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Will ISPs Spoil Online Video? 301

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the a-bunch-of-wreckers dept.
mrspin writes "last100 writes: "With an ever greater amount of video being consumed online, many Internet users are in for a shock. There's a dirty little secret in the broadband industry: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don't have the capacity to deliver the bandwidth that they claim to offer. One way ISPs attempt to conceal this problem is to place a cap of say 1GB per-month per user, something which is common in the UK for many of the lower-cost broadband packages on the market. Considering that a mere three hours viewing of Joost (the new online video service from the founders of Skype) would all but use up this monthly allowance, it's clear that lots of Internet users aren't invited to the party. But what about those who (like me) pay more for 'unlimited' broadband access? There shouldn't be a problem, right? Wrong." The article then goes on to discuss the recent trend of bandwidth throttling based on techniques such as packet shaping which punishes p2p traffic whether it's legitimate or not."
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Will ISPs Spoil Online Video?

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  • I'm with Zen Internet, based in the UK. I get x amount of bandwidth a month and when that runs out I pay for a top-up.

    What's wrong with paying for what you use? Why deliberately degrade your service when you can simply get the customer to pay the difference?

    Simon

    • by BHearsum (325814) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:03AM (#19299583) Homepage
      The reason people get so angry is because for years "unlimited" bandwidth has been advertised.
      • Here in the US, most of the services I've seen that offer unlimited bandwidth don't have a lower-cost option that offers limited bandwidth. If the market for un-throttled P2P bandwidth grows, perhaps the ISPs should offer tiered service. Personally, I don't mind the pay-as-you-go model. In short, I want a service that combines TV, radio, phone service, and internet access, and I want to only pay a $100/month fee. If this isn't enough to get the on-demand video I want, perhaps I'd consider that as a premium option, but frankly, $100/month seems like it should cover me for the kinds of realistic use that would be done in my house. Also, I sure-as-hell don't want to be locked into AT&T for all those services, and net neutrality in the form of non-discrimination against packets based on origin needs to be enforced.
      • by Aladrin (926209) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:30AM (#19299785)
        A minor correction to that statement: They advertise unlimited data transfer. The bandwidth is limited and is -always- advertised as such.

        For instance, my current cable connection is advertised as 6 Mbit, but there is no limit, except the max speed, to how much data I can transfer in a month.

        Internet is not the only thing sold in this way. Anything that many people use, but only a small amount use at a given time, is sold this way. There isn't enough roadway for everyone in New York to drive their car at the same time. There aren't enough cell phone towers for everyone to talk on the phone at the same time. I'm sure there are plenty more examples.

        The problem here is that usage patterns are changing, and more people are going to want to use the service at the same time now. (By use I mean use 100%, instead of the small % that is typical.) Somehow, I think we'll survive this crisis. Sweden has internet connections to the house that are over 10x the bandwidth that mine is. ISPs will simply have to upgrade their infrastructure to handle it if they want to survive. If they don't, someone else will.

        And let's not forget all the 'dark fiber' out there and wireless technologies that have been showing up lately. It could very well be that we decide not to use physical connections at all, and instead relay through a satellite or cell-towers for internet.

        This article is either scaremongering or just plain boredom speaking. Someone recently found out about this situation and suddenly thinks they know more than everyone else in the industry, and decided to tell us the sky is falling. -yawn-
        • by compro01 (777531) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:49AM (#19299873)
          but there is no limit, except the max speed, to how much data I can transfer in a month.

          that's where things diverge. a lot of ISPs have transfer limits, which, more often than not, are not specificed (comcast for example).
          • by Mistlefoot (636417) on Monday May 28, 2007 @12:05PM (#19300437)
            In Western Canada - the two high speed providers - limits are set.

            The 4 packages Telus offers (per their website) are:
            Download/Upload usage
            60 GB/mo. - $45.95/month
            60 GB/mo. - $40.95/month
            30 GB/mo. - $31.95/month
            10 GB/mo. - $16.95/month
            source (http://www.mytelus.com/internet/highspeed/prices. do)

            The 4 packages Shaw offers (per their website) are:
            Download/Upload usage
            150 GB/mo. - $99.95/month
            100 GB/mo. - $48.95/month
            60 GB/mo. - $38.95/month
            10 GB/mo. - $29.95/month ($20 if you have TV as well)
            source (http://www.shaw.ca/en-ca/ProductsServices/Interne t/)

            As always there is fine print - ie, Service Agreements with Telus and you need to purchase your Modem with Shaw but I'm posting here re bandwidth and that information is clearly listed with limits.
            • Actual speeds etc. (Score:3, Informative)

              by swebster (530246)
              You seem to have failed to include the bandwidths:


              Telus
              Down/Up/Cap/Cost
              6Mbps/1Mbps/60GB/$51
              3Mbps/640Kbps/60GB/$46
              1.5Mbps/512Kbps/30GB/$37
              256Kbps/128Kbps/10GB/$22


              Shaw
              Down/Up/Cap/Cost
              25/1/150/$100
              10/1/100/$49
              5/512/60/$39
              256/128/10/$30

              I believe I have the prices without any bundling. If you buy other services, then it can be a bit cheaper.

        • by Anderson Council (1096781) on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:18AM (#19300113)

          When broadband became widely available, it worked for them to push speed and ignore the issue of traffic volume as only a small minority of subscribers were capable of using large amounts of bandwidth. Safe to advertise the unlimited abyss Internet service as it appeared that way for all intents and purposes to the subscribers.

