Originally published at Customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

Bway.net, a New York Internet provider. “The
small guys have tried to fight this re-monopolization of the network

He and other smaller rivals contend the communications market is fast
becoming a two-player game between giant phone and cable companies –
diminishing consumer choice.

While AT&T Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. are also
retiring their copper networks, they’re not touching the so-called “last
mile” of copper wiring that runs from each customer’s dwelling to the
central office where other lines aggregate. Laying fiber, a robust
pipeline, through the last mile is much more expensive because each line
goes to a particular home or business.

Verizon is taking the pricey route because it believes fiber offers a
superior service that will lure customers away from cable operators, who
now offer telephone service in addition to television and high-speed

Besides limiting options down the road, the switch to FiOS can have
other implications. Unlike copper-connected phone service, FiOS doesn’t
work during power outages once a backup battery goes out – not even for
emergency calls. Home-alarms and certain other devices work best with

Rabe, the Verizon spokesman, said the company will restore copper to
homes if the customer insists, but Verizon would rather not reconnect
the copper and will try to convince the customer to agree. At any rate,
the phone giant provides ample warning, he said.

An example of what Rabe describes as adequate notice is the fine print
on Verizon’s FiOS policy, which is printed on its Web site. It says
“current Verizon Online DSL customers who move to FiOS Internet service
will have their Verizon Online DSL permanently disabled after their FiOS

Bill Kelm, a FiOS customer in suburban Dallas, filed a complaint with
the Federal Trade Commission last year because of Verizon’s
“inconspicuous” policy rules.

“It’s buried within these long terms of service that people never take
the time to read,” he said. “It needs to be more conspicuous.”

While Kelm has no quarrel with FiOS itself – he pays $145 a month for
TV, Internet and phone – he would like to have been told before he
signed up that Verizon would cut the copper. He was counting on
Verizon’s clearly advertised 30-day money back guarantee in case he
didn’t like the service and wanted to switch back.

“I blew a gasket,” Kelm said. “The 30-day money back guarantee was
worthless in my opinion.”

He’s also concerned that Verizon initially priced its current FiOS
service lower only to jack rates up once the subscriber is reeled in.

“Then, you’re stuck,” Kelm said.

Originally published at Customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but this is one of the saddest
periods of this whole mess.
You have people providing a service, innovating and bringing some spice
to an otherwise very dull industry, and it’s being squashed.
christmasmusic247.com. His site and hundreds of other free
Internet radio stations already have shut down. Most others say they
stop when the rates kick in Sunday.

“It really isn’t fair,” said Clark, who pulled the plug when he realized
could owe more than $20,000 in royalties if he continued.

The decision threatens the diversity that webcasters bring to an era of
large radio conglomerates and homogenized Top 40 playlists on many
over-the-air stations. Each month an estimated 72 million listeners tune
to thousands of Internet radio stations programmed by devotees of every
musical genre and subgenre.

Those stations often feature programming that’s like a party mix that
be shared with the world, including obscure and independent recordings
never heard on the FM or even satellite airwaves. “I can’t shoot up a
satellite, I can’t put up a tower,” Clark said. “It seems like you need
these niche broadcasters.”

Clark and other Internet radio providers stopped their music streams to
avoid racking up more obligations after the Copyright Royalty Board set
new rates March 2. Clark and others said they would resurrect their
stations if Congress or the courts halted the controversial hike, which
2010 will more than double the current rate of .0762 of a cent each time
song is played.

The royalty board also removed a provision that capped royalties for
Internet radio stations at 10% to 12% of their revenue. The higher rate
retroactive to the start of 2006, so webcasters also face large lump-sum


SoundExchange, the organization that collects and distributes Internet
music royalties, said the new rates were fair and necessary to
performers and record companies for the use of their music. Negotiations

are continuing between webcasters and SoundExchange, which has the
to strike separate deals.

In the meantime, the Internet is losing some of its musical variety.
Webcasters say the preemptive shutdowns are just a taste of what would
happen if the rate hike becomes permanent.

“I miss it,” said Glenn Wilcox, a manufacturing engineer and amateur
trumpet player in San Diego who started JazzPlayerRadio.com with three
friends in 2004. The station played nothing but trumpet jazz by legends
such as Maynard Ferguson and Bobby Shew as well as local artists, but
Wilcox and his friends stopped April 30 because of the pending royalty

“If I went to a show or a get-together of guys who are my heroes,
I’m part of JazzPlayerRadio, I could walk up to one of them, like Bobby
Shew, and shake their hand,” said Wilcox, 45. “He knew the station.”

