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Major ISPs Seek To Lower Broadband Definition 426

denobug sends word that major internet service providers in the US are seeking to redefine the term 'Broadband' to mean a much lower speed than in other developed nations. In recent filings with the FCC, Comcast and AT&T both came out in support of a reduced minimum speed. 'AT&T said regulators should keep in mind that not all applications like voice over internet protocol (VoIP) or streaming video, that require faster speeds, are necessarily needed by unserved Americans.' On the other hand, Verizon argued to maintain the status quo, saying that 'It would be disruptive and introduce confusion if the commission were to now create a new and different definition.' A public interest group called Free Press also filed comments with the FCC, recommending that the bar should be set significantly higher, and evolve in a way that corresponds with technological improvements.
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Major ISPs Seek To Lower Broadband Definition

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  • The status quo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OhHellWithIt ( 756826 ) * on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:09PM (#29287711) Journal

    What I got from reading my Verizon DSL service agreement was that they were making no warranty at all concerning the actual throughput on my line, regardless of the advertised speed. And they wonder why I don't want to subscribe to FIOS, which seems to have the same disclaimer. It would be interesting to know if other countries' ISPs commit to provide the advertised throughput.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Desler ( 1608317 )

      What I got from reading my Verizon DSL service agreement was that they were making no warranty at all concerning the actual throughput on my line, regardless of the advertised speed.

      How is that different from any other ISP that does the exact same thing? If you want guarantees on your throughput you're going to have to shell out for a dedicated line.

      • Re:The status quo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:56PM (#29288503) Journal

        Correct. It's not reasonable to expect an ISP to guarantee a certain speed if the line is shared (as if the case with cable and DSLAMs). I have Verizon DSL and except when a truck ran into the switching station and turned it into scrap (knocking out phone service), they've provided exactly what I pay for, so no complaints here.

        As for Europe versus United States, making comparisons of tiny EU states (poland, slovak) versus a continent-spanning federation makes little sense. The USA is *big*. It took me 4 days to drive from Boston to Seattle... and another 5 days to go from California back to Boston. And in-between there's a whole lot of nothing. Here are the stats when you compare large federations versus large federations:

        Russian Federation 7 Megabits per secomd
        E.U., U.S. 6 Mbit/s
        Canada, Australia 5
        Brazil, China 2
        Mexico 1 Mbit/s

        And if you prefer to look on a state-by-state basis of the EU, US, and Canada then you get:
        1 Sweden 11 Mbit/s
        2 Delaware 10
        3 Washington 9
        4 Netherlands,Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts 8
        5 Virginia,New York,Colorado,Connecticut,Arizona, Germany, British Columbia 7 Mbit/s

    • Re:The status quo (Score:4, Informative)

      by rehtonAesoohC ( 954490 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:17PM (#29287867) Journal
      While the disclaimer may be in there for FIOS, I have found that every single time I go to download huge files (as in, 13 gigabytes apiece), I consistently get my full 10mb down rate.

      When I was on cable, it varied drastically depending on the time of day I was downloading. I have never had more consistent service speeds than I have on FIOS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jonbtn ( 530417 )
      I just recently got my FiOS installed and I am quite happy with my "up to" 15/5 connection, here are my results from speed test:

      Last Result:
      Download Speed: 26139 kbps (3267.4 KB/sec transfer rate)
      Upload Speed: 9534 kbps (1191.8 KB/sec transfer rate)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zippthorne ( 748122 )

        Yeah, cable used to be like that, too. Just wait till the rest of us get connected and then we'll all know what it's really like.

    • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:42PM (#29288301)

      When I subscribed back in 1999, Verizon only offered 768k down/128k up, and the CIR was 16 Kbps bidirectional. That's right -- they promised that my connection would be at least almost half as fast as a 33.6K modem. Except, of course, when it wasn't working.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by whatajoke ( 1625715 )
      Indian here. My ISP delivers at least 50% of max speed during daytime and 100% throughput during night. There is a advisory 100 GB cap, wherein after hitting the limit, you get not more than 50% of max speed in day, but still get 100% max speed during the night. Though I don't know if they gurantee this how many 9's reliability, they have delivered the bandwidth for past few years.
    • If you want guarantees, you're gonna have to pay a LOT more for service.
    • You are clueless (Score:3, Insightful)

      by realmolo ( 574068 )

      There is no such thing as "guaranteed" bandwidth on the internet. ALL bandwidth is shared, somewhere.

      Your ISP does NOT have 40 megabits of bandwidth for every user. Do you know how much you would be paying if they did? Your connection would be hundres of dollars a month, not $60 or less.

      If you want to bitch about the price of bandwidth, bitch to the big telcos that own most of the fiber in the US, and charge exorbitant fees to use it.

    • by Mascot ( 120795 )

      (Norway here)I haven't really read the fine print myself. I know many guarantee the throughput within their own network, but not beyond, for obvious reasons. But it doesn't seem to be much of an issue where I live.

      I've been a customer of most of the major ISPs over the years, and I have yet to experience getting anything less than the promised throughput. There's also no throttling/shaping and no traffic limits.

      I'm currently on 30/30 fibre and quite happy (they offer 50/50, 100/100 and 1000/1000 as well, th

    • It would be interesting to know if other countries' ISPs commit to provide the advertised throughput.

      Maybe, but I doubt it. I do not consider myself to be a supporter of Verizon (I subscribe to their DSL service because it was available before Comcast was in my area and I like Comcast even less than Verizon which is the only other choice), but I can understand where they are coming from with regard to guaranteed speeds. The problem in the United States is that lawyers are sue happy and if Verizon failed to meet the promised speed 100% of the time then some enterprising attorney would file a class action la

  • by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:10PM (#29287741)
    ... lower the bar
  • When will these people stop trying to change definitions. Broadband is a technology not a speed. All DSL is broadband, but ethernet and (most) cable is not even though they can offer higher speeds than ADSL.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anegg ( 1390659 )
      Trying to educate the masses about the difference between "baseband" "broadband" and "wideband" is pretty much useless at this point, IMHO.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hattig ( 47930 )

        And irrelevant to what we're talking about, which is consumer high-speed internet offerings that have commonly become known as "broadband". I.e., it's a different meaning to the technical term, deal with it.

        Surely the job of any US government "internet quango" would be to mandate a continual year-on-year improvement in "broadband speeds", in terms of urban, extra-urban, and rural locations.

        I.e., right now you could have: 10/2 for urban, 5/1 for extra-urban, and 2/0.2 for rural. In two years time that could

    • Wikipedia defines its speed as
      In data communications
      Broadband in data can refer to broadband networks or broadband Internet and may have the same meaning as above, so that data transmission over a fiber optic cable would be referred to as broadband as compared to a telephone modem operating at 56,000 bits per second.

      But then again, I come from the internet, me and my good buddy Wik over there aren't very reliable sources.

      • 56,000 bits per second.

        Wouldn't that be 57,344 bits per second?

        Though of course good luck to you if you expect to get that much with a dial-up modem....

        • by AlexCV ( 261412 )

          Actually, no.

          Modems are/were rated in actual bits in decimal with no base-2/base-10 shenanigans. So 56k was actually 56000... Or more then likely you actually got 44000.

        • 56,000 bits per second.

          Wouldn't that be 57,344 bits per second?

          For historical reasons related to UART architecture, the serial connection between the modem and the PC usually divides evenly into 115,200 bps, such as 57,600 bps. But in v.90 and v.92, the connection to the other modem is based on the 8,000 Hz sample rate of a digital phone line, usually anywhere from 40 kbps (Fs * 5 bits/sample) to 50.6 kbps (Fs * 6 1/3 bits/sample). Modems usually run the PC link faster than the analog link to allow use of LZW-based V.42bis compression over the wire. 57,344 is 56*1024,

      • Broadband is any system that uses multiple frequencies to allow more than one connection over the same line.