          The explosion of Internet video (and other rich content) has now provided the catalyst for the "average user" to generate significant data transfer volume, and it was never the case that they could actually provide unlimited access to everyone all the time. It was a statistical game really =).

          What would interest me is what effect this is going to have on the cost of broadband in the near future. This is my living so I'm content paying more for a better quality connection; however, what kind of service can the "average user" realistically expect for $30/mo. or whatever. A marketing faux pas if they end up hurting their own business getting users used to the idea that unlimited data volume in and out of your home was actually something you can get cheaply.

          --
          ~AC

        • ISPs will simply have to upgrade their infrastructure to handle it if they want to survive. If they don't, someone else will.


          That is, of course, true, and will, of course, happen, eventually. The problem is that the telcos have been recieving government subsidies for years, for the express purpose of upgrading the infrastructure. To date, they've esentially squandered this money.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Damn! You almost had a comma after every freakin' word in the first sentence! I was really pullin' for ya man!
            BTW, your comma to word ratio was 6/11 (for the first sentence)! Awesome! You ROCK!
        • A minor correction to that statement: They advertise unlimited data transfer. The bandwidth is limited and is -always- advertised as such.

          Not true. In fact, the only place where I see bandwidth advertised clearly and truthfully is in web hosting, where you simply buy a fixed amount of data transfer, usually on a 10 or 100 mbit pipe. No way you'll saturate the thing with whatever you're paying for monthly, but at least you know exactly what you're paying for.

          My ISP, and maybe your ISP, are likely exceptions. I pretty much have 1 Mbit, pretty much all the time. I can usually saturate it for weeks at a time with BitTorrent, and the worst I ever slow down to is half.

          But most ISPs aren't as honest. They sell "burst bandwidth", which is their way of weaseling out of any responsibility. They'll claim "UNLIMITED", but what they mean by that is, you can stay connected as long as you want, and transfer as much as you can, without paying extra. They don't mean that you'll be able to saturate the 6 Mbits 24/7, unless no one else is connected.

          There isn't enough roadway for everyone in New York to drive their car at the same time.

          And there are occasionally traffic jams, which suggests the infrastructure there could be improved. But whatever, I'm not paying a monthly fee specifically for the purpose of driving on roads in New York. You could argue that I'm paying my taxes there (I live in Iowa, but that's not the point), but the tax forms don't come with a glossy flier with big bold letters saying "UNLIMITED driving!"

          There aren't enough cell phone towers for everyone to talk on the phone at the same time. I'm sure there are plenty more examples.

          I'm not sure how it works with cell phone towers, but I honestly cannot think of anything else that is sold by claiming you get UNLIMITED service, and then not delivering. The only thing that comes close is overbooking, which seems deceptive to me anyway.

          Someone recently found out about this situation and suddenly thinks they know more than everyone else in the industry, and decided to tell us the sky is falling.

          More likely, us geeks have known about this all along, and any publicity about the situation might help encourage ISPs to go light up that dark fiber, research that wireless, and actually deliver the bandwidth they've been selling us. It's kind of like, most articles about DRM read to Slashdotters as "Well, duh!", but not everyone even knows DRM exists.

      • by iONiUM (530420) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:51AM (#19299889) Homepage Journal
        The bandwidth IS "unlimited", so long as only one person uses the "unlimited" bandwidth and everyone else is a grandma: just checking their e-mail. They played the odds, and soon they're going to lose.
    • by segfaultcoredump (226031) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:07AM (#19299613)
      If you charge customers for using more than X, then it is hard to tell them that their service is "unlimited". (you would then open yourself to being sued for false advertising)

      Now, if the ISP would just admit to how much they are willing to sell you (think cell phones), then maybe this will work.

    • by jonwil (467024) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:18AM (#19299695)
      A large part of the issue is that ISPs don't have and aren't willing to invest in links to the internet at large. So there just isn't the bandwidth to handle all this new traffic (YouTube, BitTorrent etc etc)

      The obvious question is why don't the ISPs go and buy more upstream bandwidth (funded by people who are willing to pay extra for more downloads each month)
    • Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gilesjuk (604902)
      It is the drive to replace dialup with broadband that has ruined the broadband market. ISPs battling to offer cheap prices that are no more expensive than dialup prices were.

      Some companies even offer free broadband with their phone line packages.

      It's this drive for cheapness at the expensive of service quality that is ruining broadband for those who see it as mainstream entertainment, not something to shop online with and check email.

      I still pay a premium price for my service £35 a month for 2MB ADSL.
      • 35 quid a month?!? For 2MB?? You're getting hosed! I pay the same number in dollars for 10 Megs! And my ISP doesn't even start thinking about bitching about usage until I hit 100 Gigs or thereabouts in a given month. They also don't give out subscriber's names to media watchdogs or **AA bastards either.

        And yet what I have is nothing compared to what the Japanese or Koreans have...some of them can get fast ethernet speeds.
        Part of the problem is American and British ISPs have been allowed to get away wit
        • by gilesjuk (604902)
          Well if I go to their other package it's £34 or so a month for 8MB. But instead of 100GB download limit you get about 50GB limit.

          If I go for the £17.99 package I get 8MB and 2GB use limit.

