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Ask Slashdot: Taking a New Tack On Net Neutrality?

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the bad-idea-is-putting-it-lightly dept.

Businesses 185

An anonymous reader writes "I am the IT director for a large rental property company that owns approximately 15,000 apartments in college towns across America. The board of directors has tasked me with exploring whether we can 'privatize' our network (we provide network access as part of rent in all of our properties) and charge certain commercial entities for access to our residents. Right now the network is more or less open, except that we block access (by court order) to certain sites at the request of various copyright holders. Specifically, they are interested in targeting commercial providers of services directed at college students, such as textbook rental firms, online booksellers, and so on. With approximately 35,000 residents, I guess they are thinking there is a substantial profit to be made here. Personally I don't like it one bit, but I thought I would ping Slashdot for thoughtful opinions. I imagine the phones will start ringing off the hook if students suddenly lose access to places like I think it has 'bad idea' written all over it. What do you think?"

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Fuck off and Die in a Fire (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140703)


Re:Fuck off and Die in a Fire (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141209)

That's what I told them everyone would tell us if we started pushing the idea. But, they don't pay me for my initial reactions.

I've delegated a lot of work to look at implementation costs, and what has flowed back up to me is that they are not that high. However, what I don't have the expertise to gauge are the ongoing costs like lawsuits and such. Our inside counselors are mostly real estate law professionals with a few commercial litigators and my feedback from them has been mostly pages filled with question marks.

We provide "network access" as part of rent, not "Internet Access." Students are free to use other means such as cellular modems to access the Internet if they do not agree with our ToS, but for the vast majority of them, the network we provide with filtered access to the Internet is sufficient for their needs. The rest of our "network" are basically various Intranet sites they can use to pay rent, order maintenance, report problems with utilities or grounds, manage their lease, and manage Bursar DirectPay, where their rent is paid directly from student loan proceeds received by the school, or Parent DirectPay, where rent is billed directly to their parents via ACH or credit card payment.

In any case, I intend to give the board an honest assessment, even though I think this is a terrible idea. I hope to God they don't decide to force this steaming pile of shit upon me.

Re:Fuck off and Die in a Fire (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 5 months ago | (#47141393)

It won't work. Some students will use cell phone modems and others will set up VPN connections to the outside and absolutely nobody would access any of the paid for content directly. For some enlightenment, introduce your board members to the TOR Browser Bundle: [] Even airports, which have the ultimate captive audience, are now going free and open - for example the Vienna airport. So, you will have a whole shitload of schlepp and no hope in hell of making any money.

Re:Fuck off and Die in a Fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141421)

You've also not factored in the security problem of 15,000 irritated students, perhaps 1% of which will have students capable of mounting security assaults on your infrastructure, with no pity for you from the other 99%. Prepare to have your routers, your databases, your proxies, your web sites, and your personal email and accounts rectally probed with a corn cob, with *no* sympathy from your other clients. If the crackers take down your sites, the bursar and the parents are going to stuff *your* head up your own rectum for agreeing to this. Not the board of directors: *you*, because your name is there as the IT director who implemented this. Also before you pull this stunt, be aware that filtering content this way means you give up any pretense of "common carrier" or free speech defenses for not filtering *everything*. You can leave yourself vulnerable to the legal costs of not having filtered content *before* getting a court order.

> We provide "network access" as part of rent, not "Internet Access."
> the network we provide with filtered access to the Internet is sufficient for their needs.

The parents or students will introduce you, personally, to the concept of "my lawyer can snort your lawyer like the blow on his secretary's tits". this is not going to be pretty.

Re:Fuck off and Die in a Fire (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 5 months ago | (#47141737)

the board of directors has just made comcast and cox look good by comparison :(

unless you started paying residents to use your network, it's a bad, dishonest idea.

Short sighted nonsense, which is to be expected. (5, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 5 months ago | (#47141811)

Your customers definitely believed they would receive internet access paid for from their rent, and if you change that while still holding to a lease it will upset them. Legalistic mumbo jumbo like claiming they paid for "network access" rather than internet access would't actually fly in court if you ever do face a class action lawsuit or FTC complaint about this. The expectation you intended for your customer is what matters, not your ridiculous word games. Most students would probably be too busy with other things to take action over this, so if your tenants really are all students you won't face civil action.

But this kind of move is bad for other reasons. The bad blood it will generate between you and your customers will incur other kinds of costs as your customers act out passive-aggressively against you, in the form of poor yelp reviews, poor word of mouth, and deliberate property destruction. This is just the kind of short-sighted nonsense I've come to expect from many businessmen. Absolutely no conception of the big picture. Providing this access is very inexpensive, and you said you'd do it when you rented the apartments. By changing it up you are saying to your customers that you don't value their time and that you don't take them seriously. You just want to use them to extort money from someone else.

Moreover, this action is not sustainable. If you and enough others to this, you will be seeing net neutrality and other consumer protection regulations in the future as a result. Most college students don't stay in college forever.

Re:Fuck off and Die in a Fire (4, Insightful)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 5 months ago | (#47141823)

You will piss them off by saying you think it's a bad idea. The best thing to do is research other examples where a company or college or airport or coffee shop tried to restrict access like this, and what the results were. How much revenue did they get? Were there added costs for more it support? At the end of the day, was it worth it? Call them case studies, executives love that shit.

I bet that they'll remember that they're a rental company, not a cutting edge ISP, and they don't want to be in the vanguard on this issue. If they are smart businessmen they'll play to their strengths.

I work for a municipality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141349)

I work for a municipality with 10 million residents and I've been tasked with exploring the idea that in return for city services that we restrict access to certain churches willing to pay us for enhanced access to the residents. I'm wondering what slashdot thinks of this idea

Re:I work for a municipality (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#47141641)

I work for a municipality with 10 million residents and I've been tasked with exploring the idea that in return for city services that we restrict access to certain churches willing to pay us for enhanced access to the residents. I'm wondering what slashdot thinks of this idea

Certain 'churches'? If your municipality is in the US, I foresee a discussion with an ACLU lawyer in short order. In fact, you might want to call them ahead of time.

Captive? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140709)

Are you saying they want to hold them captive to only the sites you want them to go to for profit sake? The kids will just rebel and bring in their own access...

Re:Captive? (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#47140739)

Or just use his bandwidth for vpn access.

Re:Captive? (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 5 months ago | (#47140825)

My read is that their intent is a little more targeted: find 10-15 companies that specifically target college students with online services like textbook rental, and find some way to siphon off a portion of those companies' revenue stream in return for "delivering" them access to the 15k users. Then leave the rest of the web unfiltered. This is essentially the model of net-non-neutrality ISPs have been using with Netflix, but in a "softer" sense, where it isn't actually blocked, but service is degraded. They leave most sites alone (because there's no money in them), and go after a handful of potential cash cows for a cut of the revenue.

My guess is that this company saw what ISPs have been doing with Netflix, and wonder if it's possible to do with other sectors than video streaming, too. It's harder to do with non-bandwidth-intensive sites, though. An ISP can soft-block Netflix by just degrading the access, and even have some plausible deniability (blame Netflix's ISP or servers for the poor performance), which some people will believe. But a textbook rental site doesn't need streaming HD video levels of bandwidth, so you might have to block them entirely to make this scheme work. And people will notice/complain about that much more.

