The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that cable giant Comcast may legally slow down Internet transmissions to and from the BitTorrent, Inc. file-sharing Website. The decision is technically limited to D.C., but cable companies and ISP’s will be ramping up delays for bandwidth hogs on the one hand, and raising fees for speedier throughput on the other. Cable companies had multi tiered pricing already; the new twist is court-sanctioned intentional slowing of data streams. This appears to be the demise of the Federal Communications Commission’s intended enforcement of “network neutrality”.

             Revenue enhancements like smaller packaging, congestion pricing and the unbundling of services have really taken off in the recession. Businesses are keen on increasing profits without adding staff or infrastructure. Economists call this the theory of revealed preference.

             Most airlines have baggage fees; and courts frequently charge by the pleading. AT&T and competitors have begun offering an item called a femtocell, essentially a cell phone tower on your desk. Recently, this blog described how Privia Health, LLC markets faster access to doctors for a monthly stipend. I love how some businesses (not necessarily the ones mentioned here) command a premium for a level of attention that customers believed they were entitled to already. 

             When the New York City Civil Court catches up to congestion docketing, watch out! Civil litigants may face “scheduling” fees scaled according to how quickly a party wants to be in the courtroom and for how long.