          As you can see, the UK ADSL market is screwed. BT have a stranglehold on the UK market still.
        • by ObjetDart (700355)
          I pay the same number in dollars for 10 Megs! And my ISP doesn't even start thinking about bitching about usage until I hit 100 Gigs or thereabouts in a given month.


          Who is your ISP? Surely it can't be one of the major U.S. cable companies (AT&T, Optimum Online, Cox, etc.)?

      • I pay 29 EUR a month for 24 Mbps down / 1 Mbps up. Plus free international phone. Plus wifi. Plus TV. Free PVR which I don't even use for lack of a TV. Also 1 GB of hosting space, unmetered.

        Within a year I should get 50 Mbps (symmetrical) FTTH.

        http://www.free.fr [www.free.fr]
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "Why deliberately degrade your service when you can simply get the customer to pay the difference?"

      Truth in advertising is a prisoner's dilemma. "OK, I'll honestly describe the service I'm offering... right after you do."
    • Its because the ISP cant handle the use, regardless of the user paying extra fees. They have oversold what they can do.

      I have the same problem here. Recently they 'increased' bandwidth to us for our *unlimited* useage, but complained when we used it: 'its effecting our other customers '. WTF?
    • It costs quite a lot to do the accounting. You have to handle complaints, etc.

      Plus users can get nasty surprises: someone hijacks your wifi and downloads pr0n, that kind of shit.

      By going flat rate you don't have to deal with this, and instead of spending money on administrative & police costs, you just spend the cash on actual bandwidth. I know, that's just ... wrong?
    • by caluml (551744)
      Zen are great. I'm with them too. I've asked them for IPv6 though, and they tell me that there's no demand for it. And when I point out that until they offer it, they can't see what the demand is, they just go Um, er, well.

      Black Cat Networks do native IPv6 though.
      • by jez9999 (618189)
        What's so great about Zen? Seriously. Since they introduced the caps, their claims to fame are reliability (1% extra reliability on a residential connection is NOT worth a premium), newsgroups access (so what? Google News.), e-mail (big deal), forums (big deal)... not much else, really.
    • by Darundal (891860) on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:00AM (#19299937) Journal
      Nobody has a problem paying for what they use. However, plans here in the US generally aren't sold as "x amount of data per month, then y amount of money for every z amount of data over x" but as "unlimited bandwidth until you stop paying us." Actually, I don't know of any broadband service (here broadband being defined as cable/dsl, since those two are the ones that a consumer is most likely to use) that advertises "x amount of data per month, then y amount of money for every z amount of data over x." The companies here in the states have severely screwed themselves. If they actually begin advertising "x amount of data per month, then y amount of money for every z amount of data over x," then there will be consumer outcry, because before they thought were getting "unlimited bandwidth." Even if they actually weren't, they thought they were. Of course, this leads to the whole net neutrality thing, but really the telcos here want to get more money out of the government (supposedly to build new lines, although they have received such money countless times before and nothing got built) and to legally have more control over what goes over their lines, with the obvious orwellian implications that may have.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by techmuse (160085)
      Many services on the internet would not be viable if you had to pay per bit or packet. They would simply be too expensive. For example, want to download a Linux ISO? You might think twice if you might wind up paying an extra few dollars every time you did that. The ISPs do not want customers who will use their service heavily. They want users who pay a lot of money but place little load on their system to keep their overhead down. In the US, some cell phone companies have started dropping subscribers
    • by mirshafie (1029876) on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:26AM (#19300189)

      This problem pops up regularly on the web. I feel sorry for you people that actually encounter it IRL, because in Sweden, and I'm sure in many other countries aswell, this is not an issue.

      24/1 or 21/3 Mbps DSL lines in Sweden go off for ~25/mo. If fiber is available 100/10 Mbps go for the same price. It's been this way for the last five years, and people have been playing online games, sharing files et.c. like crazy. I've never heard of anybody that had problems with their ISPs for too heavy traffic, not even with the cheaper plans.

      And right now, the good old bastards at ComHem is digging to provide 4 Gbps bandwidth for every household in my neighborhood. Granted, the plan is supposed to include TV, internet and phone lines in it, but still.

      What kind of crappy ISPs do you have that limit your internet access in this way? And why the hell do you accept it? Start rioting!

    • by jez9999 (618189)
      I specifically left Zen because they introduced those shitty limits. They charge more than most, and for what? A 50GB cap? That sucks. Other ISPs offer the same for less, and are reliable enough. Why would you put up with Zen's prices now?

      Anyhow, I'm just a strong believer in getting to use as much of MY bandwidth as I want, and not having to worry about how much data I've transferred. That's a total pain in the ass for me. Be and Virgin Media manage to offer uncapped broadband, so frankly, Zen can g
    • Bandwith is one of the most overpriced things on the planet - its not like oil, there isn't a limited amount. There is an infite amount - you only need money to maintain the structure and people to run it - you don't need to be able to buy a new rolls royce every day.
  • Demand goes up, supply stays the same: prices will rise. People will either pay a bit more for a good service (I would) or save and stay with the lower-bandwidth plans (most people would). Of course there's also the scenario where supply grows because suddenly the market is more profitable, so new investors enter it and drive the price down to where it was before; but this can never happen unless the gov't fully deregulates the market itself and we all know this will never happen.
    • by TerranFury (726743) on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:16AM (#19300097)

      but this can never happen unless the gov't fully deregulates the market itself and we all know this will never happen.

