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Netflix Isn't Swamping the Internet 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-for-a-lack-of-effort dept.
itwbennett writes "Remember the Sandvine report from earlier this week that said Netflix gobbles up 30% of Internet traffic during peak hours? It needs clarification on a couple of important points, says blogger Kevin Fogarty. First, yes, Netflix traffic spikes during prime time, but only across the last mile. Second, ISPs underestimate what a 'normal' level of Internet use really is. 'When AT&T announced its data caps – 150GB per month for DSL users and 250GB for broadband – it called the data levels generous and said limits would only affect 2 percent of its customers. It turns out Netflix users take up an average of 40GB per month just from streaming media, according to a different Sandvine report (PDF).'"
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Netflix Isn't Swamping the Internet

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  • Lies, damned lies, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aldenissin (976329) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:05AM (#36190638)

    And statistics. Even if it would only affect 2%, that won't be for long. They knew they had to put caps in now, because later it would cause too much backlash. Could it be that the "Internet" could be swamped by digital media? Perhaps, but they could always add more bandwidth. Although then that would hurt their earnings having to invest, much less being able to nickel and dime customers.

      I wish companies like All-tel wouldn't have sold out. Though they weren't perfect, they had a lot going on right, and that is why they were successful. On one hand I am glad I am still with them, on the other, the rest of the family was moved to Verizon, eliminating one of the great reasons to join the same network.... But the big boys gobble up anyone that comes close to doing things right, so I don't see any reason to have much hope.

    • The huge lie, of course, is visible in the fact that cable-based legacy services and fiber-based "triple play" internet/quasi-cableTV/telephone being rolled out by the telcos generally split the available downsteam bandwidth between the real, user-visible, internet bandwidth used for the internet connection part of things, and the non-user-visible bandwidth dedicated to sending digital media streams down the wire that are sold as "cable" rather than "internet streaming".

      For the traditional cable type stu
      • by wagnerrp (1305589) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:36AM (#36191008)

        fiber-based "triple play" internet/quasi-cableTV/telephone being rolled out by the telcos generally split the available downsteam bandwidth between the real, user-visible, internet bandwidth used for the internet connection part of things, and the non-user-visible bandwidth dedicated to sending digital media streams down the wire that are sold as "cable" rather than "internet streaming".

        Actually, the way Verizon FiOS is set up, you have one light carrier dedicated specifically for video broadcasting. It runs through an optical transducer, which outputs a real QAM modulated digital cable signal, directly usable by any TV or PC tuner card that supports QAM.

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:06AM (#36190652)
    In my humble opinion.
    • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:39AM (#36191032)

      Adblock/Adblock plus is your saviour. (or if you're super uber nerdy, a custom hosts file)

      On the one hand I feel bad that I know that I'm not contributing to the continued survival of some of my favorite websites by providing them with adviews impressions (and certainly not with click-throughs), but on the other hand I work in the business of, among many other things, saving PCs that have become corrupted by malware that likely showed up in a drive-by ad-based browser attack. I feel no need to risk it.

      On a somewhat related note, the sheer annoyance of today's ads have gone overboard. The days of a static tower jpg on the side of an article seem to be going the way of the dodo, where now everything is animated, full of sound, wants to jump out in front of the damn text I'm reading, or even replace the text itself (and often somehow take up an entire modern cpu core, wtf, I've got more processing power than nasa sent men to the moon with, and a "click-here-to-win-a-ps3!" ad is using all of it?!). When they have a custom "X" button on their ad that I have to click on to close the damn thing, I am ALWAYS wary, because I don't want to click on ANYTHING nonstandard. ever. That's just asking for trouble, even in today's modern sandboxed browsers.

      It is sad to say, but I personally am more concerned with keeping my own system safe and secure than I am with "supporting" my favorite websites by letting their ads rape my eyes and ears at the very least, and quite possibly my system as well. They'll have to depend on other people for that, just hopefully not people I personally support.

      • It's no different than the games industry where DRM requires a phone-home activation, disc in the drive, no daemon tools running, and a CD-key, but the cracked version removes all of this and sometimes even fixes bugs the original developer never fixed.

        Or how hour-long TV shows have gone from being ~52 mins long in the 1960's to ~44 mins long today and in the process have alienated so many customers that they now turn to Hulu or pirating, where the profits are less.

        I could go on about "CD"s that don't meet

        • by RogerWilco (99615)

          Unfortunately, content creators always seem to find ways to hurt the ones who want to buy their stuff.

          Yeah, why? I don't get it. I happen to live outside the USA (in the Netherlands), and most stuff I'm interested in isn't even for sale here. All I get when I go to iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, or one of the others, is "This service isn't available in your area" type messages.

          The only reason I've heard is that the content owners hope to sell it to local (Dutch) TV networks one day, and therefore sit on it. But they seem to be doing it collectively. A store like iTunes Netherlands only has songs, no movies

    • by swalve (1980968)
      Bad programming (sorry, "architecting" or "designification" or whatever the 8 sigma full-spectrum belts are calling it now) is the reason. My company's stupid extranet page pulls down 8k to display 1k of information. See how much data is sucked down by the stupidest of pages and you'll see why the internet sucks.
    • But, to some extent, it's also what makes the internet what it is: many free sites with funny/insightful/useful content. People live from advertisement and provide content in return
      Part of the money for /. is generated by advertisement.
      (Yes I know there are sites that don't ad any content but have advertisements nonetheless. Those are not the sites I am referring to.)
  • Last mile (Score:5, Interesting)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:06AM (#36190656)
    So the last mile is the tightest, and contended. And we now know the data caps are a joke. So, still a problem.
  • Is that bandwidth is being shifted from one medium to another through the same output device.

    Instead of me taking up bandwidth for CATV, I'm using HSD instead because I haven't had CATV/SAT in three years. I use Netflix streaming, although I'm not sure how much bandwidth I use except over 3G, because it's better for me than what the other side of the fence offers.

    When the cable companies start whining about how much bandwidth Netflix is using what they're really complaining about is their lost revenue on th

    • Is that bandwidth is being shifted from one medium to another through the same output device.

      Afaict the main difference is in where that bandwidth is from and to.

      With traditional TV (whether delivered over cable, sattelite or terrestrial) the bandwidth is used in a broadcast manner. So on each network segment it's only used once per channel no matter how many users tune into that channel.

      With ondemand provided by the last mile communications provider the communications provider has full control over where the bandwidth is to.

      With internet TV they can ask the provider nicely to locate their servers

  • by sosume (680416) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:09AM (#36190690) Journal

    'When AT&T announced its data caps – 150GB per month for DSL users and 250GB for broadband"

    Sorry, I must be missing something. Here, east of the Atlantic, DSL is considered broadband - what is broadband in the US?

    • Re:DSL vs Broadband? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cornjones (33009) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:16AM (#36190780) Homepage

      presumably, in poster's mind, broadband = cable. Maybe it means fiber but i would think cable. Most of the dsl implementations are pretty crappy around the states (based on setups around the east coast mainly, seattle was good). Because of this, most people think dsl is inherently inferior to cable broadband. having used some excellent dsl providers in london, it definitely comes down to the service provider.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      Americans assume that DSL tops out around 2/0.25 Mbps because that's pretty much what they can get.

      • by afidel (530433)
        Well, actually the AT&T high speed service IS DSL, but it's not marketed as such. It's actually VDSL or ADSL2+, but much of the bandwidth is reserved for TV and Voice.
    • from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadband_Internet [wikipedia.org]:

      the United States (US) Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as of 2010, defines "Basic Broadband" as data transmission speeds of at least 4 megabits per second (Mbps), or 4,000,000 bits per second, downstream (from the Internet to the userâ(TM)s computer) and 1 Mbit/s upstream (from the userâ(TM)s computer to the Internet)

      Personally I think my DSL 1.2Mbps is "broadband", just slow broadband. I don't quite agree with arbitrary raising of the bar but I see it useful for driving progress in speeds. Funny thing about the 150GB cap you mentioned for DSL users, even a slow connection like mine can double that in a month.