Re:Captive? (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 5 months ago | (#47141239)

My read is that their intent is a little more targeted:

That is what I understood as well.

(1) The ethics of this are more than just questionable. Service is already part of rent, as they acknowledge. It isn't "free". And the people who run the network now want to double-dip, Comcast-style, by charging the other end of the link as well.

(2) It is also probably unworkable. For a mere 35,000 students, companies like Amazon and so on would tell them to FOAD.

Re:Captive? (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 5 months ago | (#47141321)

What they actually want to do is secretly up the rent by externalising the cost. By establishing artificial internet access monopolies who will have to charge their tenants extra for the goods provided, they can pay the artificial monopoly costs. Basically their intent is to stick it too their tenants and hide the extra costs.

Really why dick about, simply block secure internet payment protocols and demand all payments be made via a service nominated and charge 20% tariff on payments, then claim it is a security measure to protect the students from financial scams.

Any scam attempted will be detected shared amongst the tenants and more importantly shared amongst potential tenants and the tenants lawyers will start exploring anti-competition laws [] and how much the landlords can be sued for. Of course you could actively censor the students from communicating with each other on the subject and good luck with that.

Re:Captive? (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 5 months ago | (#47141469)

What they actually want to do is secretly up the rent by externalising the cost. By establishing artificial internet access monopolies who will have to charge their tenants extra for the goods provided, they can pay the artificial monopoly costs. Basically their intent is to stick it too their tenants and hide the extra costs.

That's true. But they're trying to stick it to their tenants two different ways. By charging outside services to access their tenants, they're making their tenants pay even more than before. Because those services will pas the higher operating costs on to their customers.

It's very much like a sales tax. My parents used to own a retail store. My mother used to get very exasperated about when the state an local municipality increased business taxes or fees that were supposed to tax the "rich business owners". She said "This doesn't tax us more at all. Businesses just pass the cost on to the customers. I know because we DO. It hurts everybody by driving prices up. The consumer ends up paying for it anyway, not those 'rich' business owners."

Re:Captive? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 5 months ago | (#47141511)

Pardon me. Editing problem. I meant to delete the "sales tax" part. It wasn't sales taxes I was referring to, but other business taxes like income taxes, licensing fees, etc.

Re:Captive? (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 5 months ago | (#47141629)

What they actually want to do is secretly up the rent by
externalising the cost. By establishing artificial internet access monopolies who will have to charge their tenants extra for the goods provided, they can pay the artificial monopoly costs. Basically their intent is to stick it too their tenants and hide the extra costs.

"Internet access monopolies"? "Monopoly costs"? "Externalizing the cost"? Cut the crap.

They offer apartments for rent, and they are considering cutting back service in order to make more money. That's what companies do. And they are wondering how the market is going to respond.

Anybody who doesn't like what they are doing can rent somewhere else. If their college has an exclusive contract with them (unlikely but possible), people can choose a different college. There is no "monopoly" involved, nor is there any meaningful "cost externalization".

Responses to this fall into two categories: people who choose to rent somewhere else and cost them money, and people who are going to whine and still rent with them. They only should care about the first, not the second.

Re:Captive? (5, Interesting)

tragedy (27079) | about 5 months ago | (#47141841)

Anybody who doesn't like what they are doing can rent somewhere else. If their college has an exclusive contract with them (unlikely but possible), people can choose a different college.

I was going to methodically criticize this sentence but then I realized I shouldn't need to. Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what's wrong with the idea that the easy remedy to this sort of thing for consumers is to "choose a different college"!

Re:Captive? (-1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 5 months ago | (#47141907)

I was going to preemptively point out that people like you would come out of the woodwork, but then decided it wasn't worth the hassle. Anybody with half a brain understands that going to college and where you go to college is indeed a choice anybody can make freely.

Re:Captive? (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 5 months ago | (#47141591)

My read of it is slightly more favorable, though still not good. There are marketing firms which specifically target college students. I'm sure that as a property management firm which also targets college students they already have contacts with the marketing firms. It sounds to me like they want to sell ad space to said firms, who would then resell it to their advertisers. The ads would probably be injected by hijacking DNS requests and using transparent HTTP proxies, not unlike what some hotels and "free" wi-fi hotspots do. My guess is that they don't plan to give preferred or degraded bandwidth to any actual content provider (unless you count rival advertisers as "content providers"). As such it's not a net-neutrality issue per se, just another scumbag trying to capitalize on a captive audience.

It's amusing to me that just a couple stories before this is the one about OpenDNS phasing out Guide [] , which is a similar advertising grab. Maybe you can point to the OpenDNS article as an example of a provider dropping that revenue model because it pissed off the users too much.

Re:Captive? (-1, Offtopic)

actresschillz (3677599) | about 5 months ago | (#47141791)

My read is that their intent is a little more targeted: find 10-15 companies that specifically target college students with online services like textbook rental, and find some way to siphon off a portion of those companies' revenue stream in return for "delivering" them access to the 15k users. Then leave the rest of the web unfiltered. This is essentially the model of net-non-neutrality ISPs have been using with Netflix, but in a "softer" sense, where it isn't actually blocked, but service is degraded. They leave most sites alone (because there's no money in them), and go after a handful of potential cash cows for a cut of the revenue.

My guess is that this company saw what ISPs have been doing with Netflix, and wonder if it's possible to do with other sectors than video streaming, too. It's harder to do with non-bandwidth-intensive sites, though. An ISP can soft-block Netflix by just degrading the access, and even have some plausible deniability (blame Netflix's ISP or servers for the poor performance), which some people will believe. But a textbook rental site doesn't need streaming HD video levels of bandwidth, so you might have to block them entirely to make this scheme work. And people will notice/complain about that much more.

hot actress at []

site blocking? (5, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#47140719)

Ok, its OT, but since when did US courts start mandating blocking of sites by ISPs?

Back on topic, it should not be hard to come up with the numbers and present it to management. Forget the 'it will be a bad idea' as it will only make you look disgruntled and biased, all they care about is raw numbers.

Re:site blocking? (5, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 5 months ago | (#47140837)

> Right now the network is more or less open, except that we block access (by court order) to certain sites at the request of various copyright holder

Look into the history of DMCA "takedown orders". It can get quite odd: take a look at [] for how mentioning the takedown orders can lead to a takedown order.

Re:site blocking? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#47140853)

Ok, its OT, but since when did US courts start mandating blocking of sites by ISPs?

I have never heard of this happening, and I think it would have been big news if it had happened. So if it is true, why haven't we heard about it? If it is not true, then why is the submitter saying that it is?

Back on topic, it should not be hard to come up with the numbers and present it to management.

The most important number to present is the number of websites willing to negotiate a contract and pay to be accessible to a micro-ISP with 35k geographically dispersed customers. I am pretty sure it is this number: 0.

Re:site blocking? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#47140905)

Sure, lots of individual file "take downs" happens every day, but the only thing i have heard that is close to a site block, is when the DOJ kills a site, but its not really the same thing.