      Some of the most successful rollouts of high-speed broadband have happened with significant government regulation and involvement: South Korea, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark, among others. Conversely, in the United States where there was less regulation to begin with (and a steady push towards even less), we have seen much less broadband growth, and we are behind other countries.

      [The U.S. government actually did invest in broadband (during the Clinton administration) but since effective regulatory oversight did not accompany the money, we didn't get what we'd hoped for from the Baby Bells.]

      Some argue that this is because the US has a low population density: This argument ignores the fact that there still exist within the US large, dense markets on the coasts (the Northeast corridor, from Boston to Washington, for instance), that are surely as profitable as, say, South Korea, which have remained underdeveloped. Why?

      There are some things that monopolies, like governments, can better provide than many smaller competing companies; infrastructure and technology research are two of the most important ones. The simple reason for this is that monopolies can be relatively sure that they will be around in many years' time to reap the benefits of their investments, whereas in a hypercompetitive market, risk is higher and the "rational" investor will focus on smaller, shorter-term investments; this maximizes his expected return.

      Full deregulation in electricity caused blackouts across California in 2001. Our deregulation so far has not produced an American broadband market comparable to other countries'. So no, the evidence I see does not lead me to blind faith in 100% laissez-faire economic policies.

      See The Liberal Paradox [wikipedia.org]: Markets by themselves are not sufficient to create a Pareto-optimal society.

      Occasional government involvement, and well-designed, unencumbering regulation are useful and promote growth. The world is full of prisoners' dilemmas and tragedies of the commons: Markets cannot solve these problems by themselves, which is why we need government.

      • I agree with you, but I believe your reasoning is wrong.

        The issue here is partly regulated markets. Your example of California is *dead wrong*.

        What happened in California with electrical deregulation was that part of the market (supply) was deregulated, without releasing all the intermediate price controls. As such, you had electrical distributors purchasing energy at a higher price than they were permitted to sell it, resulting in huge debts. Unsuprisingly, some unsavory individuals found ways to profit in
  • by RotateLeftByte (797477) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:07AM (#19299611)

    There seem to be a number of ISP's now doing this at peak times. Again this is probably due to the lack of capacity in their infrastructure.
    Now we see BT (here in the UK), AT&T(USA) and many others starting to offer IPTV. If there is one thing that is guaranteed to burn bandwidth then it is broadcasting TV this way. Other ISP's will sure follow this but win't have the kit in place to handle the traffic.

    Therefore, on one hand we have ISP's promoting 'new' services and on the other limiting the amount of data they will let you receive.
    In the words of a UK Politician, they are most likely "Not Fit for Service"

    Bah Humbug
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mbone (558574)
      Generally, IPTV has a separate bandwidth allocation with guaranteed bandwidth, typically using RSVP and DiffServe to protect the IPTV streams, and these streams are multicast to conserve bandwidth. The customer's Internet use gets what's left over. As the number of channels and amount of content people want to view increases, this will have to break down, at least in part. I think that we will move to a future where there are many sources of content; most or all being viewable through your set top box (or
    • All UK ISP's who are on wholesale packages with BT do this - they are charged by BT per gig that goes upstream onto BT's network. Their entire business model is as a middleman who buys a bundle of bandwidth and increases the value by choppng it up into smaller pieces with more of a margin. This is no secret as the submission seems to think, as any UK ISP what a "contended" service is and they will explain it.

      As you point out this model breaks when people really do want "unlimited" bandwidth for things like
      • by Awel (28821)

        Another poster (below) mentions the dark fibre of the dot-com era. It's out there, and it's being used. Telewest are not on a wholesale bundle deal with BT. They peer at Telehouse and their network has thousands of miles of dark fibre should they require more bandwidth. As a result they operate completely differently to the DSL ISPs and don't throttle their traffic. You buy a 10Mb connection, you get a 10Mb connection. The only contention is from other subscribers on your segment; ie Telewest customers in the same street.

        But Telewest have now been taken over by Virgin, who do throttle their traffic [theregister.co.uk]. As a Telewest (now Virgin) customer, I have experienced a drastic decrease in the quality of service since the takeover, with outages of a couple of hours at a time once or twice a week. Since the whole reason for moving to cable in the first place was to get away from a dodgy old BT line so that we could have a more reliable service, I'm very disappointed and am seriously considering moving back to the dodgy old BT line - it

      • by jez9999 (618189)
        Could you please confirm that your ISP ISN'T either Be Internet or Virgin Media, who claim to offer truly unlimited service? I'd like to hear about it if they actually do cap you.
  • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:09AM (#19299627) Homepage Journal

    and restricts your download speed by up to 500 per cent...

    Bad math alert. An 80% restriction would be more like it. A 100% restriction would be a total cut-off. What would 500% be - take back the bits you already downloaded?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zmollusc (763634)
      Duh! They can't take back the bits you downloaded because your upstream is much slower than your downstream, and you might have deleted some of the bits or send fraudulent bits. Obviously they will send you 5 copies of the inverse of the bits you have received. This will create even more bandwidth problems and ensure more lucrative consultancy work.
    • by jez9999 (618189)
      Obligatory bash link [bash.org]. :-)
  • for deceiving advertisement & sale of products and services.

    if they hadnt the capacity, they shouldnt have advertised and sold that nonexistent capacity.
    • R E A D (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:31AM (#19299801)
      the service agreement you signed when you started with your ISP. Fine print exists for a reason.
      • by unity100 (970058)
        im reposting :

