television than ever before."
"I wasn't aware of that."
"Over 5 hours a day, Mr. K."
"Yes, quite a phenomenon for a medium that is supposedly dying. Wouldn't you say, Mr. K. In order to provide equal opportunity for our customers to consume their fair share of programming, your communications network has decided to help regulate the flow of video content over your TV service. In the very, very near future our customers will have unlimited viewing capability to upwards of 13 scripted program channels of their choosing as long as those channels have not been chosen by others first. If you enjoy live events, such as Sports or Awards programs, you can watch one weekly but if you exceed that allocation then you will be charged an additional fee. However, high definition programming does not fall within your unlimited viewing package, and if selected, will incur additive fees. Premium channels always, of course, incur additional fees; however those charges will be minimal providing you commit to an annual service contract and watch the program during its premiere. If you utilize our subscription video on demand product, which as our customers know is very convenient, the additional fees will be multiplied by a factor of 3.7 for the first three months of your new subscription and be reduced in subsequent months. 3D services, which will start to roll out shortly, will be priced accordingly but after reviewing your current packages with us, your communications network does not think that you can afford it given our proposed subscription service modification. If any of our new TV policies are dissatisfactory to you and/or you exceed our guidelines you always have a choice of whom you select to be your communications network. And please let me assure you Mr. K. that your communication network certainly appreciates your patronage.
"Mr.K. are you still with us?"
On Wednesday April 7, The Wall Street Journal reported that in a unanimous decision, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the FCC exceeded its authority when it sanctioned Comcast in 2008 for deliberately preventing some subscribers from using peer to peer file sharing services to download large files. On the same day, the New York Times reported that the decision will allow internet service companies to block or slow specific sites and charge video sites to deliver content faster to users, which in turn would result in higher fees for subscribers and placing in jeopardy "net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be treated equally by communications networks."