Here’s Why You Want Bandwidth Caps

Todd Barnard —  May 1, 2009 — 42 Comments

broadband-meter
(Remixed photo sourced from Elizabeth West, Flickr.)

In the aftermath of last week’s Consumer insurrection to testing of bandwidth caps, Time Warner Cable’s Glenn Britt hinted that metered billing was inevitable.

“…We continue to believe that consumption based billing may be the best pricing plan for consumers.”

Now Patrick Knorr of Sunflower Broadband has gone on the record by saying metered bandwidth pricing (including caps and overage fees) are a foregone conclusion. He made this statement Tuesday during a press conference at the American Cable Association’s annual summit in Washington D.C. An especially notable quote by Mr. Knorr was;

“I would like to pay the same price for my heating bill all year round, but I have to pay more in winter, when I use more.”

Both Mr. Knorr and Mr. Britt seem to be implying that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the same as the other household utilities like electricity and natural gas. If that is the case, the subject of Consumers being able to monitor their consumption is not the issue at hand, but how that monitoring is done.

The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is the utility provider cannot be the one who provides the monitoring tools – it is a conflict of interest.

The next time you are filling up your car at the gas station, look on the pump. There is a small sticker that says “Certified accurate”, or something to that effect, most likely from your state’s Weights & Measurements department. Laws dating back to the early 1900s were put into place to ensure Consumer protection from fraudulent dispensing of gasoline, and are still proving their worth to this day.

Your home has a physical meter that measures your consumption of electricity. The device is constructed by third parties, independently verified accurate by a Federal or state agency and, like a gasoline pump, is also surrounded by multiple laws governing the behavior of the the provider, protecting the Consumer from fraud.

If bandwidth caps and metered billing are a “foregone conclusion” then objective, independent monitoring of consumption is too.

The tools will not be allowed to come from the ISPs, simply because the precedents set in other industries. Any attempt to allow the fox to guard the hen house will be met with the same anti-trust and fraud laws you see represented in that little “certified accurate” sticker on the gas pump.

bandwidth-certification

The specifics of what the physical meter would look like, what its component pieces are, is fodder for a future post, but some basics are assumed;

Consumers are protected and get true piece of mind when the monthly bill arrives. Surprisingly, there is an additional, potentially greater, Consumer benefit of independent monitoring tools; the manifestation of the mythical “god box” .

When electricity arrives at your home, after passing through the meter, the influence of your local power company ends. What devices and appliances you use is out of the of control of the utility provider (Imagine mandatory use of an electric company provided washing machine with all other brand names forbidden!) The same goes for your natural gas hot water heater or furnace, or the kind of automobile you pull up to the gas station pump.

In a post metered bandwidth billing world, the ISPs will no longer have any right to dictate what physical devices are making use of the data after passing through the meter, as described in the FCC’s long delayed yet to be implemented “Plug and Play” law;

With “Plug and Play” the FCC requires all cable companies to make available CableCARDs, which enable anyone to offer an alternative to set-top boxes. The CableCARD is slotted into a compatible device like a TV or a DVR, and then that device acts as a set-top box. Inter-industry agreements force anyone who wants to create a CableCARD-compatible device to get licensed through a private organization jointly run by cable companies called CableLabs.
- Excerpt from “Who Killed TiVoToGo? ” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Fortunately the declaration by Mr. Knorr and Mr. Britt that ISPs are indeed Utilities, and not private service providers, will break the legal log jam.

The same momentum propelling the “inevitable” bandwidth caps will fast track Plug and Play into reality, opening the door for the “god box” to reside in all our homes!

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42 responses to Here’s Why You Want Bandwidth Caps

  1. as if us paranoid types don’t have enough to worry about.

  2. I’m old enough to remember the day when we were required to lease telephone equipment from Ma Bell and we weren’t allowed to use any other equipment.

    Meantime, if the broadband providers are going to be treated like a regulated utility, then they need to face the same level of scrutiny. They should be required to file for their rates, meet levels of uptime, guarantee access to different technologies through the network, etc.

  3. I agree with Greg. If they want to charge like utilities, and maintain their quasi-monopolies like utilities, they should have to face some serious regulation and transparency. Since they will never stand for that, maybe we can just keep pushing back against metering and caps.