I agree, it seems odd that this guy is talking about it but no one else has heard of it ( here in the US at least ). Makes the entire post suspect.

Re:site blocking? (1)

Gilbert Turner (3604601) | about 5 months ago | (#47140939)

I'm just going out on a limb, but I think this person may be an IT Director in name only. It would be more logical that if they're providing network access to have some sort of content filtering system to avoid any prospects of nasty litigation. It's their right as the network provider to do so, and not an uncommon practice at all.

Re:site blocking? (1)

Travis Mansbridge (830557) | about 5 months ago | (#47140959)

But this wouldn't be "by court order." DMCA notices see the infringing content removed or the site taken down altogether, and shouldn't be different per ISP.

Re:site blocking? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#47140995)

Except he clearly stated by court order, and not just a in-house block from due diligence or from a 3rd party provider with a 'black list'..

Perhaps he's clueless, and another reason why they should not be 'privatizing'

Re:site blocking? (1)

Gilbert Turner (3604601) | about 5 months ago | (#47141191)

Which is why I mentioned IT Direction in name only. OP thinks it's by court order but in actuality it's preventative.

It makes a lot of sense from their point of view. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140737)

The question is whether they have alternatives? If not, then a closed network is just like any other feature. An open internet access would be something viewed more favorably like an extra bathroom maybe. Plus, if it's only to get more money for commercial services---maybe people won't care.

That would suck (5, Insightful)

GreenK (33311) | about 5 months ago | (#47140747)

Do you do the same with the phone system or TV channels? Are commercial numbers or OTA channels (by way of shared antenna) blocked unless there is a kickback of profit? I'd be super pissed finding someone messing with internet, phone, or TV. I think we put up with legal requests if made by court order and for health of the network somewhat but not just for profit.

Seems like missing info here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140753)

"charge certain commercial entities for access to our residents." How? They get to track the residents? Insert ads into their sessions? Redirect traffic like you're implying?

Yep this does sound like a really bad idea. That board of yours needs some better ideas on how to leverage a captive audience.

Re:Seems like missing info here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140791)

I think they're just confused about the direction in which "access" occurs. What they mean is "charge websites so that residents can access them".

Uncompelling Market Size (5, Insightful)

CrankyFool (680025) | about 5 months ago | (#47140765)

Other people have already commented on the relatively horrifying moral considerations, and some have noted that college students will figure out other ways to get their access. There's one thing that I haven't seen addressed yet: The sites you really care about, the ones that are very very popular, simply don't care about a hostage population of 35,000 students. You see news of Netflix signing deals with Comcast, and some of your management people think they could get Netflix to give them some money as well ... well, they won't. And I can't imagine Chegg (or, HA, Amazon) doing so either. It A) doesn't materially benefit them; and B) starts a horrifying precedent that they'll negotiate with ANYONE.

Re:Uncompelling Market Size (5, Insightful)

west (39918) | about 5 months ago | (#47141051)

They're not going to extract money from the sites with millions of visitors. They *may* be able to extract money from sites whose entire revenue generating visitors are college students, like textbook stores.

I doubt 15,000 students is enough, but it could get very "interesting" if they offered to funnel any visits to a competing text book site to the highest bidder.

Certainly a maximum evil model. You make paying for Internet access mandatory (i.e. include it in rent), and see how far you can push the students before they consider it worth-while to pay *again* for Internet access. I'm going to guess pretty far.

Re:Uncompelling Market Size (2)

N1AK (864906) | about 5 months ago | (#47141087)

You'd also better be very clear that the internet use included in the rent isn't actually full internet access, and sites that the users are likely to want may be blocked. If I rented a property that advertised internet and then blocked things I wanted because the service wouldn't accept the extortion you can bet I'd be finding a lawyer and discussing with as many other students as possible going for a class action for misselling.

You likely do considerably better by doing a deal with providers to advertise to students for them (leaflets, posters, special deals etc) rather than doing this.

Re:Uncompelling Market Size (4, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | about 5 months ago | (#47141315)

They should make sure none of those students are studying law. It might make a great case for use in class. Suddenly there's a world class lawyer advising the residents.

Re:Uncompelling Market Size (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 5 months ago | (#47141121)

It depends on how big that 35,000 students is on their total market. For some sites (Netflix) it's nothing. For other, it may be a large portion.

Re:Uncompelling Market Size (3, Insightful)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 5 months ago | (#47141697)

You also have to keep in mind, there are probably a hundred similar rental companies in the same situation. They probably have an industry group, and can band together to offer a million captive college students across the nation. Now they have the size to get special attention.

"we provide network access as part of rent" (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140767)

If you provide network access as part of your rent, you provide network access as part of your rent, period.

You may consider deals with additional sites that are only accessible from dedicated networks, like some online publishers offering downloadable journals/papers at blanket rates for universities.

It is unlikely that any of those will pay you, however. It is rather additional value you can offer to your students. It's possible that you can advertise promotions for that kind of thing (like when they are made available for four weeks on your network) on a central network information site and get percentages either for the promotions or for subscriptions reached through them.

But blocking anything that is normally free: no go. You have to try monetizing the inverse.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (1)

GreenK (33311) | about 5 months ago | (#47140787)

One thing i remember from college dorms is that they had a special "movie channel". It wasn't an additional purchase it just came as an added service (i'm sure it increased the room cost). But basically it was a movie channel playing relatively recent movies. We weren't blocked on channel but there was an added benefit/cost. If they did something like that with the internet network then it might work. Don't block anything but if they get "special" access to "game servers", movie services (hulu/netflix) automatically by paying a raised rent or a discount from buying it normally then that would be a way to go that direction.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140809)

This. If you want to provide network access, do it. If you want to provide access to some intranet of yours, do it, but don't call it network access. Maybe the problem here is with definitions. Don't you have something over there defining what an ISP is and what it needs to provide? Where I live, what you are describing wouldn't qualify as internet access.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (1)

deniable (76198) | about 5 months ago | (#47140867)

Exactly. This is a technical solution to a marketing / admin issue. This should be handled by the suits, not at the network level. Probably some sort of group discount with the landlords / pimps getting a kick-back.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (2)

Radak (126696) | about 5 months ago | (#47140877)

If you provide network access as part of your rent, you provide network access as part of your rent, period.

It's not really that simple. My apartment provides water as part of my rent. If I start filling swimming pools, they're going to get upset. I realize this is more akin to data caps on internet access rather than net neutrality, but the point is that "providing network access" isn't completely cut and dry. If some service is provided with a property rental, and not billed separately by consumption, the renter does have some rights to restrict the use of said service, especially in cases where the tenant has other options to receive the same service himself, at his own expense.