Despite the thrill of having hundreds or even thousands of listeners
the world enjoying their favorite music, small webcasters have decided
higher costs make it a luxury they can’t afford.

Most Internet radio stations are free for listeners. Some large sites,
as Yahoo Music, run advertisements to help offset the costs, but most
people who operate small stations simply foot the bill.

“I pay for this out of my own back pocket,” said Dick Shuey, 68, of
Holladay, Tenn. He spends about $350 a month to run his country music
station, TwangTownUSA.com., but will stop Sunday because of the higher

Many hobbyists use services such as Live365.com or LoudCity.net to
broadcast their stations for a flat monthly fee as low as $9.95. Live365

has lost about 300 of its 10,000 stations since the royalty increase was

announced in April, said Johnie Floater, the site’s general manager of
media. And about 250 stations are starting each month, down from about
before the rate hike.

At LoudCity, the number of Internet stations has dropped from 550 to
500 even though the company, and not the broadcaster, is responsible for

royalty payments under its monthly service plans, which range from $35
$200, co-founder Brandon Casci said.

“They’re worried that somehow, someway, SoundExchange is going to come
after them,” Casci said.

Clark started his Christmas-music station because he had always loved
genre and enjoyed working at his college radio station. He built his
collection by scooping up CDs at after-Christmas sales. His playlist
totaled 2,959 songs from the likes of Peabo Bryson, Bing Crosby, Garth
Brooks and the Brady Bunch.

Interest in his station built throughout the year, from about 10 to 20
listeners in January to big spikes after Labor Day and Halloween. In
December, he averaged 625 listeners during the workday, with many people

listening in their offices. Fan e-mail has arrived from as far away as
Japan and Africa.

But after doing the math, he decided he couldn’t survive under the new

Clark offset his costs last year with $1,076 from advertising and
contributions. Under the higher royalty rate, Clark estimated he owed
$7,471 for 2006.

Based on feedback from listeners, he had started a second station on his

site this year devoted to instrumental Christmas music. By his
calculations, he would owe $13,410 for both stations this year.

“That’s a car payment or the second mortgage,” Clark said. “That’s just

This is absolutely disgusting.
And I can’t help but note that, were the roles reversed, the vandals
being conservative or Republican thugs smashing someone’s hybrid and
leaving a note calling the owner a commie bastard or some such insult,
this would have made the national evening news.
This is a fine example of environmentalism turned idolatry.

Wed Jul 18, 7:51 PM ET

WASHINGTON – When Gareth Groves brought home his massive new Hummer, he
knew his environmentally friendly neighbors disapproved. But he didn’t
expect what happened next. The sport utility vehicle was parked for five
days on the street before two masked men smashed the windows, slashed
the tires and scratched into the body: “FOR THE ENVIRON.”

“The thought of somebody vandalizing it never crossed my mind,” said
Gareth Groves, who lives near American University in Northwest
Washington. “I’ve kind of been in shock.”

Police said they see small acts of vandalism in the area from time to
time, but they have not seen anything so severe, or with such a clear
political message, in recent years.

“This seems to be an isolated event,” Cmdr. Andy Solberg said.

Investigators said they are searching for the vandals but don’t have
many leads. Witnesses said they saw two men smash up the seven-foot-tall
SUV early Monday and then run off.

Now, as Groves contemplates what to do with the remains of his $38,000
Hummer, he has had to deal with a number of people who have driven by
the crime scene and glared at him in smug satisfaction.

“I’d say one in five people who come by have that
‘you-got-what-you-deserve’ look,” said his friend Andy Sexton.

Neighbor Lucille Liem, who owns a Prius hybrid, said that a common
sentiment in the neighborhood is that large vehicles such as the Hummer
are impractical and a strain on the Earth.

“The neighborhood in general is very concerned with the environment,”
said Liem, whose Prius gets about 48 miles a gallon compared with the
Hummer’s 14 miles a gallon. “It’s more liberal leaning. It’s ridiculous
to be driving a Hummer.”

Liem quickly added that she does not condone violence.