  4. LOL, what a absolute joke. I’m sorry but claiming some coloration to goods like heating oil that has a limited amount of production versus demand is just f*ck!ng hilarious.
    Network bandwidth is for all essential purposes, infinite. Oh it costs money to grow and feed past a certain point but there is no limited supply for practical purposes nor a finite supply at all.
    These are the people that would like nothing better then to rollback any sniff of innovation and murder baby ideas in their sleep. Pretty soon you will be hearing about how it costs them more to send a packet across the country and they need to instead area packet codes and price not just on usage but distance as well.
    GAH.

  5. I pay the same for electricity and natural gas (adjusted yearly depending on usage) every month. In what backward place does Mr. Knorr live.

  6. This should work both ways… if you don’t use much bandwidth, you should pay less (a lot less!).

  7. When you use more electricity, it costs the power company more money to produce the electrons that flow into your house. Not so with phone or internet. As phone companies have paid for equipment, or equipment has become cheaper, the cost of making a phone call has become cheaper. Time Warner Cable spent less money in 2008 to maintain their network than they did in 2007, yet they should charge more for service?

    Metered internet is simply a money grab by cable companies because of online streaming taking business away from cable television. If they want metering, fine. Then break up the monopoly and allow me to choose my provider. Do that, and I bet we all pay less.

  8. We’re arguing over a strawman here. Each bit of natural gas or electricity costs money to create/deliver. Bits aren’t a scarcity. For the most part, an ISP has the same costs whether you use 0% or 100% of your available bandwidth. All of the equipment is still powered on, waiting for someone to send/receive data. Whether you use it or not is mostly unimportant*.

    * yeah, there are costs to send data outside your network. But my argument is mostly correct!

  9. I work at an electric utility and there is no way in hell I want my ISP behaving like one. These caps are nothing more than a way for providers to guarantee that their revenues constantly increase at the expense of their customers. It’s disgusting.

  10. From the consumerist,
    • TWC’s revenues from broadband during the first three months of this year rose 11% percent over the first quarter of 2008, climbing from $994 million to $1.1 billion.

    • At the same time, TWC’s costs to provide broadband service to its customers dropped 18%, from $40 million to $33 million. That dramatic drop in costs came even though its number of subscribers grew from 7.9 million to 8.6 million.

  11. Patrick Knorr’s Sunflower Boradband has been a leader (if you want to use that word) in braodband abdnwidth quotas. Even their top end “gold” plan only allows 50 GB bandwidth per month:

    http://www.sunflowerbroadband.com/internet/

    Compared to this, even the proposed 250 GB caps that the big MSOs have considered sound super-generous!

  12. Patrick is in Lawrence Kansas. Our bandwidth limits here for basic users are 3 Gig for the basic $17.95 plan (plus a $10 fee if you don’t have TV). Then it’s $2 a gig.

    Why can they do that? Because they also own the TV company and the newspaper in this town. NYTimes had a good article about how pretty much everyone in this town has to write a check to, ironically named, “The World Company” and called Lawrence “land that anti-trust forgot” http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/26/business/yourmoney/26kansas.html

    Three gig is starvation. They realize that online video services cut into highly profitable premium channels and pay per view. Low bandwidth limits make online backup impossible!

    Residents here are so used to it, they call it “Phantom Bandwidth” on the bill. The first time, they’ll remove it. Second time they require their “Geeks on Wheels” division to come out and make a onsite visit to check what you are doing. These calls are about $100. Most people thus just pay the overage charge and consider it a tax for living in this great city.

    Even WITH firewall or router statistics, customers have still been unable to argue with the overage charges, sometimes reaching in the triple digits.

    This is the stuff we fought with AT&T decades ago!

    Franchise authority won’t get involved–they don’t want to be on the front page of the newspaper or TV news (both owned by the World Company).

    PLEASE Retweet this article, post it on your facebook, and get the word out. Enough national attention might change the policies here. If Patrick’s plan comes to fruition, TW’s 250 gig will cost users a $500 cable bill

  13. Neil, it’s already a reality. Comcast has me capped at 250GB… without a meter to track household usage. 250GB isn’t unreasonable, but online backup solutions are much less useful/realistic. Also, there are NO higher tiers or overages. Break the cap, and my ISP reserves the right to dump me. Unlike a utility, which they may claim to be.