However, blocking access to certain sites unless said sites pay up is akin to extortion, so I think it's a very bad idea. The points made by CrankyFool are exactly right. Big companies like Amazon and Netflix don't care if 35,000 people can't access them because of some apartment company's attempts at extortion. They will ignore the situation, accepting that those 35,000 people can't access them, and many of those 35,000 people will get pissed off at the property rental company and rebel in one way or another. It wouldn't be pretty, and in the end would only harm the property rental company, whose reputation would be damaged when they are painted by their own tenants as censors at the same time as those tenants circumvent or move.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (1)

Rutulian (171771) | about 5 months ago | (#47141203)

Since water is billed by consumption and Internet usually is not, that comparison is not really relevant.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (1)

Radak (126696) | about 5 months ago | (#47141283)

Except that in my example (which is my real life), water is not billed by consumption. My water comes with my rent, no matter how much I use. But I'm sure it's still "unlimited" just as "unlimited" net connections are. However, the leasing company doesn't tell me that I can use water to bathe, but not to make tea, so that's really where my comparison falls apart.

Regardless, the point was more about the renter of a property having some rights, even if unwise to exercise, to control the use of resources that are provided as an extra feature in a tenant's rent. In OP's situation, I think it would be unwise of the rental company to attempt to wield that power, but there's nothing legally to prevent them doing so.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (1)

Rutulian (171771) | about 5 months ago | (#47141455)

Water is not billed to you by consumption because in many places that is illegal. It is billed to your apartment complex ( ie property owner) by consumption, though. The Internet connection is almost certainly not. It is a flat rate to them and should be a flat rate to you as well.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (1)

Radak (126696) | about 5 months ago | (#47141493)

Okay, that is a valid point. I wasn't thinking one level higher about the difference.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 5 months ago | (#47141495)

They won't ignore it, because it sets a horrid precedent. A few letters to the school about the students' landlords deliberately interfering with access to the school's subject matter would be only the start of the legal and social issues. Even if it's not settled by lawsuit, it's the sort of quality of service issue that comes up at contract renewals and approvals for off-campus housing accreditation needed to allow direct rent payment from grants or student loans.

Re:"we provide network access as part of rent" (2)

tragedy (27079) | about 5 months ago | (#47141927)

The problem is, most US Universities have long histories of cynically abusing their students as captive markets for textbooks and other products and services. Most people in university administration have no problem with, for example, mandating which texbooks students must use based on which will earn the University bookstore, the publisher, etc. more money rather than which textbooks are actually better for learning.

I think it is a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140955)

The apartment rental company has probably already determined that
1) The cost of separate billing for different internet options is too high to be worth doing
2) Most prospective renters don't really care about internet faster than 1 megabit/second.

In that case, I think prioritization, and/or blocking web sites is a good idea. Prospective renters that care, WILL ask about the internet connection before signing a contract. BE SURE TO ANSWER THAT INTERNET IS MEDIOCRE, because those people are not your target market, and you do not want them as renters.

Just "explore" the possibility? (5, Insightful)

Entrope (68843) | about 5 months ago | (#47140797)

You hopefully have some idea of the internal politics about the request -- whether this is something that a majority of the directors strongly wants to do, whether they are just curious, or whether they are leaning towards the idea but could be swayed. Take advantage of that in your response! Be respectful of their intentions, and don't go out of your way to antagonize either supporters or opponents of the idea, but you can either influence the decision or at least register your concerns.

If you are opposed to the idea (would you ask Slashdot otherwise?), point out the technical and legal considerations in carrying it out. Explain the extent of technical methods to prevent tech-savvy young students from using VPNs and other proxies to access the blocked sites. If this means you need to upgrade your network infrastructure with newer or beefier routers, put a dollar figure on that. Find polls of how consumers view this kind of network filtering, with bonus points if the polls focus on or break out your renters' demographic group, and point out the risk to revenue. If you don't know the regulatory risks and potential tort claims in detail, outline them at a high level and recommend that the company retain legal counsel to advise on those things.

Because you're the IT guy, they probably view you as a subject matter expert, and you can use that authority to guide their thinking. Just keep in mind the audience for your report, and respond in a way that shows respect for both their level(s) of technical background and their business objectives.

Truth In Advertising (1)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | about 5 months ago | (#47140811)

You could do this completely dick move, but be sure never to describe what you are offering as internet service, nor be deceptive when advertising so as to make tenants think you are providing internet service. It would be akin to advertising free cable when the only channels on that "cable" are CCTV of your board of directors masturbating over the idea of "mad profitz".

Net Neutrality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140819)

This is precisely what the big carriers are trying to do.

They should expect multiple lawsuits, which they will lose.

They may wish to consult an attorney who's admitted to Federal District Court with expertise in FCC law.

Or, you can just sit back and watch the fireworks.

You have a boss (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140821)

You have been asked to "explore" the possibility. Bluntly put, they are asking your expert opinion. And that should include the following:

1. Technical challenges: do you need to buy new routers/software? How can you implement billing?

2. Costs: What additional tech support will be required. You would be derelict in your duty if you don't at least estimate how many phone calls at 20 minutes each at $xxx/hour must be answered.

3. Tenant response (if any). Would people move out? Would there be a lawsuit (even if you win, lawsuits are expensive...)

I suggest that you do your job and explore this carefully and honestly. Slashdot is the first step in a brutal assignment (I don't think #1 is trivial). You are a professional...they don't pay you for a political opinion and they need some real technical insight.

Once you have the entire picture, review it with some board members one on one.

I bet there is an internal fight in the boardroom and you may find a few people praying you will come back and say: "It will cost $35 million dollars a year, we will face civil litigation for the next five years, and lose 10% of our long term tenants." Of course, if the board figures they will make $350 million a year you will be setting up the network.

Re:You have a boss (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 5 months ago | (#47141065)

You are a professional...they don't pay you for a political opinion and they need some real technical insight.

First, "just do your job" counts as a piss-poor attitude. If you work as a minimum wage burger flipper, yeah, your employer has no expectation of you to actually think for yourself. If you work as a highly educated IT professional, your employer expects you to understand the current events in your profession, and have an informed opinion on the same.

That said, although Washington has done its best to make net neutrality into a political issue, it really doesn't have anything to do with politics. It has to do with routing around damage. Net Neutrality means nothing more and nothing less than letting the internet function properly. Violating that at the behest of the highest bidder breaks the proper functioning of the internet. Simple as that.

The FP author's problem comes entirely from how to explain the above to clueless PHBs who see nothing but dollar signs. And perhaps they do have a clue, and really want to know the downside to what superficially looks like a good idea.

So the right answer to your question, as others have said - Get them their numbers. Keep the tone factual. And take heart, you get to insert your expert opinions in the selection of appropriate hardware and in raising peripheral issues such as liability for not actually delivering what your renters pay for. Perhaps more than anyone else, you have the power to make this sound like a simple set of QOS rules, or a massive (and correspondingly expensive infrastructure upgrade).

Re:You have a boss (1)

Cantankerous Cur (3435207) | about 5 months ago | (#47141205)

Mod parent up

I agree wholeheartedly that this is how you should approach it. I'd put special emphasis on that lawsuit aspect because this throws up all sorts of red flags. At best, it's legal grey area.

Personally, I'd tell them to give their tenants a 10% coupon and call it a day. Or heck, nothing (save technical know how) stops them from having a daily registration page (or redirect their initial page) to get onto the internet with some advertising on it. It's still a dirtbag move, but it deeply decreases the possibility of lawsuits.