        56k modems, or even 9600 baud modems do this, so they are broadband technologies. Ethernet doesn't and as a result, it is generally a lot faster.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by poopdeville ( 841677 )

          Dude, you're seriously confused. EVERY signaling system uses multiple frequencies at the same time.

          Look up the Shannon-Nyquist Sampling theorem. It establishes that any signal over a single channel is limited by the width of the band that signal can transmit. In particular, you can send less than half as many samples per second as the channel is wide, in hertz.

          Telephone modems do NOT use multiple connections. They use a single channel, about as wide as the voice frequencies. DSL does better, pushing th

  • ...for now making it easier for me to decide to add you to my ISP blacklist.
  • by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:12PM (#29287767)
    It is in the FCC's interest to keep lowering the speed required for something to be classified as "broadband". This allows a greater percentage of the country to have "broadband saturation" and thus, it makes the FCC look like they are doing a great job.

    These distortions of statistics are already used by the government to great effect in other areas, such as unemployment and GDP, and the public eat it up.
    • by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:48PM (#29288385)

      It's not in the FCC's interest. It doesn't have an interest in that respect. People know if they are getting fast and affordable internet access or not and that is what make's the FCC's folks look good to the people. The question is how interested are the FCC commissioners in looking good to "the people" versus those who can help them personally.

      It is in the interests of some ISPs the ones who can't or don't want to compete on bandwidth. They may make it in the interest of certain elected representatives to support them via campaign contributions. Those representatives might try to make it in the interests of certain FCC members via future career enticements or rewards or they may play with the FCC's budget or charter. ISPs might even attempt to offer inducements like a lucrative career in lobbying or PR for the compliant commissioner.

      So as a member of "the people" we have to do what we can to make it in the interests of our elected representatives to see that we get world class internet access at affordable prices. Also, let us not forget that there are a lot of businesses that benefit from ubiquitous high speed internet access. They should do some lobbying too. We have a convergence of interests.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:13PM (#29287783)

    I used to limp along with a standard 28.8K modem; but now with my US Robotics 56K V.92 broadband-enhanced supermodem, I cruise along the Information Superhighway at a blazing 56Kbps! Thanks Comcast!


    • by raddan ( 519638 ) *
      You're expected to mix metaphors here. It's surfing the Information Superhighway. Which, incidentally, is a series of tubes.
  • by odin84gk ( 1162545 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:15PM (#29287815)
    Every industry does this, including my own. It costs less money to pay off politicians or lobbyists than to upgrade the system. My company pays our lobbyists to modify the laws to favor our system vs the competitors. Politicians listen to the lobbyists because it is easier than doing the research themselves, and the only thing we can do is a massive grass roots effort to make things better. I've got to say that I'm just too lazy to start another one of those. Why can't I just elect someone to take care of these things?
  • NANOG comments... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AMuse ( 121806 ) <slashdot-amuse&foofus,com> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:15PM (#29287817) Homepage

    There was just recently a large discussion about this topic on NANOG. The mailing list archive where the thread begins can be found here: []

    Gee, I wonder why Verizon would think that consumers don't need VOIP? Perhaps competition has something to do with it...

  • ... what they call it? Deceptive? sure ... but users are going to notice the speed immediately when they start surfing the net or downloading items. If Major ISPs lump it all together and call it broadband ... the online community will give it new names ... like "Crappy Broadband" and "Good Broadband"
  • not unusual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:19PM (#29287879)

    Just like the agribusinesses trying to change the definition of "organic" so they can cash in on the trend.

    Whatever happened to actually making a good product and letting quality do the heavy lifting on the marketing end? I know sometimes a company is left selling a shit sandwich but it seems like these companies go out of their way to turn their products and services into a shit sandwich before they sell them. It's like these companies are all run by secret coprophages and they're spreading the love.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schnikies79 ( 788746 )

      Just like "organic" farmers changing the meaning or organic. Organic means carbon based and has no bearing on how you grow something.