  14. Todd Barnard May 2, 2009 at 7:32 am

    @Ken – EFF branded tin foil hats are available on their web site! JK :)

    @John – As a Consumer, I agree, it is “disgusting. Also, I would be really interested in hear more from you, and the people you work with about how accurate my briefly researched electricity meter analogy is. What are the nuts and bolts of meter reading? Who is in charge of guaranteeing accuracy?

    @TivoSteve – I would go as far as to say there should be roll-over for unused data, credited to the next month’s bill for unused data. AT&T pre-pay mobile data plan works that way! It’s $19.95 for 300 MB and what you don’t use rolls over to next month, perpetually accumulating. Does the iPhone data plan do that?

    @Adam Thursby, Martin O’B, et al referencing that ISPs don’t have the same costs providing service that other Utilities do – To hear Google tell it, it cost them $500 million a year to get YouTube up, citing bandwidth costs. Amazon says it’s expensive too. Are they being gouged, at the OC12 backbone level, just like the little guy is at the “last mile?

    @Griffon – I read those same numbers in the course of writing this post. I wish the ISPs would announce their earnings over costs publicly, at the same press conference they announce their plans for bandwidth caps and metered billing!

  15. The god box you describe is orthogonal to the issue of metering. This is clear since its basically already available in the Tivo S3 or HD and cable cards which are available and cheap in most markets. Today you can get all your cable channels and a lot of on-line content form netflix, amazon, tivo, and jamen. While the cable cards are cheap, the Tivo’s are not especially with subscriptions fees. The value add just isn’t there for most folks. Metering isn’t going to change that nor is all content going to be free/ad-supported on the internet but that’s a different argumet.

    Cable cos don’t really want to be in the set-top-box hardware business, they just haven’t figured out how to standardize the interfaces for consumer electronics in a way that is flexible to their changing needs and easy for manufacturers. Specifically, supporting two-way communication for VOD and switched digital. What is more likely to deliver a wider section of god boxes is online video delivery including video from cable cos and standards for that.

  16. @Teal – “god box” will never appear until FCC’s “Plug and Play” passes. And that can’t happen without calling cable’s bluff on bandwidth metered billing.

    Also, as far as I know, and we need Mr. Zatz to chime in on this, TiVo boxes don’t let you add new channels, no customization by the Consumer. You watch what you are told to watch – I don’t consider that a “god box”.

    Plus, each TiVo is oblivious to the activities of my friends and family’s PVR’s ( machine to machine communication ), no way to sync them them with a list of common favorites, but a “god box” would do that.

  17. @Todd I’m not sure what “Plug and Play” is going to provide that isn’t there today. I’m a S3 and HD owner so I can chime in too. Today, you can download sd and hd content off your tivo today (which isn’t from a pay channel). I have noggin and pbs content on my iphone for my kid when we go out to dinner that I acquired in just that way. What is metered billing going to enable?

    The features you are looking for are things that tivo hasn’t implemented, but that are possible without better cable integration. Rather than adding channels, tivo provides VOD which is how online video gets delivered. Making a channel out of some online content is just a different delivery paradigm. You can delete channels on your tivo which is nice. The social networking features you talking about are possible today (between tivos) but the market share isn’t there yet to make it worth while and again there aren’t any standards for communication between pvrs about this type of data.

    I still argue that the quickest path to get you what you want is better/easier standards which will lead to more players in that market, more consumer choice in set-top-boxes, and ultimately more consumers with non-cable-provided stbs.

  18. So doesn’t this get one step closer to letting ISP’s off the hook for turning over usage information to the authorities?

    “Look at this spike in electrical usage following this pattern daily, they must be growing pot – get a warrant” becomes “Look at this spike in internet usage right after XYZ’s album got leaked, they must be a pirate – get a warrant”

  19. Wow, dont you just HATE bandwidth caps!

  20. I WANT METERED BROADBAND … assuming the prices are reasonable.

    I’m currently paying approximately 34 cents per usable GigaByte of data. I pay $34 a month to Bell and I’m capped at 100 GB. Any overages they charge me $2.00 per Gig. So, my sweet spot is using 100 GB per month. If I use less, I effectively pay more per GB. For example, if I used just 50 GB in a month, my effective rate is 68 cents per GB. If I use more than 100 GB I pay $2.00 per GB.

    My ISP effectively gouges me in both directions. I would much prefer to pay a flat fee of 34 cents or less per GB – period! That’s actually fair. I pay for what I use and I don’t get screwed each direction from my cap as I do now.

