[buug] Free DSL?

Christopher Sullivan feedle at feedle.net
Wed Feb 16 12:06:21 PST 2000

> Not quite *that bad, as I believe there is a conditional clause stating "if
> the switch to their service is no more expensive than what you are
> currently paying". But the *quality may be lacking and/or there may be
> unpleasant changes for the customer. But I don't use LD or cable...and I'll
> even shut down my local phone service, once I have a DSL or cable connect
> to the 'net.

First off, you will need local phone service to subscribe to DSL in most
areas.  I do not believe it is possible to get DSL without having
conventional dial tone.  I may be incorrect in that assertion, however.

You touched on one of the points I was (subtely) trying to make.  Free
access providers will be under no obligation to provide you with any
quality of service.  They will be working for their advertisers, and
provided you are seeing their ads and/or have an adequate enough
connection for them to collect the data they need, that's all they need to

> I'm also thinking about any Christian advertisers who may coerce the
> service to censor *any gay or lesbian site (as part of their broadly
> prejudiced definition of "pornography"). In effect, the service would
> silently, but effectively, shut down any and all gay and pro-gay sites and
> links. We (gays) would become, for all practical purposes, completely
> invisible. Of course, if that happened, you can bet I'd be the first in
> line with a lawsuit, drooling for the big bucks.

You'd lose, unfortunately.  Since you are not paying them for the services
they are performing, they will (most likely) not fall under the terms of a
"common carrier".  Even removing that portion of the argument, their
argument (which will be successful in court, I'm afraid) would be that you
agreed to that term and condition when you applied for the service.  Your
only hope is that the negative PR generated from such a block would do
more damage than it's worth... frightfully, I fear that would not be the
case in the present marketplace.

In a common law sense, you are also the loser.  Since you are not paying
for the service, you cannot dictate terms of it being provided to you.  In
the Libertarian movement, we have a saying "He who pays, says."  The
meaning of this is: it is typically accepted that if somebody is paying
your way, they have the right to dictate the terms under which you use
whatever they are paying for.  

> Well, *some services that charge an upfront fee may ensure the privacy of
> all your personal data. But the pressure of commercial entities is
> overwhelmingly in favor of access to any and all personal data. So I don't
> really think my paying $50/month will protect me very much. This invasion
> of our privacy is so ubiquitous, as to be a massive social dilemma, which
> only changes in privacy laws will correct.

You are not 100% correct on this.  First off, there are laws preventing
Pacific Bell (read: a common carrier) from collecting and distributing
personal data without my explicit permission.  Transactional data on such
providers is protected under the TCPA and other similar laws.
Additionally, I'd reckon that Pacific Bell recieves the majority of their
money from ratepayers in this State.  If they were to start doing data
collection and selling it to the highest bidder, it is likely that they
would lose customers, and this would probably not be in line with their
business model (or their stockholder's interests, either).

Since free Internet providers exempt themselves from "common carrier"
status by the way they do business, they are not subject to the same laws.
They can (and do) mine traffic.  I'd be interested in any evidence you
have of Pacific Bell Internet doing the same to their (paid) customers,
because that would be a deusey of a lawsuit.

> The identity profile I'd create would be from one of my false profiles, of
> which I have many. So what data they mine from me would not in any way
> impose upon my privacy. But they could still track my online
> habits...unless I use anonymous proxies pumped with Proxomitron and Black
> Ice. Though it *is possible a free-DSL company would prohibit anonymous
> surfing, as part of the contract. (I'd *still find a way around this,
> somehow.)

Somebody skilled enough at the ISP can still hack your traffic.  Keep in
mind that proxy services only cover your traffic from the proxy to the
rest of the net: somebody skilled enough sitting at your dialup can still
gather the information they need.

This to me seems like a lot of trouble to go through for a service that
costs me so little.  Granted, it's a small percentage of my monthly wage,
so I'm in the position to afford it.

> I don't either. And that is why my personal data they have on file, is
> false. And that is *also why they promote things I couldn't be less
> interested in, like Furbee collectibles, American flag lollipops, gold
> ingots, and moose antlers.  ;(

I won't mention the fact that providing somebody with an address that is
not your own is actually a felony under the postal regulations.  :)

> If they actully knew my low income, and materially-minimal lifestyle,
> they'd
> *censor me from their service!

I don't believe that.  Having worked in the direct-marketing business at
one point, I can tell you that low-income people are often targets of
specific ad campaigns.  You don't think Western Union is interested in
people that make under $30,000/yr and tend to be late paying on their
bills?  Their entire business nowadays is based on providing financial
services to a class of people that generally nobody else wants as

They may be interested in knowing where low-income people surf, if for no
other reason, so websites can know if they are attracting the "wrong

Don't underestimate what data they want.  They want it all, on everybody.

> Okay. I thought about it today, and figured no problem...if you can use a
> voice phone, you can use a dial-up modem. But perhaps (I also thought) a
> free-DSL company might put a *block against such modem use.

I would think this would, to a limited extent, be counter-productive.  

> $50/month is over-budget for me. The maximum I'd consider is $25. Plus: I
> also gain much pleasure helping other low income people access the 'net for
> free, and using free LD sites, and other free online services. These are
> often disabled people, who live with serious budget cutbacks, and who could
> never afford to pay for Internet access. Having such access frees them for
> a better social life, job training, and opportunities.
> But I *do instruct them on how to create dummy data, keeping it in a text
> file for future reference in order to keep the story "straight".
> >My privacy is not for sale for such a low bid.
> Certainly not. But I don't believe we should have to pay *anything to hold
> onto our right to privacy. So my tactic is to not give these free services,
> real data.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, you do have to pay for privacy.
Sometimes, that is in trivial ways, like refusing to provide information
to companies and agencies that have no business to ask for it.  Other
times, it's more overt: right now, in the United States, privacy does cost

> While it is VERY tempting to get that free DSL service NOW...just because
> the SPEED is so alluring (and that's what they're counting on)...and I have
> suffered SO long dragging this slooow modem across cyberspace as if it were
> my own Via Dolorosa...I am waiting to see how many more such companies crop
> up...and hopefully, will find one without such strict conditions.
> Competition should lower the bar on this (I hope, I hope, I hope). Or also:
> fee-based services may charge considerably less than they do now, such as:
> $25/mo. for non-busy time slots only (1am - 7am, or something like that).

This may happen at some point.  As DSL becomes more universal, you may see
discounted plans along these lines.  I think, actually, at some point you
are going to see "hybrid" services: ones that charge a small amount (say
$10 or so) and provide a modicum of privacy, and generate their revenue by
you committing to purchase a set amount of dollars on their website(s)
(through a point system not unlike what Yahoo! and others are doing).
This would act in the same way that those "frequent shopper" cards at
grocery stores work.

But like the "frequent shopper" cards, there is a different price to be
paid, and that price is privacy.  Unfortunately, the majority of people in
this country are willing to sell their souls for a $1 discount on their
$300 grocery bill, and so we end up with this garbage being foisted upon
us.  I don't shop at Safeway anymore primarily because of this crapola.

The problem isn't with the companies, they're just finding a way to build
a better mousetrap.  It's the people that are willing to sell their
privacy for such a low cost that sucks.

Any rate, back to talking about UNIX.  :)


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