      All crops are organic.

  • I think for CALEA ('lawful intercept', aka warrant-backed-spying of your traffic, at least in the US), calls broadband anything > 128kbps broadband (or there abouts.. it reminded me of something like shotgunned ISDN lines). The difference being anything less then that they can just get a run-of-the-mill telephone wire tap from the local Bell.

    I'm sorta wondering how any definition the FCC passes will get abused in the future. This should be fun to watch.

  • What ever happened to quality? What ever happened to people, and companies, recognising that lower cost came at the expense of higher quality? What ever happened to production and purchasing being an optimisation problem with price, quality, speed and other factors thrown into the mix?

    All I see nowadays is price, price, price. Price is everything. All encompassing, all considering and the sole and only consideration in nigh every walk of life. Companies are gouging their businesses in order to save pennies whilst their products stagnate or regress. Consumers care not for long term value or even short term utility as price is the first and last arbiter in their purchase decisions.

    ISPs in the US seek to redefine broadband because they want their packages to be treated like commodities; like wheat and coffee beans. You don't care where the bean comes from, they're all the same. So you buy the cheapest one. If all internet connection packages are "broadband", can you guess what people are going to do? ISPs aren't the only industry that wants to do this, or indeed that is doing it.

    Is anyone nowadays interesting in something more than getting, or providing, the cheapest deal. Is there room left nowadays for an ISP that seeks to provide the fastest and widest piplines for people that are willing to pay that much extra. I know I would be. But is that how our society works anymore? Did it ever work like that? Is there simply no room for companies that don't cater to misers? Should we really be blaming the ISPs here, or should we be blaming ourselves?

    • by Krneki ( 1192201 )
      It is a shame that most people understand absolutely nothing about quality and keep spending their money for crap they don't need.

      Are we really moving toward Idiocracy (
    • Answers.

      >> All I see nowadays is price, price, price. Price is everything. All encompassing, all considering and the sole and only consideration in nigh every walk of life. Companies are gouging their businesses in order to save pennies whilst their products stagnate or regress. Consumers care not for long term value or even short term utility as price is the first and last arbiter in their purchase decisions.

      What brand toothbrush do you own? Did you seek recommendations from other before buying it? A

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PitaBred ( 632671 )
      It's the culmination of the Reaganomics era, where everyone "learned" that the almighty dollar was the only thing that mattered, and you get your bonuses based on quarterly performance, not on long-term performance.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Don't Blame Reaganomics for this. Blame short sighted greed, where next reporting cycle is all that matters and long term performance is ignored.

        If you look at the .COM bubble, the Housing Bubble, the Credit Bubble, and all the other bubbles, the whole thing was based on the next reporting cycle, and not core values and needs.

        And most of those occurred under Bush and Clinton. And does anyone remember the fantastic job Carter did with the economy /sarcasm.

        Sorry, but real economics is about improving products

    • Check out [] It explains why price has become more important than quality to most people. Even if you don't agree with it, it is a good read.
  • Why not? (Score:5, Informative)

    by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:21PM (#29287917)
    :start rant

    We've already done a great job at butchering the term anyway. Most usage doesn't correspond with reality.
    • "bandwidth" is a function of the physical characteristcs of the medium. I.e., with wires, the impedance goes up as the wire gets longer. This changes the wire's ability to transmit high frequencies (it "attenuates" the signal). Even dictionaries get this wrong.
    • "baud" or "symbol rate" is a function of bandwidth and your modulation scheme.
    • "bitrate" is a function of the symbol rate, and also depends on things like your packet structures and encoding schemes (actually, it depends on a LOT of things).
    • "speed" is not a technical term in this context, but most "technical" people equate it with "bitrate". For most other people, "speed" means "how long do I have to wait?"

    :end rant

    (if you can't complain about this kind of stuff on a website billing itself as "news for nerds", where can you complain?)