    Metered use must, of course, come without throttling up or down. I should get the full speed my ISP’s pipes provide in both directions. They get paid if I use more, they don’t if I don’t.

    And, hell, with Docis 3 being rolled out now, the delivery price per GB is about to fall through the floor. If ISPs charge a fair markup over their costs – we could all be the winner with metered billing.

    …Dale

    P.S. All of this assumes, some how, that ISPs become benevolent service providers. Of course they’ll ‘TRY’ to screw us under a metered model too! It’s not the metering, per se, that is bad, its how we all expect the ISPs to provide it – unfairly – that we rightly or wrongly perceive as bad.

  21. Not persuaded. At all. I still dont want bandwidth caps.

    Let the ISPs work out peering and transit deals so I dont have to worry about checking a bandwidth meter even if its EFF certified. This kind of thinking is flawed. Why would I *WANT* to subject myself to bandwidth constraints for potentially *MORE* money than what I get now.

    Soon I wont even have to check my cell account because I’ll pay a flat fee for voice and data. Sprint already does this. Bandwidth caps are bad for innovation. Video conferencing technologies will suddenly be regulated (or worse QOS’d) by stingy ISPs.

    You can try to justify this all you want, but you wrote “why you want bandwidth caps” and that is just retarded. No business or pricing model should set traps for their customers with overage fees. Now if you had said “why you want a new ‘pay as you go’ pricing model from a new ISP” I’d be interested. I’m down to pay per KB if it was cheaper than the $56 I currently pay TWC every month.

    But that is not what you wrote.. you’re helping perpetuate a shitty system where a duopoly gets rights to virtually every last-mile conduit in the nation. But don’t worry, the last gasp is coming.. The telco and cableco lobby are about to lose their grip when the next wave of wireless ISPs come out. They’ve done LTE tests in Sweden that produced peak speeds of 154 Mbps, with an average of 78 Mbps. Think the wireless ISPs are going to have bandwidth caps? Keep dreamin.

  22. Geoffrey Sperl May 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I’m torn.

    Like Dave, I’m on Comcast so I have the 250GB/month cap. If I include the silly modem rental fee, I’m paying $63/month to Comcast (no cable TV). I’ve been averaging 75GB/month (remember – I’m getting a lot of my entertainment over the net now), which works out to $0.84/GB.

    So, sure, if metered bandwidth meant I would see a rate of less than $0.84/GB and my bandwidth usage stays around 75GB/month, then it’s a savings for me in the long run.

    However…

    It’s not like Comcast has to generate additional megabits to justify metering. It’s not like we’re dealing with a resource such as gas or water. It’s not like Comcast is spending much more on electricity if I download 75GB or 175GB a month, no are they spending anything more on manpower if I download more. There might be an minor incurred cost due to increased usage on some hardware, but I can’t imagine it would add up to anything. So the argument for metering falls apart there. Megabits aren’t a resource. They don’t need to be physically stored, or treated, etc.

    This would be the point where, as Greg was saying, if the broadband providers want to act like utilities then they have to be regulated as such, and I can’t see Comcast or Cox or any others going down that road.

    But I wouldn’t be surprised if they try (and if the “series of tubes” idea continues to perpetuate itself in the halls of power, then the government won’t have any clue how to take the companies to task).

  23. @bmo – Point taken. I hate the idea of caps too, but these powerful captains of industry keep telling me “there’s nothing you can do about it, its a forgone conclusion.”

    I wonder if confronted with “Plug and Play” finally being put into place, the prospect of a third doing the monitoring, lost of control of the STB, no DRM, no “act of god” clause for crappy QoS, etc. the ISP CEOs quoted in this post would blink and recant.

  24. Frank Furter May 2, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Didn’t read every word of every reply, but several posters are under the assumption that bandwidth, like air, is free. Well, yes and no – if live in small rural area or something and have smallish data lines, who pays when my city grows larger and we need to pull fiber? Sure, the bits flowing are intangible, I suppose, but I don’t think my utility company is going to pull wire for free.

    Point is, just because air is free, if you live in a cave, you have to pay someone to get it to you. If you’re some fat-a** mouth breather with 5 oxygen-sucking dogs in the next cave, and I weigh 85lbs and have a parakeet, why should I subsidize -you-?

  25. @Todd

    I believe you but I cant help to visualize those clueless cableco execs in the directv commercials saying “there’s nothing you can do, a forgone conclusion.” Well, I’m not alone when I say that I would throw away TWC like a bowl of moldy tangerines if they started implementing bandwidth caps anywhere in the nation. And I’d be brutally honest about the reason for terminating their service when they ask why.

    I feel like as long as there is competition, there will be unmetered broadband. Here’s my rationale.. Some people want to lease a car. They accept that they’ll have to keep an eye on their odometer to avoid overage costs. Other people want to buy a car at a higher cost (per year) so they don’t have to worry about the odometer. As long as both folks exist, both pricing models will likely exist.

    Thanks for your response.

  26. You’ll find a direct correlation to the use of “caps” to the creation of a government extension or expansion of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) function in states where these providers operate.

    Where it would get even more traction is if the PUC was enacted on a federal basis and pushed into some form of smart grid initiative. This would regulate at the terms of Internet peering and inter carrier traffic transfers in much the same way electric grids are operated or the control of water resources from rivers, damns, locks, etc… are today.

    Analogies can be dangerous… or in this case, potentially stifling, draconian, or worst case, ill informed and subject to greater tax burden for consumers.

    Let’s hope the providers in question work to avoid the regulatory path by respecting consumers on their own.

  27. Patrick is apparently is going on the PR circuit to promote the “fairness” of bandwidth caps

    http://tinyurl.com/c25rmj

    The story indicates that “dozens” of movies can be downloaded while still staying within the 50 gig/$50 limit. Huh?

    Also, the article states that “while relatively few have had to pony up extra bucks to devour gigabytes.” As a Lawrencian, I can tell you that’s untrue! I don’t know a single person that HASN”T paid an overage at some point.

    Unless we speak out against this, it will be a reality. As a Lawrencian, I apologize one of our citizens is leading the fight to take this crappy model nationwide.

  28. Pay by usage is great – love the idea. But it must be constructed so that it’s a win for all, not just for the isp’s.
    if the average user’s bill remains the same, and everyone with above average usage gets charged more, who won? The isp’s. The only way this can be fair is if the cost to the end consumer goes down, so average Internet joe ends up paying $10 per month instead of $29.95. And goth tech boy down the street pays $75/bucks for the 100 pirated movies he downloaded – sounds fair.

    Point 2: currently about 15% of computers in the US are infected with some virus or another. These viruses generally spend their days broadcasting data or pings. I’ve seen viruses generate gigabytes of daily traffic – how would average Joe user respond to a $500 internet bill because he got a virus on his machine?

  29. @bobby

    Wow, I never thought about your point #2. Interesting. Opens a whole new can of worms about legal indemnity.

    But paying $50 a month extra, because of metered bandwidth billing for a virus infected PC, only applies to Windows computers doesn’t it? There’s no such thing as “zombie” Macs or Linux computers.

  30. Interesting no one has brought up WiFi hot spots. Say goodbye to chillin in your favorite coffee shop and checking email or the latest sports scores. No chance anyone would be giving away free access anymore.

    Also, with so many non-technical users setting up their own home networks, what about security? Cracking a wireless router is much easier than stealing electricity.

    I don’t like the idea of metering. My two cents.

  31. Tom Gladstone May 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    I believe this is naive.

    The true purpose of metered bandwidth is to stifle competition. It has nothing to do with the cost of providing bandwidth and everything to do with strangling Hulu, Netflix, et. al. before they really take hold. By keeping caps low, they can force people to use cable provided on demand content, for a price.

    Cable companies want to have it both ways. They want to have all the protections of being a common carrier and they want the ability to stifle competition. It doesn’t work that way and never has.

    I would be agreeable to tiers based on bandwidth, with higher speeds being charged more. But I am not agreeable to tiers based on consumption. Down that path lies fewer content choices.

  32. This is crazy!!!

    In my opinion, this steams from cable company greed! It will destroy creativity and new innovations.

    I think the big push now is because bandwidth is finally at a point for IPTV to become a real solution to over priced cable providers. The technology has been arround for sometime , but speeds and bandwidth just weren’t good enough to maintain QoS. They now are! and cable cos want to prevent people from having that alternative and to keep overcharging people for their service.

    For all those people who say their fine with it as long as it benifits them… Cable Cos do not do anything to benefit their customers. If they are doing it, you can bet your ass it is to benefit only themselves. Although there may be a few customers that my benefit by lower fees, there will be far more that get screwed in for going over their cap and paying a ridiculous $2 a GB. They will more than make up whatever they are loosing from the few by what they are overcharging the masses and they will prevent millions of people from having “ala cart” viewing that will be avaiable from IPTV solutions.

    IPTV is the wave of the future, I would not have to pay for 200 channels I don’t watch, Only the 12 or so I do. I wouldn’t be stuck with whatever provider owns the last mile like I am with cable TV. I would be able to shop around for the best service and the best price which is what I am unable to do with cable TV.

    They know very well that IPTV would hurt their business so they are working arround by preventing people from having a cheaper, better solution for their needs. You cap bandwidth and then overcharge people for going over, who would want to pick IPTV.

    How the government doesn’t see what they doing is beyond me. Microsoft did this same thing and they were stopped for monopolizing and locking out competition and it cost them billions in fines. Why would the cable cos be allowed to do it.

    Anyways that’s my rant have a great day all.

  33. Wow, I didnt realize that bandwidth was really free. Im going to get into the ISP business. Couple of things first:

    1. Can you guys send me the list of companies that will provide me with the free equipment Im going to need.

    2. I guess Im going to need some people to help me get this working, will I have to pay them or will they just volunteer for this, perhaps you guys can help.

    Opps, I forgot, you guys said essentially free. I forgot that that means that after service providers have spent 100′s of Billions on establishing this infrastructure using money they loaned, now that they are in the black they should not be able to make a profit.

    But back to the free alternative for you guys. Ill be needing at least the names of those free suppliers for.

    Bucket trucks
    Wire & fiber
    Tools
    CPE equipment
    PON, CMTS, DSL (I dont care which one, there free)
    DWDM
    Routers
    Lots of servers for all the software I need to run (does Dell provide them for free?)

    Im also guessing that one of you guys can arrange for me to get “rights of way” for free so Ill be needing that.

    So as soon as I have all the equipment, rights-of-way, and have complied a list of say 25,000 people who will work for nothing, Ill be offering broadband service for free in your neighborhood.

    Just look for the advertising. Opps forgot to ask, one of the geniuses must be able to get me that for free.

  34. Ad,

    Nice rant, but none of this has anything to do with metered billing. The fact is metered billing is a money grab, an attempt to stifle iptv. It’s as simple as that. The cable co’s just want another way to increase their bottom line. It’s a bad idea all the way around I hope it dies.

  35. What’s funny about Comcast, was it was “so” important that they implement caps, for network management purposes, because, the top 1 of 1 percent was “abusing” the network. I don’t recall them saying anything beyond that. And it was in response to the fact they tried to drop “abusers”, without defining what excessive usage was. If they were smart, they could have proved in court, through some other means, what “network” abuse was. Prior, they could have written their TOS in a fashion that gave them discretion. They just went about it wrong from the start. If they could have eliminated the “abusers” in a legal proof way, then maybe they wouldn’t have caps at all. Otherwise, I’ve heard nothing regarding metered billing from Comcast. Just give me my flat rate, and no caps, and leave me and the non-abusers alone. And, I agree with the poster about squashing entities like Hulu and Netflix. That’s exactly what they are doing. They are in direct competition with them. Well, this is supposed to be the “broadband” administration elected 2008. We will see how much pull the administration has against the corporate behemoths.

  36. AD:
    We all know it takes alot of money to set up the infrastructure, but most of the cable and POTS infrastructure was built decades ago.
    I don’t mind a company making a profit, but charging 50$/mo for 6mbps and a 250gB cap is highway robbery imho.

  37. Just trying to add a bit of sensibility to the discussion. What disturbs me is that I have to pay $65 a month for my 80 year old Aunt. I am willing to complain about subsidizing people whose use is much greater.

    But a position that tries to put forward that bandwidth is free just doesn’t hold water.

    Its worth considering that the problem is predominately a regulatory one. US broadband service depends upon competition to regulate price. I dont know about you but I have a choice Comcast, RCN and Verizon FIOS. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but FIOS has not resulted in any cost reduction. Perhaps instead of blaming Comcast considering that everyone else pretty much takes the same money, you should question the effectiveness of the current regulatory environment.

    But its easier to blame large and successful corporations.

  38. If the ISPs want to go over to metering charges it should be done with a system where I pay a fixed fee for my connection and a per-unit one for my usage. If they want to toss in an initial usage allocation into the fixed fee, then it should be subject to a roll-over computation AND the allocation should be such that the cost leaves something left for the actual connection fee. Right now, if I want ONLY internet connection, I am charged $5 more for my internet than if I had it bundled with TV and/or Phone. Thus the actual cost to provide my connection BY THEIR OWN Fees is $5.

    Under a connection and usage metering system, I might pay $5/month for my connection (even if I never use it) and then $X per GB of usage. If I use 100GB this month, I’d pay $100X+$5. If I go on vacation and do not use it, I pay $5. The “free allocation” model might toss in a YGB allocation for the that $5 (but X times Y must be less then $5) and if I do not use my YGB allocation, my next month’s usage should be reduced by my under usage [ie: The under usage is rolled over].

  39. Gimme a break. The chairman of the EFF is a board member of BitTorrent — a company that makes its money by facilitating theft. I’d trust any ISP before I would trust that organization.

    Many of the posters above also forget that bandwidth costs money. A LOT of money anyplace outside the center of a major city. Even the biggest ISPs pay $30 per Mbps per month, at minimum, to get bandwidth to their hubs in your neighborhood. If you don’t want it to be metered, you’d better expect it to be throttled, because ISPs are not charities.

  40. @Brett

    re: “Even the biggest ISPs pay $30 per Mbps per month, at minimum”

    You are -way- -way- off on your pricing. Bigger ISPs and carriers are the ones charging this amount but even a quick scan of open list pricing shows examples such as Cogent selling < $5 per Mbps per month. Hint: you’ll recall that Sprint yanked their peering connection to them recently. Yes, bandwidth costs might be -thought- to be predicated on OPEX/CAPEX for the upstream but more importantly they require cooperative pricing levels and charging what the market will bear.

  41. One of the problems with a metered Internet bill is that the consumer doesn’t have complete control over the amount of data being transferred. Some web pages are laden with all sorts of content that is a significant number of MB, and forced on the user without their choice or often, not even their knowledge. Add to this the non-web content, such as automated software updates, voice-over-IP, games, and the ‘miscellaneous’ Internet traffic, and it’s really difficult for the consumer to monitor and control their usage.

    What makes it worse, is that there are villians out there – spammers, fraudsters, fishers, and other miscreants who have the ability to take over the consumer’s computer, and to use their bandwidth for whatever purpose they want, often attacking other computers, spreading the virus or worm that keep on coming around regardless of the vast amount of resources now being devoted to Internet security all over the world. Metered Internet would further exacerbate the security problem, by making bandwidth dear, and whether the miscreant’s motivation is to avoid their own charges or to create a huge bill for a victim out of plain spite, the results are the same.

    The people, by and large, want a flat rate. They want to know what their Internet bill is going to be, month in and month out, and avoid unpleasant surprises. The vast majority of users do not spend the majority of their time or their bandwidth on video, though that may change.

    There are technical solutions, such as multicast and P2P, which can do much to alleviate network congestion. Yet P2P, as much as it solves many of the problems with network congestion, angers content creators because they are left without the ability to control the content’s time-shifting. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t rather download a video and watch it at their own convenience, than have some sort of streamed video, with its skipping and other defects due to codec inefficiency and network congestion. I am not ashamed to say I seek out the bootleg copies of TV shows to download and watch, not so much as that I need to escape the commercials (which the ‘pirate’ recomposers remove) as I am the assurance of high quality video, ease of access in the future, and portability (can’t use Hulu on an airplane!). What the media needs to do is to produce videos which are downloadable, storable, and not be so concerned with their ability to control the viewers experience, as they do with streaming content. Sure, some people will remove the ads and trade video collections, but a fast and easy way of obtaining ‘legitimate’ TV episodes will be sufficient for the majority of the population to suffer the ads for the sake of the show. Of course, if there was less repetition of the same ads, saturating the TV for weeks, those people who do take it upon themselves to excise such things as those sickening ‘free credit report dot com’ ads (the whole concept is a scam, but I don’t want to get into that here).

    Metered Internet will be the death of the Internet. Metered content kept the proprietary, pre-Internet online services from achieving all that the technology promised. Let’s not return to those dark days.

  42. It is superior to know that a job like this has records to trace its origin. Nonetheless, I believe that the discussion of its development over centuries is missing. It is a great commence nonetheless.

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