        "in no country, items in contracts that contradict with the existing law are tolerated. even in turkey, if you have such an item in the contract, and you dont explicitly state in an item that says "in case one of the items in this contract is contradictory with law, this will not nullify the whole contract, but just the item itself".

        providing false advertising is fraud. selling it is fraud."

        even being "subject to change without notice" cant cover an arse. they are still advertising tho
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770)
        Fine print exists so you can spell things out in detail over many pages. Fine print can't say "Forget everything we ever told you, even if it's in direct contradiction to these terms." Even with all the asscovering in the world, courts can still slam them on reasonable expectations. If you promised them a car that would go up to 150MPH and the only way it'd do that is to run it off a cliff, you'd have a pretty good case.
    • by nurb432 (527695)
      They have an out, there is no QoS in your 'home service' contract. 'speeds may vary', 'up to xxmb', 'subject to change without notice', etc.

      Unless you have a commercial contract with QoS you are outta luck, legally.
  • Wouldn't this just make economically viable all that dot-com dark fiber we used to hear about? With 3G (EVDO, etc.) in the competitive mix with DSL and cable, I find it unlikely there will be cooperation amongst the competitors to withhold bandwidth from customers.
    • Wouldn't this just make economically viable all that dot-com dark fiber we used to hear about?

      Fiber remains dark because equipment for lighting the fiber still costs money. And how much of this fiber crosses the Pacific Ocean (between New Zealand and the United States) and the North Atlantic Ocean (between the United States and the United Kingdom)?

      With 3G (EVDO, etc.) in the competitive mix with DSL and cable, I find it unlikely there will be cooperation amongst the competitors to withhold bandwidth from business customers.

      Fixed.

  • by voislav98 (1004117) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:09AM (#19299641)
    Hey, ISPs are just doing what they are able to get away with. The question we should be asking is why are they able to get away with marketing 10 MB/s and hide 1GB cap in the fine print.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cid Highwind (9258)
      It's worse than you think. The actual transfer cap isn't even specified in the fine print (at least it's not in my current Comcast contract). There's just some weasel language about how "excessive usage" may get your service disconnected, but no word on how many gigabytes a month constitutes "excessive" in their minds.

      "$29/mo for 20GB plus $5/GB beyond that, and we throttle bittorrent when our backbone connection is at full capacity" would be acceptable.
      "$39/mo for unlimited access. There's a transfer li
  • It should come as no shock that ISPs are shaping traffic. They're out to make money and they only have so much bandwidth, now that the glut has been absorbed. That's not unreasonable. What would be unreasonable is if they advertise video access and then do something like this.

    If you're not getting the service you expect form your ISP, you should call them (which by the way, really costs them quite a bit of money), and complain. If they can't or won't satisfy you, you should find another SP who will. Competition is important, and while it's difficult to find in the US and perhaps even moreso in the UK, alternatives should be encouraged. Just remember that you can't get something for nothing. That bandwidth does cost money.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Competition is important, and while it's difficult to find in the US and perhaps even moreso in the UK, alternatives should be encouraged. Just remember that you can't get something for nothing. That bandwidth does cost money.

      I agree it costs, but the customers shouldn't care about that. If we'll be encouraging competition, then the customers should go straight to the best offer, never mind if they thing in their mind it's fair or not. This is how competition works (because you never know if there's no inno
      • by daeg (828071)
        How is it the best when almost all bandwidth providers are given large market contracts with cities, counties, and states? All that does is ensure the group with the biggest pocket book or the most contacts continues to win.
    • by antdude (79039) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:58AM (#19299925) Homepage Journal
      So what happens if you only have one ISP in your area due to monopoly? For example, I can't get DSL because I am about 20K ft. from the CO. Cable is the monopoly here. No WISPs. Forget ISDN, T1+, satellite Internet, etc. due to slowness or/and prices.
      • by hany (3601)

        Your options:

        1. do nothing + wait: Eventualy someone will hopefully fix things also for you.
          pros: cheap
          cons: you may weait very very long
        2. complain to your political representative(s) + wait: It will most probably result in some more money being handed to your current ISP monopoly (part of that "more money" will be also from you - your taxes). In a goog case, it will get you a fix sooner than in previous case but I suspect the contrary: you end up waiting longer.
          pros: politicians will do your job but ...
    • As with most things, you tend to get what you pay for. If you go with the most cut rate ISP or package, don't be surprised if the speed is less than stellar. If you want more, shell out some more dough. Personally, I've bought business class service for the last several years. Yes, it does cost more, but then I get a few static IPs and I've never heard a peep out of the ISP about upstream or downstream usage. Not saying everyone should go for service of that level, just consider that if the ISP has a $20 "U
    • by acidrain (35064)

      If you're not getting the service you expect form your ISP, you should call them (which by the way, really costs them quite a bit of money), and complain.

      Exactly, my ISP doesn't even bother to enforce it's traffic caps, (Telus, Canada) even though I can clearly see I'm 30 gigs over when I check my account. I'm guessing the customer support call when they cut someone off isn't worth it. I actually called up when I had "misconfigured" Azureus to have enough simultaneous connections to crash Window's netwo

      • by Shaman (1148)
        Uh... no, bandwidth hasn't got any cheaper in several years. And no, it's not as cheap as you think.
        • It looks like major players are paying $10 USD / Mbps for backbone access.[1] (Yes that paper predicts a short term backbone supply problem.) In my case, that's actually the same rate I'm paying my ISP for 2.5 Mbps. And from the sounds of it, Americans get gouged a lot worse.