    But it just goes to show that carriers feel no need to compete. Most of us have no ability to choose the products we want from them, and with Uncle Sam's help, they can keep us from seeing how lame they really are.

  • My suggestion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:21PM (#29287923) Homepage

    My suggestion to the FCC was for symmetrical bandwidth to be included in the definition. You can't really have cloud-based services, if you can't effectively move data to the cloud.

    I'd personally also like to see a 10Mb/s lower bound. This is 2009 after all, and the telecoms have already been paid for 45Mb/s symmetrical bandwidth to everyone.

  • VoIP and broadband (Score:3, Interesting)

    by N7DR ( 536428 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:25PM (#29287981) Homepage

    AT&T said regulators should keep in mind that not all applications like voice over internet protocol (VoIP) or streaming video, that require faster speeds,

    So AT&T says that VoIP requires "faster speeds". Even using G.711 (i.e., uncompressed toll-quality), and including the overhead of the other layers, VoIP requires only ~120kbps. The thing about VoIP is not that it requires high speed, but that it requires low latency.

    Once upon a time the string "AT&T" stood for some kind of technical excellence. So, for that matter, did the string "FCC". Now I just want to go hide in a cave while they play their various spin games.

  • AT&T? GFY. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:27PM (#29288025) Homepage Journal

    AT&T said regulators should keep in mind that not all applications like voice over internet protocol (VoIP) or streaming video, that require faster speeds, are necessarily needed by unserved Americans.

    My mom, who lives less than a mile from a local telco's central office, can't get DSL because they don't care to install broadband-capable equipment in her neighborhood. She's just an ignorant rube who doesn't need all that fancy stuff, unlike the AT&T CEO who undoubtedly needs YouTube to download the daily neurosurgery lessons that fill his Renaissance mind, and who needs Skype to talk to his kids who can't afford telephone service.

    Know what? Very, very few people need broadband to their house. However, I bet many people want to fully participate in modern society, but are missing the Internet revolution altogether because it's painful over dialup. To hell with Comcast and AT&T for presuming the right to decide which of their customers need certain services, largely basing such decisions on the customers' zip codes.

  • "Fasterizer" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:28PM (#29288041)

    An ISP in our area is advertising their Internet connection speed by claiming it is "Fasterizer". They hope that term will confuse the clueless into thinking that their .V92 or tier 1 DSL service is as fast as my 10Mb/s cable connection.

    21st Century business is all about three things: lying, stealing and bribing Congress with campaign contributions to make those actions legal. I suspect that they are redefining decades old terms & understandings simply so they can justify a large increase it their rate structure for the same old service.

    Fifteen years ago the cable and telcos bribed Congress into outlawing local communities from filling in the service gap the private sector was ignoring: a high speecd fiber optic internet connection that would be a public utility. After recieving $200M from Congress to "finish the job", they promptly pocketed the money and forgot the rest. Congress failed to include a non-performance penalty, so they had nothing to lose by just stealing the money. Had the telcos & cable companies had any ethics the average US internet connection would be 20Mb/s or more and costing less than $30/month. Can't build any multi-million dollar luxury homes in the Bahamas at those rates.

  • In related news, 8th graders petitioned their principal to drop math from the list of required classes, complaining that "it's hard" and would cause an extra 3 hours of homework per week.

    Note that if an actual free market for broadband existed, we would have true competition, allowing customers to choose the provider that provided the best pricing, speed, and feature set. It could be as easy as allowing municipalities to maintain large bundles of fiber through a city, exactly the same way they do with road

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:31PM (#29288101) Journal

    Nobody could expect us to keep up in education or communications with the prime movers of the Technology Universe, Japan and South Korea. It's just not realistic. We should be happy that our roads are paved and are children is learning.

  • News in comparison (Score:5, Informative)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:33PM (#29288129)
    In Hungary, T-online has announced today that they're rolling out 80mbit FTTH to 180-200k subscribers by the end of the year. (This is a country of 10M).