More with #3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141373)

Many folks see 15,000 and think they'll get a high proportion of subscribers.

When every college kid these days has a smart phone with 3G internet access, free wifi at every business around them and at school, there would be absolutely no reason for the kids to pay their apartment complex for network access.

The exceptions would be the kids who do a lot of gaming and streaming of TV shows. And if they are subscribing to cable, they should already have internet access.

There are 15,000 apartments across America. So, each complex will have to have their own infrastructure - overhead.

Then there needs to be support - more overhead. There will have to be at least one network guy or outsourced company to handle it.

tl;dr: Just quickly doing the numbers in my head and using a very optimistic subscription rate of 10% (1,500 apartments across America subscribe), I see this losing money; let alone making anything.

The break even point will have to be figured. A test complex somewhere would help in getting an idea of the subscription rates.

And as far as local businesses are concerned, it wouldn't be worth it. We all have been burned by Yellow Pages and other companies giving us pie in the sky promises about how advertising with them will "boost business".

15,000 apartments is is nothing to national businesses. They want to hit millions or at least hundreds of thousands of kids and Google and others are much more effective at that.

If you don't block Bittorrent, no point (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 5 months ago | (#47140823)

> Specifically, they are interested in targeting commercial providers of services directed at college students, such as textbook rental firms, online booksellers, and so on. With approximately 35,000 residents,

All of these provide relatively static content, not streaming content. Low bandwidth will simply not affect their business models, especially since the big bandwidth users are the streaming services, gaming, and Bittorrent in most of your resident's homes, If you've the expertise and equipment to even consider this kind of throttling, you should have some network monitors already in place to verify this claim, or you should be able to justify getting a loan of a network traffic monitor for just such analysis. And given the overwhelming bandwidth use of such high bandwidth applications, the relatively low bandwidth needs of textbooks and other critical student specific services won't even notice the loss of quality service unless you effectively block them.

If you block them entirely, the book publishers can call the FCC and contact the schools and their clients, and they _will_ get upset with you. They can also contact your upstream ISP, who will be very unhappy with you muscling into their bandwidth throttling "turf".

What happen? (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | about 5 months ago | (#47140863)

Someone set up us the block!

Screen on.

Hello, gentleman.

All your site belong to us.

You have no chance.

Make your deal . . .

Pre-Law (2)

James-NSC (1414763) | about 5 months ago | (#47140827)

Hopefully they'll have plenty of pre-law students filing law suits on 1a grounds, unfair competition and whatever else they can think of as at will be A) good practice for them and, more importantly, B) costly for the property company.

Great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140829)

Fuck those customers. Not like they can go anywhere else.

More money, and i'm not the bitchboy that has to answer the phone.

Win win all around. Bonuses for everyone but the dipshit taking the complaints!

Students (2)

mfh (56) | about 5 months ago | (#47140833)

There are so many reasons that colleges and universities should step way back from network monitoring but the best one I can think of to sell it to your school, is one of limiting liability. If the school is monitoring all network traffic and tying it to students, then they are totally responsible for any safety incidents that occur from a preventative standpoint. Legally speaking a victim of any crime could then sue the school if they failed to prevent anything. As it stands now a school is responsible for anything that happens on their grounds but they can't really be sued directly for something like Columbine, that I am aware of. If the network monitoring goes live and there are manifestos posted through the school internet that go unnoticed, then the school is going to be hit with massive lawsuits down the road... plus the expense of having to monitor that information.

Because from my perspective, paying an ISP to run traffic back and forth is CHEAP. Monitoring a network is VERY EXPENSIVE.

What's the payoff for schools? You might think it's some sinister reason, but I can assure you this is some very angry person in the IT dept or somewhere in the school who merely enjoys feeling powerful so they are pushing this kind of authoritarian agenda just to flex their muscles. There is not one shred of financial reasoning to take on all that insurance risk... and God forbid the insurance people find a loophole if shit goes down on the campus or even off campus.

Then you have your would-be novelists. Imagine what Tom Clancy's internet history looks like.

tl:dr; schools that follow any student's browsing habits become responsible for whatever that student does or APPEARS to do

Re:Students (1)

Pop69 (700500) | about 5 months ago | (#47141199)

Tom Clancy has a blank internet history at the moment, what with him being dead and all....

Legal consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140861)

You provide network access. If you restrict it in anyway you should be able to be sued at the very least for false advertising.

Easy to get around. (1)

pcjunky (517872) | about 5 months ago | (#47140879)

Not a large amount of bandwidth involved. If I am a student there all I will do is activate the MyFi on my phone. Why breach a firewall when you can step around it?

Wow. Classic rent-seeking behavior... (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 5 months ago | (#47140881)

Which I guess under the circumstances is pretty predictable.

I guess where I'd start is with the facts. I'd build a model for how much it would cost, additional staff needed, how much it would bring in, support (and under the circumstances enforcement) costs, what competitors the users could turn to, what the content providers would be willing to pay (if anything) etc. I wouldn't do the new business idea any favors; I'd be objective and hard-nosed about it as possible. If the new service selling your residents to content providers isn't going to be profitable, then the whole idea goes no farther.

It's a safe bet that the business wouldn't be as profitable as the directors think, simply because it's usually a lot harder to make money in an unfamiliar business than you hoped it would be. It's easy enough in the abstract to believe the new idea will be like printing money, but in fact you're still trying to get people to part with their money, which is going to cost you *your* money. And you think, "Gee we got 15,000 customers, we can charge content providers a pretty penny for access." But is 15000 so large a potential customer base that content providers will adjust to a new way of doing business just for *you*? The big guys like Apple and Netflix and Amazon will probably just laugh at you and leave you twisting slowly, slowly in the wind rather than pay you a dime and invite every two-bit Internet baron to shake them down too. So maybe contact some of the big guys and just ask them how much they'd be willing to pay up and what kinds of services they'd expect in return. Those services are important!!! It's usually the unanticipated support costs that kill gold-egg-laying IT geese.

As for the small guys, well, they probably don't have much money to cough up. But it'd still be worth contacting some local business that needs access to your 15000 customers and taking them for a test shakedown, just to show you were a good soldier and looked in the sofa cushions for loose change. That kind of pathetic detail often drives home the futility of a hare-brained scheme. People when they come up with a brainstorm like this imagine piles of money-for-nuthin rolling in, so a bit of a reality check is healthy.

In other words, I would start with due diligence before you contemplate waving the bloody shirt. If, against all expectation, the idea proves to be promising, well I'd discreetly get an idea how your existing customers will react to having some of the Internet sites they need throttled. Remember, you're dealing with the dream of money-for-nuthin. Your job, your responsibility to your employers is to show them what it will really cost them in money, headaches and reputation.

Re:Wow. Classic rent-seeking behavior... (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 5 months ago | (#47141163)

But it'd still be worth contacting some local business that needs access to your 15000 customers and taking them for a test shakedown, just to show you were a good soldier and looked in the sofa cushions for loose change.

Part of the problem you face there, is that the summary mentions "college towns across America". So if you're dealing with a business to whom these 15,000 are important, you're talking about a national business, and unless it's highly specialised it'll be too big to care about you.

On the other hand, any local business is local (and "local" I read as "operating in one town or less"), which means any local business would target no more than a fraction of the 15,000: the faction that happens to live in that town.

that's not "rent seeking" (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 5 months ago | (#47141659)

In economics (see public choice theory), rent-seeking is spending wealth on political lobbying to increase one's share of existing wealth without creating wealth. []

Stop using economic terms you don't understand. This is a business decision in a competitive market. It's probably a lousy business decision that will anger customers and lead to loss of revenue, but it's still just a business decision. If you don't like it, don't do business with them, nobody is forcing you.

Re:that's not "rent seeking" (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 5 months ago | (#47141759)

Another option: Lobby for regulation to make this kind of move against the communications utility illegal.

Re:that's not "rent seeking" (1)

hey! (33014) | about 5 months ago | (#47141763)

You mean stop disagreeing with Wikipedia.

Re:that's not "rent seeking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141879)

No, I mean: stop being an idiot.

"Rent-seeking" has a well-defined meaning in economics. Wikipedia happens to explain to you what that is. If you don't like Wikipedia, open up any textbook on economics.

Geez, the flat-earthers are out in force again today, aren't they.

Questions, suggestions... (1)

jbroom (263580) | about 5 months ago | (#47140919)

Could you clarify a little what is currently happening? Based on some of the comments it seems that everyone has a different idea of what is CURRENTLY going on:
-The take I have is that you're saying that for now you've just been asked to EXPLORE POSSIBILITIES (ie, it's free unfestered access for now).
-I'm also a little confused regarding the court order blockages at the request of various copyright holders. Can you give examples of what is being done, how, why, when...? (refrain from giving names to protect the guil^H^H^H^Hinnocent copyright holders for fear of backlash).
-You indicate aprox 15k apartments across America. How are you giving access? Are these large residential complexes with a centralized large "pipe" to the 'net at each location and you have some sort of equivalent to a corporate campus-type distribution network? Do you have regular residential-grade ADSL modem things and they are individual apartments? A mixture of each? Can you give some insight?

As for the "lets charge the commercial service providers to access our network", it's very much the same argument that the larger ISPs want to use to justify elimination of net-neutrality, and giving better/speedier access to those providers that pay. From a PERSONAL view, I can't see why an ISP shouldn't have the RIGHT to decide which services it throttles or which it prioritizes, however I DO see it as an opportunity for ISP's to differentiate themselves from others "hey, come to us, we will make sure you have equal access to everything as opposed to ISP-non-neutral which makes it succky-slow for you to access google-youtube".
Those ISP's wanting to throttle/speed up depending who pays them more are (in my view) shooting themselves in the foot if they actually do it. It would only really work if they ALL do it, but if it's ALL of them, then they could be collectively accused of collusion or market-fixing...

Even if your management "says" that they are trying to get some money for it because they are providing it for free, they currently are NOT. If they are charging a fixed price which includes rent, taxes, water, electricity, laundry-room facilities, pool, library, parking-lot etc.... then the rent is paying for the total of all of those services. Internet access is a small part of that, but it IS a part. Management should figure out what their cost is and factor that into their calculations. Trying to sell access to your students for internet service providers wouldn't get big bucks in any case... You may get a bigger chunk trying to sell (for junk snail-mail advertising) the whole list/address of students updated on a regular basis (more bang for your buck!) than actually having to implement the limitations that you seem to imply (hard to do a complete BLOCKAGE of places like amazon -as you say- without suffering severe backlash, and clients either getting alternative providers, or converting your service in irrelevant).

Extortion laws!! (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 5 months ago | (#47140933)

A landlord can't say to UPS nice packages. It would be a shame if something happened to them before the tenants got em. Come let's talk? My uncle has a special insurance program to prevent accidents like this from happening.

That is extortion and interference with interstate commerce. Who the hell does Netflix have for their lawyers. ... Now for the poster mention liability costs. Netflix and the textbook companies won't take this standing down!

Re:Extortion laws!! (2)

Rutulian (171771) | about 5 months ago | (#47141249)

Net neutrality concerns aside, unless this is a very unusual apartment complex, they are not an ISP!!! They contract to an ISP to provide Internet access to their tenants. Sure, they control the routers and and do some basic filtering, but they aren't really in a position to dictate peering terms and such.

35,000 across multiple college towns is very large? Maybe relative to other apartment complex owners, but relative to the total student population they are nothing.

Stupid idea done stupidly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47140961)

I guess big entertainment is going to get their wish: A balkanized internet, with paywalls everywhere starting right at the premises. This isn't smart, but then neither is big entertainment. Arrogant, greedy, despicable, yes. Great creators of value, not so much. They're making money despite their stupidity, not because they're so SMRT. I really do wish courts (and politicians) were smarter than to allow corporates to censor citizens, certainly not wholesale.

Personally I'd say this approach is highly abusive of your position as ISP. The only thing you could meaningfully do here, without opening cans of worms I'm amazed anyone would want to ever open that is, is to split out the "last mile" and the service part.

Companies such as packet front* produce kit that lets you do just that: Your tenants get ethernet delivered, but that's not internet service; for that they need to pay some ISP. The hardware allows multiple ISPs to use your infrastructure to serve their customers.

You could then set up an ISP that provides butchered service, like a facebook-and-twitter-only-special, or something comparably assassine. This is apparently the future for "developing countries". People who gush about it seem particularly hateful --cleverly disguised as samaritan-- toward the people who have no other choice.

The foremost problem is the captivity. You do care about that because it diminishes the value of your appartments, even if you spout "9x.y% of the people only want $foo (and nothing else)" and like nonsense.

Personally I'd get the split infrastructure, then do a deal with internet2 and connected universities to give enrolled students high quality high speed research networking access yet allow non-elegible tenants to pay for some other (fully fledged and on the cheap, thank you) service instead.

You only do the last mile maintenance, don't have to play ISP, don't get stuck for transit costs, and perhaps get some dosh from ISPs for allowing them to offer service on your infrastructure. But really, the dosh is optional; the high-quality access itself already adds value to the appartments and thus increases the quality of your tenants, lowering costs, and all that. In fact, a adding a concurrently-accessible local-only network would be a great vehicle for community building.

If you think about it a bit, it's a good example of how $-signs stuck in your eyes can easily cause you to earn less in the long term. You should be in it for the tenants, not for the profit maximisation**.

* That declined to hire me, natch. In fact wouldn't even talk to me at all. Luckily there are more companies that make comparable machinery.
** Which is a bad idea anyway, see the works of the late big name management writer Peter Drucker.

Charge them ... (4, Insightful)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about 5 months ago | (#47140993)

... and they will flee. If those who provide services are charged more, they will pass those costs to the students. If the students are forced to pay more, they'll do their online ordering on free wifi at the coffee shop, (and look for a cheaper place to live). By providing network access, you are providing a useful service that enhances the appeal of you rentals. Diminish the quality or value of that service, and you diminish the value of your rental.