          Next, I max out at 60 gigs of video in a month (and that means I would have spent all my spare time watching high-quality p2p movies and television and also downloaded a few entire seasons of tv shows and then decided not to watch

    • What would be unreasonable is if they advertise video access and then do something like this.
      Comcast has advertised video mail. Comcast is also notorious for having a cap that it refuses to disclose to the public.

      If they can't or won't satisfy you, you should find another SP who will.
      Given the broadband duopolies and even monopolies in so many geographic areas, who can afford to relocate that often?
  • by techmuse (160085) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:14AM (#19299667)
    The ISPs (Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, etc) see P2P as competition for services that they offer, either currently, or in the future. Why get video or other data for free (after having payed your ISP for access) when they can charge you for it, control what you get access to, and charge a premium for premium content? The ISPs by law can not examine what data is being transmitted without loosing common carrier status (at which point, they get a lot more government regulation). So they do the traffic shaping to get around the regulation issue while degrading any possible competition to their own premium services. This is what the whole net neutrality fight is really about. The ISPs want more money for selling you content. Claiming that they don't have enough bandwidth is just an excuse.
    • by Holi (250190) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:28AM (#19299773)
      The ISPs by law can not examine what data is being transmitted without loosing common carrier status (at which point, they get a lot more government regulation)

      Which would be very comforting if ISP's had common carrier status to begin with.

      I don't understand who keeps spreading these rumors but for the last time, ISP's do NOT have common carrier status. They are what are called ESP's (Enhanced Service Providers) and do not warrant the protection that common carrier status provides.
      • by Kjella (173770) on Monday May 28, 2007 @02:25PM (#19301381) Homepage
        They don't have common carrier status but they have some protections in Title 17, 512. Limitations on liability relating to material online. To most people, even on slashdot, the concepts are confusingly similar. Under section (a) about acting as a relay, one of the requirements is "(2) the transmission, routing, provision of connections, or storage is carried out through an automatic technical process without selection of the material by the service provider." To most people they read that as "ISPs must carry everything" which to them equals "Common carrier". In laymen's speak it sounds reasonable, it's just that legally "Common carrier" has a specific meaning, which ISPs are not.
  • Australia (Score:5, Informative)

    by name*censored* (884880) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:14AM (#19299669)
    This is a particular problem in Australia, where no *truly* unlimited consumer internet plan exists. All of the plans that advertise themselves as "unlimited" will actually cap you after xGBs (although I've seen this go as high as 120gb, which isn't exactly something you'd have to work to ration). The reason for this is that the main telecom provider (Telstra) does not sell bandwidth to it's competitors; it rents it (the other ISPs cannot possibly provide unlimited internet at a reasonable price and stay afloat), and Telstra cannot itself offer truly unlimited broadband (same reason, plus it would be held up on anti-competitive charges). Although as far as I'm aware, no ISP here shapes p2p bandwidth (although some ISPs count uploading towards the usage limit/severely restrict the upload speeds to ridiculously slow rates compared with the download speeds, in part to combat p2p).

    An interesting side-note; Telstra were moderately recently held up on false advertising charges for using the word "unlimited" to describe their capped service. They have now changed the name to "Liberty".
  • by palewook (1101845) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:20AM (#19299707) Homepage
    dark fiber optics sit unused in over 90% of the usa. europe supplements its existing fiber/phone/cable with data over power lines (BPL). there is no shortage of broadband, just a collusion of lies. much like the diamond industry does to keep wholesale/retail costs high. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=dark+fiber+op tic&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]
    • dark fiber optics sit unused in over 90% of the usa. europe supplements its existing fiber/phone/cable with data over power lines (BPL). there is no shortage of broadband
      But there is a shortage of customers willing to pay for the hardware to light up the fiber.
    • The thing is it still costs money though to light it all up. If you want twice as much bandwidth it costs a bit less than twice the cost (less due to economies of scale).
  • by xtracto (837672) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:33AM (#19299813) Journal
    uses peer-to-peer technology similar to that used by 'illegal' file sharing networks..

    There are no illegal networks, we have enough FUD as the MAFIAA cartels say they are illegal, we do not need the blogger community to call them that... and btw WTF is it with posting a blog entry as a story? when did Digg acquired slashdot?

  • I've never seen an ISP agreement that didn't specifically prohibit reselling the service, which is exactly what Joost is doing. Private use p2p is one thing, but it's a whole different ballgame when you start selling your upstream bandwidth to a for profit corporation.
    • I've never seen an ISP agreement that didn't specifically prohibit reselling the service, which is exactly what Joost is doing. Private use p2p is one thing, but it's a whole different ballgame when you start selling your upstream bandwidth to a for profit corporation.

      The bandwidth? Or the CONTENT?

      It's like a celluloid film manufacturer threatening a movie studio for re-selling their celluloid film... come on. If it's sold, its NOT YOURS ANYMORE. No amount of fine
      • The movie studio wouldn't be entering into any contract beyond the immediate sale. When you subscribe to an ISP, you *do* bind yourself to a contract, prohibiting certain things, like spamming, DoS shenanigans, and reselling the service.
  • Internet not ready (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pcjunky (517872) <walterp@cyberstreet.com> on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:43AM (#19299849) Homepage
    No broadband ISP has the bandwidth needed to deliver the advertised speed to every user on their networks simultaneously, not even the mighty Comcast (AT&T). The Internet backbone couldn't handle it either. I own a very old ISP here in FL and have been buying unlimited bandwidth for many years now and the cost of this type of connection is 20 times higher than most broadband connections.

