This week, on “Capitalism,” technicians are forced by employment contract to not educate customers.

I just wrote this really long comment elsewhere and after I posted it realized it might actually be useful to many folks here if they are struggling to make ends meet or to pay bills. So, here ya go. May your dependence on capitalism decrease as your experiences increase.

(Context for this is that a lot of people pay cable companies for “bundles” or “packages” or “upgrades” that, on their face, sound like a good deal, but are actually not. Here’s why.)

In most places I’ve been, it’s actually cheaper not to bundle TV with Internet service because the Internet service you get with bundled TV is actually unusable, so the upsell is literally worse than useless.

For instance, a friend of mine was telling me about the recent Time Warner Cable/Spectrum strike in NYC, and from what I hear part of the sticking point is that Time Warner sells this “300Mbps upgrade” for about $40 a month. This is slightly cheaper with a bundled TV package, but not drastically.

What this actually means, for anyone who doesn’t know the technical details of this, is that Time Warner will let you download files at about 300 million bits per second (Mbps), which is something like 37 megabytes per second. So, if you were downloading a file that was 37 megabytes (maybe the PDF of a textbook or something), you would be able to get it on your computer in about 1 second.

The kicker, though, is that most houses which purchase this “upgrade” are connected to the modem using a 100BASE-T Ethernet cable, which has a theoretical maximum speed of only 100Mbps. So this means, even if you’re paying for a 300Mbps “upgrade,” there is still a bottleneck that is only one-third the capacity and no amount of service plan changes will fix it, because the problem is the physical cabling installed in the apartment complex or in the house. You could buy a “fastest Internet in the whole world” package deal and still only get 100Mbps top speeds.

On top of that, most people don’t even use cabling. They use Wi-Fi. And the most ubiquitous form of Wi-Fi is called 802.11g, whose maximum theoretical speed is 54Mbps, or 54 million bits per second. In other words, a quarter of the speed of the super popular “upgrade” package sold by Time Warner. However, unlike physical cable, Wi-Fi is (wireless) radio, which means things like microwaves and other household appliances interfere, further reducing that 54Mbps theoretical maximum. Most of the time, a typical home Wi-Fi setup in a city will see Wi-Fi speeds slow to 34 or even 24Mbps at most.

That’s bad enough, but why the strike? Well, Time Warner contracts with technicians who, of course, know all this stuff. They apparently get called out on so many support calls from customers who want to know “why the Wi-Fi isn’t working well” and there’s literally nothing they can do to improve the situation, because Wi-Fi can’t, by DESIGN function at the speeds Time Warner is selling. But the real kicker is that, according to their contract, the technician is not allowed to tell the customer that this is what’s happening, because anyone in their right mind who understands how this works would immediately cancel their package subscription with the upgrade charges and so on, since it is physically impossible for them to make any use of it. There is no benefit to ever buying it, unless you rewire your building.

And yet people do buy it. Why? Because it’s a “package” deal, it’s sold and marketed as “better! faster! stronger!” and even then, when a customer has “trouble” with something about “the Internet,” the Time Warner Cable/Spectrum support personnel on the phone and whatnot encourage the upsell.

It’s 21st century snake oil.

Anyway, my point is, if you take a closer look at the Internet Service Provider plans in your area with someone who knows what they’re doing (not saying that you don’t know what you’re doing, I’m just writing this for readers and passers-by), it’s very often possible to get identical Internet service for close to half of the price that most people pay for it. I’ve helped some people evaluate this for their households during my travels, and each time, after several months, the answer to “Have you noticed a difference in service or speeds?” is “No.”

And of course that’s the answer. Because that’s how physics works.