Not internet access (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 5 months ago | (#47141041)

I suppose this restriction will be mentioned in the rent contact, right? Because I would not count this sort of service as "internet" access and I would have to go to another ISP for the real thing, provided that it's not against the terms and conditions of the rent contract, in which case I would look for another apartment. It better be an otherwise kick ass apartment in order to persuade ageek to live there, unless your target group is something else.

Re:Not internet access (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141113)

Id be mad as hell if I was paying for filtered internet as part of a rental agreement.

You work for terrible people.

You need lots of expensive new equipment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141089)

Do some research and come up with a very long and/or expensive shopping list of equipment that needs to be bought.

Heck, it might cost $1million or double that in new equipment.

Give that to the PHBs and see if they think that they can get a return on it.

How? (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 5 months ago | (#47141099)

How exactly do you plan on doing this? Would you block access by default and only allow a whitelist of sites that have paid your ransom to allow access? Or would you only block sites that you've targeted as "sites that we want to pay us" and then only unblock them when they've paid? And what technical methods would you use for blocking?

How would you select which companies you'd like to pay you, and how would you approach them? Like would you block Amazon? And if so, is your plan to just email their customer service and say, "Yo, we want you to pay us to allow access for 35k students!" Because you'd need contacts within the company to hope to broker a deal. Who's going to negotiate the deal? And I'll tell you what, it'll be a tough negotiation because, even assuming you have enough prospective consumers to get their attention, you'd be asking them to set a very dangerous precedent. Smaller companies might be stupid enough and short-sighted enough to make that kind of agreement, but they're not going to have enough money to make the whole venture worthwhile.

And now, lets assume that you've created an appropriate system and signed a deal with the businesses you're interested in. Who are you going to get to monitor and maintain this system? That's going to cost money too. Add up the money you're going to pay out to create this system, to broker the deals, to monitor/maintain/enforce the system. Is that amount of money substantially less than the money you're making from all this?

Putting aside questions of whether it's moral or appropriate, I just don't see how you would pull it off.

You're a director? Take the accountants route (1)

realxmp (518717) | about 5 months ago | (#47141103)

Given that your job is to protect the company from making loss as much as help it make profit, you can quite safely say no. For starters it's a legal quagmire because it's tied into rent, this gets a multiplier if you are a multi state operation, I imagine getting a legal opinion in every state you operate is going to cost you. Plus the time to maintain it, and that added service desk calls. Add to that how much it would cost to successfully defend at least one class action lawsuit by an ambitious college legal clinic and subtract the profit from the (small scale) contracts. You will most likely get a negative number. There's also likely to be a hit to your tenants goodwill, that's hard to put a price on but also financially important, unhappy tenants leave apartments in worse states when they leave.

Yes, a completely dick move but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141135)

Your gut tells you what a giant bad move this is. And like it's been said earlier your tenants that figure this out will quickly bring their own access.

The real question is how to present this to a bunch of executives without using the term "dick move." I regularly present to IT folks and executives and it wouldn't be hard to throw a big bucket of water on this. I'd imagine a short presentation that leads with "You can do this but your shouldn't."

The technical part of the presentation is easy enough Explain in simple terms that just limiting the internet access given to the apartments won't work since internet access through smart phones, iPads and other devices is so common. So is leaching (drive-by access to open ports) and free access at places like Starbucks, Paneara, etc. Use the word "porous." It might help to use an example like how people regularly circumvent various national efforts to do this (e.g. Great Firewall of China, Iran, Syria, etc.).

Second, and most important, it should be explained how doing this will damage their reputation and lead to decreasing occupancy rates. Sure, this may work for one semester but social media -- everything from Facebook to Yelp to Twitter -- will rapidly warn potential tenants that they'd be renting from a dictatorship. A short description of the Streisand Effect may help. And end with the "While this is technically possible..." section with inflated costs and also the costs of what would mean fighting an ongoing war with clever students with more time than money. But the bottom line should be that while it may be possible that it would be bad businss. It would decease their occupancy rate, damage their reputation on social media and cost them money to engage with a smart enemy (of their making) with an effective technical community dedicated to circumventing this restriction.

Of course, it would be paramount to know why this asinine idea came up in the first place. Are the booksellers paying them to do this? Is Amazon? If so that may be collusion and if you can accurately document this (please ask to see emails and/or potential legal agreements) you could make money as a whistleblower. Just a thought.

PHB thinking at its finest (1)

sk999 (846068) | about 5 months ago | (#47141139)

The BOD must think it is comparable to selling lists of phone numbers to telemarketers, but the internet doesn't work that way. The total college student population in the US is of order 20 million - how are they going to get companies to pay attention to a diddly-squat ISP that wants to control access to 35,000 - 0.2% of the potential market?

Sounds complex and expensive just to implement (1)

swb (14022) | about 5 months ago | (#47141197)

Let's assume you could get $10 per resident in payments from your "customers" -- that's $350,000k per year.

Is that even enough to pay for the networking gear and integration necessary to implement your filtering? Management/monitoring/configuration?

It seems like making it worthwhile would require $100 per resident, and I don't see how large vendors (Netflix) would ever pay that much for a relatively small population, and it's too much for niche sites for whom your residents are a larger portion of their customer base.

It would be one thing if it was a single site, but you're talking multiple sites all over the country. That's a lot of BS for the return on your investment.

Re:Sounds complex and expensive just to implement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141509)

this is to block off book stores (amazon) in favor of a likely higher priced alternative?

The average student buys books usually spread across only a few points of the year, when they may or not be at home on mom and dad's internet. So any business that wants to 'invest' in this ~35k customer base, which has to compete on razor thin margins would likely have a serious concern on the ROI

An average of $488 was spent on new and used course materials (textbooks). The average price of a new textbook was $57 and a used one was $49.
The NACS foundation estimates that 4.5% of a text book is net profit.

So assuming that the Entire customer base purchases, and none of them were previous customers
gross sales : 17MM
gross profit is $768,600.

Thats the most profit they could make, with that big assumption. The reality would likely be a lot less.
They would also have their own system costs as well to scale up or out to handle the traffic they have stolen, and after all that then they would pay your company??

there doesnt seem to be much of a case to charge a high premium for this traffic, even a dollar a year is probably high. I hope $35k a year is enough to offset publicity/legal/helpdesk/and any other costs to operations, but i doubt it.

Worst idea ever (4, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | about 5 months ago | (#47141229)

Look at what you're meant to be providing: The access to the internet that they've already paid for, yet you're blocking sites that people would normally get with other ISPs, and so could reasonably expect access to with yours.

If you go ahead with this, you need to split the internet out of the rent, and specify in your contract up-front that you're blocking exactly those services that sudents are most likely to need. If you don't you're at least morally and also probably legally in the wrong to even advertise it as "internet access included"

Look at who you are targetting. Students. Exactly the group most likely to:
a: Need full value for money.
b: Be filled with (justified) righteous indignation and protest most vocally in a unified way.
c: Find a way around it (e.g. use coffeeshop internet instead, or more likely find some way to hack it, eg. its acutally simple to find/use a proxy). The fact that thats exactly what people in countries with oppressive governments have to do will be used to make your comapny look like psycopathic idiots.
d: Fire off a lawsuit driven by legal students (i.e. start a legal war of attrition that not only doesn't cost them anything to fight, they might even get course credits for)
e: Complain en masse to the universities, who will in turn come down on your company and directly cost you future business.

What do I think? (4, Insightful)

RJFerret (1279530) | about 5 months ago | (#47141253)

I think extortion is extortion.

As a landlord, there are other considerations too, depending if your tenants have the option to not pay for your "lack-of-service", or reduce the rent by the amount alternatives cost them, how it is described to them, and the laws of the individual state, it might even negate their legal requirement to pay full rent.

Landlords aren't often permitted to prevent tenants from obtaining services. Courts don't tend to favor entities trying to obstruct students' abilities to obtain learning resources.

Great Idea! (2)

drew30319 (828970) | about 5 months ago | (#47141323)

This is fantastic!

(1) implement the Board of Director's idea as-is;

(2) encourage the Board (and anybody else who supports the idea) that they need to really market the hell out of it;

(3) at the same time create a series of spurious emails to the project backers telling them what a terrible idea the project is;

(4) stay home and watch the news the day that the system goes live;

(5) watch as the villagers storm the company castle and the board of directors (and associated greedy imbeciles) are summarily tossed out on their pointy heads;

(6) return to a company which is now free of these fools;

(7) profit!

Re:Great Idea! (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 5 months ago | (#47141355)

(6) return to a company which is now free of these fools;

Replaced by a new batch of equivalent fools.

        This is why nerds almost always end up living in mom's basement.

15,000 is a large class waiting to sue (4, Insightful)

gavron (1300111) | about 5 months ago | (#47141379)

It's a clever idea (like Comcast wanting Netflix to pay them for what Comcast's own customers pay them already).

Right now you have 15,000 paying customers. They are almost "captive" in the sense that they get Internet service without having to put any effort into it, so they will continue to be customers so long as you treat them fairly.

Your customers pay you to give them access to the whole Internet. If you remove parts of the net until someone else double-pays you for that same service, you'll find yourself on the wrong side of a Judge certifying a class-action suit against you for lots of fun things like breach of contract, tortious interference, and possibly material misrepresentation (not fraud - fraud isn't covered by E&I insurance).

Your safe bet if you wanted to do something this stupid is to give your 15,000 customers FREE Internet with the caveat that some sites may not be reachable unless the other side pays for it. This would be legal, but it won't be financially profitable.

So you can either retain a sustainable model where you're not getting sued, not extorting third parties, and making money, OR you can extort third parties and likely get sued OR you can move to a financially non-sustainable model.

As an IT director I guess your job is to figure out how to implement what the Directors wants. As anyone with half a brain I would recommend they make the selection from the choices above before spending a minute researching firewalls and private-dickhead-networks.


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All costs, no benefits (1)

sjames (1099) | about 5 months ago | (#47141453)

If you do that to law students, you'll end up with a bunch of people fascinated by the law, advised by a world class lawyer (one of their professors) suing for the experience.

If you do it to technical students, they'll set up a proxy in one of the computer labs.

If you do it to party students, they'll seal a nice cake into one of the walls as revenge when they leave, then they'll borrow the techies proxy.

The booksellers won't even talk to you. They know the students will get around it.

Good Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141491)

At best you will be an annoyance, an invonvenience. Every college student already has numerous alternatives (Cellular Data Plan, Campus Wi-Fi, Local Coffee Shop, Friends, VPN). All you need is one college student to implement a workaround and that solution will quickly spread. And, any premium your free internet access adds to your rental units could be at jeopardy. May be more trouble thatn its worth.

Start looking for another job? (1)

rduke15 (721841) | about 5 months ago | (#47141557)

You could waste many hours calculating how much it would cost (equipment, maintenance, support calls, unsatisfied customers, risk of legal actions, etc.). After spending a lot of time on this, you could most probably demonstrate it's a bad business idea.

But why bother? I'm sure you have more interesting things to do than writing a memo to explain in detail why a stupid idea is stupid.

It is also pretty obviously a bad idea from an "ethical" point of view. You don't have to spend hours doing boring research to explain that. You can just explain it.

Maybe most of the board will understand it straight away (if they didn't already when one of them suggested it). If not, then you don't want to work for these people.

So after explaining to them why you think it is a bad idea, just say you will not help implement it because you feel it's not ethically acceptable. If most of the board people are smart, they will appreciate your clear point of view. If not, they will show you the door, and you will be grateful for being forced to leave these idiots.

Could it be that a single idiot on the board came up with the idea, and that the rest of the board didn't want to discuss it and just asked you to "write a memo" to get rid of the subject?

SPAMing looked like a (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141585)

SPAMing looked like a good idea too. Back in the 90s I saw a lot of people jumping on the SPAM bandwagon. "It costs nothing and delivers our message to so many people." Yet SPAM was instantly widely despised and utterly hated. Anyone using it commercially rapidly discovered it was NEGATIVE ADVERTISING. Rather than adding business, it cost business.

You are about to make the same mistake. No one will want to live in your rentals after you do. Even 10 or 20 years down the line folks will still remember what you tried to do, and avoid renting from you. Hell, folks still avoid TurboTax due to their "copy protection" that overwrote LILO and prevented computers from booting back in the day, and how many years has Intuit been apologizing for that now?

On the technical side of things, Netflix and Youtube make up half of all internet traffic, and it's somewhat real-time. Is there anyone who's making up half of your customers internet traffic, and who can't deal with overnight downloading? I didn't think so.

Is this question serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141693)

I don't know what is worse, your company's idea or the fact you thought asking Slashdot would be a good course of action. Are you going to go back to your bosses and say "Well, I don't like this, and Slashdot doesn't. so..."?

I don't get what you're expecting to receive here, adulation for being some kind of whistle-blower? How about taking a stand, and quitting your obviously horrible job and THEN posting here? Because anything other than that means you're just going to do it anyway, which makes me lack any respect for you at all.

Galaxy of WRONG here (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 5 months ago | (#47141755)

If you actually block legit sites unless those sites pay you for access.

1 they will go off campus for access when they need it
2 if any of those schools are or have a brother/sister college that "does law" they will spin up a Class Action Lawsuit in DAYS

In short if you like what a chicken looks like after being sucked into the engines of a C-5 then go ahead and BE THE CHICKEN!!

Safer would be to make sure than "friendly sites" are always fast.

Student can and will use VPN if available (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47141851)

Don't most colleges and universities provide VPN access to their students?

You lose this war... (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 5 months ago | (#47141871)

... you have 15,000 students, and you're hoping to give them access to just some of the internet, in the hopes that they'll buy textbooks from whatever shitty overpriced group you've cut a deal with instead of Amazon?

Students have:

1) time
2) idealism
3) skills

and the combination of those three, if you piss them off, will rip you a new one. The techies will set up proxies to get around your bullshit (and they will succeed), the law students will sue you, and the business majors will set up a "white market" (not black at all!) reselling books to their peers for a small profit.

This is the same post everyone else is writing, because this is one of the few times that Slashdot's all saying the same thing: this is a fucking bad idea.

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