    The cheapest bandwidth in this area still costs around $100 per meg (OC-3, 155Mbps). Users on Comcast get 6 megs for half this. Broadband ISPs deliver the product most users want, intermittent very high download speed without sustained bandwidth use.

    All ISP and even phone companies are based on what is called over subscription. ISPs buy bandwidth based on actual demand not theoretical maximum demand. Phone companies have infrastructure to support around 1 in 20 people making a phone call at the same time.

    What is needed is for the ISP to be more forthcoming in there product descriptions. We sell a wireless broadband connection for around $38 per month and advertise 2meg download speeds. We are also up front that excessive p2p usage may result in throttling and or account suspension. This is explained before service is installed not just buried in the terms on service. Comcast terminates accounts without any warning and even deny there is any bandwidth cap on users accounts. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • ISP web caches? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoudMusic (199347) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:49AM (#19299871)
    Is web caching at the ISP not generally accepted? It would seem sites like YouTube would be very interested in caching their data remotely so their bandwidth can take a breather. If they're worried about statistics then perhaps just the video files are cached locally but the html and db requests are all going to YouTube's servers. Companies like YouTube and AOL or Comcast could both benefit greatly from such technology.
    • by epiphani (254981)
      There is a much easier way to approach this than expensive caching technologies: Internet Exchanges and Peering.

      To those of you who aren't aware, peering points exist in just about every major city. They're generally nonprofit or extremely cheap. Some to gigs upon gigs of traffic. Torix [torix.net] for example, the Toronto exchange, moves over 4Gbit/s.

      If the major players in the backbone industry stopped their aggressive peering agreements (Minimum 100 meg throughput, regardless of type?), and content providers lik
      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        One problem is that often the ISP is a content provider. Take Time-Warner Cable, for example. Notice the name. Now, do you think thier ISP division is not connected to their cable-television, movie production, music distribution and other divisions? If it isn't, those other divisions probably want it to be. They want to make sure that, while their content is available to their Internet users (under suitable controls, naturally), everybody else's content is throttled and generally horrible.

      • by Cyberax (705495)
        How are you going to peer from NY with a server in Germany? Or with a server in California?
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      As far as I know the problem isn't between the server and the ISP. It's between the ISP and your driveway. The "last mile" is the one that is the most congested bandwidth-wise. So I doubt that cache-ing at the ISP would fix THAT.
  • I'm an ISP (Score:4, Informative)

    by eriklou (1027240) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:50AM (#19299879)
    I pretty much represent a small ISP in rural Washington state. Bandwidth prices for us are so outrageous, $300 per mb, and this is only because there is one major seller of bandwidth in our area, NOANET. So we have to throttle types of connections, Bit-Torrent is the major one. We would love to open the net to what it should be but its just not possible with the price gouging that happens every place but the cities.

    So as an ISP I'm saying we could do it if we didn't get bent over all the time for bandwidth.
    • by mbone (558574)
      Is that $ 300 Mb for transit or for a point to point circuit ?

      The obvious question is whether you could get a point to point to Seattle, Portland or Eugene, use the cheap bandwidth available out of there,
      and save money over all.

    • by Sloppy (14984)
      Have you looked into whether or not multiple customers are downloading the same things as one another?
  • by Kjella (173770) on Monday May 28, 2007 @10:59AM (#19299935) Homepage
    ...once you get a reasonably broad number of people using reasonably known services for legitimate video. Even if you throw in the latest Linux distro, WoW patches and whatnot it's not exactly a massive amount of mainstream media. Your complaints will land on deaf ears. Once people start complaining that they can't watch full episodes from ABC [go.com] and similar services, the tone will be different. "ABC, you say... you mean I can watch the latest episode of Lost online, but the ISP is throttling me?" You'll get a helluva lot more people who'd a) understand WTF you're talking abou, b) would like to do it themselves and c) can unite around.

    Besides, I'd think the P2P hogs should have pushed the envelope far enough that they can't really stop people starting to use these services a little - and that's what they're concerned about anyway, the masses moving. That guy who wants to watch IPTV 24/7 is more of the exception.
  • Umlimited* Pipex (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Most major UK ISPs that advertise unlimited broadband do so with an asterisk right next to the word unlimited, that little get-out clause which enables them to have something called a "fair use policy", which in the case of Pipex (and probably several others) is an "unfair use policy".

    I'm an ex-Pipex user because they kicked me off for over-use of an ADSL package sold as unlimited, when I phoned up to complain about the situation of paying for an unlimited package but being told my account was to be suspe
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      that little get-out clause which enables them to have something called a "fair use policy"

            The government should take away their "fair use" policy. After all, the government is good at that - they've done it before...

            (mods: it's a JOKE, stupid)
  • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwin@[ ]ran.us ['ami' in gap]> on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:43AM (#19300295) Homepage Journal
    As much as Comcast has both a terrible service department and a terrible PR department, how they do it is correct.

    You pay a "high" price for service ($45-60) per month, depending on the plan, and you can have as much bandwidth as you want, as long as you aren't adversely affecting the node that you are on.