    They've also changed the minimum package from 2 to 5mbit, bumped up the non-fibre/vdsl package to 15mbit and drastically increased the minimum guaranteed bandwidth to 1mbit for the 5mbit connection and to 5mbit for the 15mbit connection.

    Personally, I pay 50 EUR / mo for IPTV and 33mbit VDSL. I do not consider anything below 8mbit "broadband" these days.
    • This is what happens when you don't roll out widely deployed internet service until the technology is more mature.

      Here in the US, we have internet infrastructure that is 20+ years old, that is "good enough" for most people. There is little incentive to roll out better broadband (though this is changing, as the use of bandwidth has changed).

      Yes, your speeds are good. This is largely because T-online (and Deutsche Telecom, their majority owners) were feeling the pressure from other ISPs in 2002-2004. Com
    • Here in Cologne, Germany, you can a get 100 Mb/s down and 10 Mb/s up FTTH DSL flat with a phone flat for 35€. With no connection fee, and the first three months are free too.
      It's because it's their own fiber and network, so they don't have to pay the last mile etc.

      I think that density is a major factor for new companies, and as this area here is one of the most dense in the Europe [], it seems to work. (They're here since 1994 now.)
      They are a company that is owned by the city. So you can call it "socialis

  • Whether broadband is defined as greater than 128 kpbs or 128 Gpbs makes little difference (ok, neglecting subsidies and such). Broadband is just a marketing term like low sodium or fuel efficient. It's the actual throughput of the service that counts. For example, I'd take 100 mpbs labeled as "slow" over 2 mbps broadband any day.

    What is really needed is competition with a solid metric to compare services. For a metric, it should be something like the minimum throughput for 99% of customers 95% of the ti

    • Honestly, for my applications latency is a larger concern. I could get by with a low latency 128kbps link, but a high latency one like Hughesnet would be useless. But that isn't something thats really talked about in marketing materials much.

  • This allows the !@#$%&'s to scale back the amount of infrastructure they need to build out to serve their customers, while still charging everyone exorbitant prices for simple text messages and keep on making a killing for their shareholders. ??? Profit!


  • Create a new ISP with a *guaranteed* minimum bandwidth!
    Offer it to *everyone*.

    But detail everywhere and exactly, where the money you would have to pay to get it, would go!
    Everything. Which material, which work, external contractors, taxes, etc.
    You have that data in your business's database anyway. It's easily automatable.
    Nearly everything of that ISP would be automated anyway. And client-owned too, in a way.

    If you live in the swamp seas of east-ass-hicksville or Gaylord, KS, you will then have the choice to

  • Once again we see businesses seeking not to improve their quality of products and services, but to merely boost the appearance of the quality of their products and services by changing definitions.

    We see it happening in food. We see it happening in data storage. We have been seeing this in ISPs already with their deceptive and even fraudulent use of the word "unlimited" to describe usage.

    Isn't it about time we reign this behavior in with tighter laws regarding deceptive practices such as these? What does

  • More info (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fbwhrdpmtajg ( 1452033 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @02:06PM (#29288663)

    Comcast wants the FCC to match OCED in defining broadband at 256kbps download. The FCC has previously defined broadband at 200kbps in either direction; in March 2009 they voted to change the lower limit to 768kbps and call the lowest tier "basic broadband". 200kbps to 768kbps is supposed to be called "first generation data". []

    The rollout of the new definition does not seem to be going well, as recent FCC documents are continuing to use old definitions. From september 2009: []

    • To create a new term for the higher speed (768+), than to *re-define* an older term. Over the years, the only real definition I can come up with for how 'broadband' has been *used*, is, basically, anything faster than 56k dialup. If you want a 'marketing name' for something that meets specific technical values, why not come up with a new name, and start applying the new definition to the new name? That would be less confusing and more useful, IMHO.

  • I believe there is already a term for slow, crappy internet service. It's Comcastic!

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead