The Internet Gas Gauge

Mari Silbey —  June 3, 2008 — 12 Comments

Now that Time Warner Cable is testing a bill-by-the-byte approach for Internet access, it’d be nice to have a simple way to measure individual Internet use. We’re taught to track the upload and download speeds provided by ISPs, but exact measurements there are hardly necessary. If my downloads are moving more slowly than usual, I know without testing that I’m not reaching my promised 6-Mbps mark.

On the other hand, I don’t want to guesstimate how much I’ve downloaded in a month if I’m going to be billed a dollar every gigabyte I exceed my limit by, particularly because I’m not the only one in my household using the Internet connection.

Time Warner is apparently planning to put a “gas gauge” on its website so subscribers can tell how much of their download and upload allotments they’ve used up. (Something akin to TWC’s DVR storage gauge shown right?) But why are ISPs waiting until after they’ve instituted metered billing? Why not give users an easy way to measure now so we can get smart about how we use our bandwidth? Such a move might even help the ISPs by reducing strain on their networks from users willing to be a little more conscious of their Internet habits.

There are options available for measuring Internet usage today, like Hagel Technologies’ DU Meter software. But in my opinion, tools like this should be freely available from every ISP. Particularly if more operators plan to follow Time Warner’s lead in the future.

12 responses to The Internet Gas Gauge

  1. Nothing like limiting bandwidth to put a damper on video streaming and other exciting services coming out. Makes me wonder how services like Netflix Watch-Now will handle this sort of thing.

    Overall, I’m just very disappointed, but not very surprised to see this sort of thing from the cable companies.

  2. Bandwidth caps are the 1st sign of the coming Internet apocalypse… why doesn’t Apple mobilize it’s lobbyists on this issue? Apple TV would be pretty useless with a cap of 40GB per month.

  3. I know I will probably get totally yelled at for this, but I actually support metering ( gasp! ). Wait before you start typing that obscenity laden email to me, hear me out…

    I know in the small sense Time Warner is giving us all the one finger salute and laughing at us all for not passing the Net Neutrality law, we need one ISP to think it’s getting one over on us, so all the others will follow suit.

    It’s the only way to get them to admit they are Dumb Pipes! Companies like AT&T are both hard line ISPs and wireless carriers, so let them paint themselves into a corner. They cannot have it both ways, either they give you all you can eat, OR they admit they are Dumb Pipes and carrier our ones and zeros like a utility. The promise of Android requires that mobile carriers be like the power companies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumb_pipe

  4. Thank god for Fios…

  5. Although I should have learned by now, this move is surprising, even for cable companies. One of the reasons given by Time Warner for the test is to charge appriopriately to finance infrastructure upgrades, which is nonsense. How is surcharging .5% of Internet users going to pay for technology upgrades?

    If this is implemented worldwide (and I assume that Comcast will launch something similar shortly), it won’t be long before everyone is paying more for less, otherwise known as business as usual. This completely reeks of cell phone service plans, which should not be emulated.

    Ugh…I’m just disgusted.

  6. What about all the products that use/rely on the internet? Am I going to have start worrying about how much bandwidth the latest update for my TiVo, Wii, and PS3 consume? How much bandwidth does the TiVo guide download take? What about other embedded devices that “phone home” to get updates or check status? All those RSS feeds suddenly might impact my monthly internet bill.

    And what about internet based games? How will World of Warcraft be able to continue if I am worried about my bandwidth usage? It seems to me that many different companies will be severely impacted so they need to come together and push back against this change.

    What about emails, and junk email? Who is going to pay for the parts of my monthly usage is being wasted by spammers? I will have to start charging the cable companies for every email they send me, and every cable modem update they push out. What about hackers scanning my home address over the internet? If the cable cos want to rescue some of their bandwidth why aren’t they taking down all those addresses that are scanning for NetBios ports and SSH ports? Or at least build intelligent filters to limit or remove them from wasting my bandwidth.

    The result of this will be personal “rationing” of the internet. New services and types of product will be stifled. Innovation will slow down or die.

    This is a really bad thing. There is no upside for the customer, unless there is a lower-cost “limited bandwidth” version of the service, while the all-you-can-eat is the same or only slightly more expensive than today.

    Maybe this will push the communities, cities, and counties to continue free (or low cost) WiFi/WiMax deployments.

  7. It’s BS. I’m not opposed to limits, but 40GB is way too low – that threshold needs to be reevaluated. I’d exceed it with video downloads and Mozy backups. Unless that’s their point – use our VOD service, use our backup service, use our VoIP service. Hmmm…

  8. I don’t think a 40GB cap will hold up. It should be much, much, much higher. But I have to say I’m not against caps on principle. It would be nice to have unlimited access, but possibly unrealistic.

  9. Bandwidth caps are a step back toward the dial up days. Remember when you were limited to so many hours per month.

    I have no idea how much I even use and I want to keep it that way.

  10. To get back to the original point of the post…

    I would love a bandwidth meter. I’ll point out though that at least for me, most of the usage isn’t going to be tracked by installing a program on my Windows desktop. I watch TV shows on Tivo, movies on my Apple TV, watch TV remotely using a slingbox, etc all of which wouldn’t be captured by this windows program, and all of which probably exceed the bandwidth of my windows desktop. At the moment a meter that tied into statistics on my router might be good enough, though that might ignore a small amount of traffic, and it would have to include attack probes and such that the firewall in the router blew off if those are going to be counted by the MSO.

    As you say, it really needs to be provided by the MSO. A little tray icon/Vista widget that would keep this number running would be nice.

    I’d also want a way to clamp internet off when I hit my limit, which is a feature they should provide. Too bad if I miss some Tivo updates for a few days or whatever.

    Glenn

  11. Okay, my household bandwidth use for the month of June is in. Get ready for it… 70779198.118 KB! Google converts that to 67.5003034 GB
    I used PRTG Monitoring in conjunction with my hacked Linksys router. The real killer is that this only accounts for 88% of total traffic. In order for PRTG to work the computer with the capture software as to always be on, and there were some instances when it was off for extended periods of time.

  12. I use TW and may have to find another ISP. I transfer GIGs of work/gaming/school files that exceed their stated “40G plan” emailed to me. I do not need to be watching when I up/down files for websites that include videos of large sizes. Talking family videos for example.

    I think this is a shame. Real bloody shame.

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