    This means be reasonable. Right now, their "flexible" bandwidth cap is 200 GB. [digg.com] Even better, it's not like that boot you after one month of 200 GB usage; and they don't charge you again, either. They monitor your usage over a couple months, and if you're over 200 GB on average, they send you a warning, and then boot you.

    It's also notable that this number has gone up significantly as they've upgraded their network, and I suspect it will continue to go up.

    At my office we pay approximately $275 for a dual T1. This gets us, at most, 900 GB per month (that's maxing out the connection 24/7/365). I'm happy to pay 18% of that for 22% of the bandwidth, with burst speeds vastly in excess of that (my cable modem bursts at 24 Mbps for up to 10 minutes).

    As I said; their PR doesn't explain this well, and their service people (both on the ground and at their call centers) tend to be not up to part with their competitors. However, the companies polices are more than reasonable, and they do an excellent job upgrading their network. I would have never thought that the cable cos would be competitive with FTTN or FTTP, but Comcast is beating the crap out of AT&T's U-verse, and is approaching the speeds of Verizon's FTTP network.

    You guys really should stop whinning. 200 GB a month is plenty in this day and age, and I pity the people who pay $15,$30, or more for 1-70 GB a month.
  • by davecb (6526) * <davec-b@rogers.com> on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:55AM (#19300369) Homepage Journal

    With the exception of a very few high-priced services, no ISP has as much back-end bandwidth as they have customers. Instead, they have enough to guarantee a certain level of service on average, plus some extra for bursts of load.

    This has been true since the days of the 300-baud acoustic coupler, and isn't going to change. Unless, of course, everyone hits the lottery jackpot at once and decides to give a million or two to their favorite ISP.

    What one does to deal with finite bandwidth is to prioritize interactive traffic over file transfer, which is a variant of what we're seeing here. The problem is that the mechanisms used to tell interactive from batch gets the wrong answer right now.

    So we (::= the IETF) improve the technology and prioritize video streams tagged "real-time" over streams tagged "on my way to Dave's PVR"

    --dave

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:59AM (#19300399)
    A fundamental concept of packet switching is that there will be a statistical use pattern that allows more efficient use of available bandwidth than a dedicated circuit switched network would provide. If you actually want to force the allocation of dedicated bandwidth to each subscriber you need a circuit switched network or some equivalent over IP like the old PSTN. Costs and scalability of this sort of service would be far less attractive than packet switched networks.

    Use of p2p 24x7 continuously by a customer has to be traffic shaped for the economics of packet switching to work. If you want guaranteed bandwidth for your p2p use you had better be prepared to pay a lot more for your service.

    This is one thing I don't get about IPTV - the economics of this sort of service over packet switching don't make a lot of sense unless it is not a large fraction of the total traffic. That doesn't appear to be true.

  • Scarcity... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RexRhino (769423) on Monday May 28, 2007 @01:59PM (#19301191)
    If you say that ISPs should not advertise "unlimited" internet access, then I agree. That is correct. The ISPs are definitly engaging in deceptive practices, and should stop.

    But there isn't some big conspiracy by ISPs to kill internet video. There is actually SCARCE BANDWIDTH!!! There simply isn't enough bandwidth for everyone to be watching high-def streaming video, or sharing multi-gig video files, legit or not. Thus far, people have gotten away with that sort of thing because only a handful of users actually used that kind of bandwidth... it was easy enough for the ISP to allow a few "power users" to hog the bandwidth, because the vast majority of people used so little. With the popularity of video with common users, that is all changing.

    While ISPs should be more honest about their policies to restrict bandwidth, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't restrict bandwidth. If the ISPs don't intentionally throttle bandwidth on hogs like P2P and streaming video, it means that bandwidth will be restricted randomly (like when you need to send an important email, or when you are trying to telnet into your server).
  • Unlocked Bandwidth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday May 28, 2007 @02:57PM (#19301577) Homepage Journal
    My "digital cable" TV coax has at least enough bandwidth to push at least 2 or 3 MPEG-2 movies to my TVs at 4Mbps each [wikipedia.org], plus 8Mbps download on the segregated Internet bandwidth. I'd gladly take the total 20Mbps as download, especially when the TV is off (which would be most of the time with that bandwidth available).

    DSL and telco fiber has to compete with that, or install their own coax (plus fiber, probably). Verizon has FiOS for 20-30-50Mbps, but Optimum cablemodems deliver 30Mbps (plus the 4Mbps TV channels).

    In other words, ISPs have the bandwidth (or their bizmodels and net infrastructure is too 1990s to survive to satisfy modern consumers). They're just screaming as usual to get exceptions to market demand, while they build cartels and monopolies on government subsidized infrastructure. It was all BS when 9600bps, then 19.2Kbps, then 33.6Kbps, then 56Kbps, then the jump to 1.5Mbps they said was impossible, now the 3-6-8-20-30Mbps. The fact is that these bandwidth investments not only get cheaper every time the market demands it, at higher prices, to many more customers. The bigger bandwidth makes more apps possible, apps closer to the ease and appeal of watching movies, without even the infrastructure and licensing investments to produce/buy more TV channels to sell people. Plus it gives the ISP the infrastructure to deliver on-demand movies and live events that are wildly profitable, and sell even more subscriptions, plus the "triple play" including telephone.

    ISPs want all that, plus exceptions to further subsidize them when they do provide the bandwidth. Every time, it's the same. But this time, we can google for their whining the last time it was "impossible".

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