    • 150GB applies to DSL, 250GB to U-Verse, which is DSL bundled with AT&T video services. The extra 100GB is a method for AT&T to use their market position in network connections to leverage their way into the video market.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:54AM (#36191220)

      In the minds of most people, including most geeks, broadband = really fast Internet, and the cutoff for that changes year to year and person to person.

      In reality broadband means, well, broadband, as in a service that is not baseband. So Ethernet, even 10G, is not broadband. However DSL, no matter how slow, is broadband.

      Unfortunately, this shit is going to keep happening particularly now that the FCC has an official definition for broadband and it includes a minimum speed. People are going to keep misusing the term until the meaning just changes to "fast internet, where fast is whatever I think it is."

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Thank you! I have raised this issue before and mostly gotten flamed for it. Words have meanings or they should. I don't why we can't just call high speed Internet um... high speed Internet, and keep broadband referring to transmission method.

        • For the same reason people say the 6-o'clock news comes out and films a story. Film? TV news hasn't used film in decades. Hell, a lot of them don't even use tape anymore. The proper term would be "record" or "shoot," but no one says that. Even people in the industry still say they're filming stuff.

          There are two tiers of language: Accurate, and common use. I usually find that advocates of both tiers are a little too passionate for their own good. Broadband in common use means fast internet because most consu

    • anything over then the lowest tier, basic DSL gets a creative name. Instead of AT&T selling VDSL they sell U-Verse!
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:10AM (#36190696)

    This is because Netflix hosts their shit with caching companies. You get people like Akamai that do data hosting. Now they have big data centers that hold lots of data as you'd expect, but they also have cache engines all over the place. They contact ISPs and say "Hey, we'd like to put cache engines in your data center. We'll provide you all the equipment, free of charge, and tell you how to configure it. This will reduce the amount of bandwidth you use."

    You can see why ISPs like this and go for it. Of course the other side of it, the reason Akamai does it, is because it reduces their bandwidth usage a lot. Win-win situation.

    This happened on campus like 8 years ago. Akamai gave us some cache engines and they got set up on the network. Now anything on them is just stupidly fast. Windows updates just fly down. It also made quite a noticeable dent in off campus bandwidth usage.

    I don't think Netflix uses Akamai themselves, but I do know they use a service like it.

    • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:22AM (#36190858)

      I don't think Netflix uses Akamai themselves, but I do know they use a service like it.

      They did use Akamai, then switched to Level3. Remember that whole fiasco with Level 3 and Comcast? That was because Akamai paid Comcast for some stupid reason to make it so Comcast had less load on their peering points, and Level 3 didn't pay. Comcast wanted them to pay, and they did in the end.
      Very stupid, I would have just let Comcast oversubscribe their peering points & come back when they wanted to get the load off for free.

    • by swb (14022)

      Do they? The depth of Netflix library, despite the apparent lack of quality, would seem to make it hard to cache or at least very inefficient unless the caching entity decided to bulk copy all of Netflix on-demand video library.

      How many people are watching episode 20, season 2 of Rockford Files?

      While this might make sense from a data storage perspective (even though I'd bet it's not), I could imagine licensees having issues with multiple third-party copies of their intellectual property.

      What would make mor

      • The specifics of how they work vary per company and they don't release the details, but they aren't a "We only cache some stuff no matter what," item. Some things are precached, near as I can tell, like Windows updates. Since they are very popular makes sense. Other things are on-demand cached. Someone accesses it, they stream it from the data center and it also goes on the cache engine for the ISP as that happens so the next person can get it. Some I think are regional, it chooses to get it ready for certa

      • There was a story on /. a while ago, which had some statistics for this. I don't remember the exact numbers, but the overall idea was that there are, at any given time, some very popular things, and everything else. Most of the traffic comes from people streaming a few titles.
      • by spinkham (56603)

        Using custom hardware, they could store about 120TB for ~$8,000.

        I base that on this article, assuming that they use 3 GB drives instead of the 1.5 they used a few years ago.
        http://blog.backblaze.com/2009/09/01/petabytes-on-a-budget-how-to-build-cheap-cloud-storage/ [backblaze.com]

        Lets says they put two of these in an ISP, thats 240TB. Netflix streams at about 2GB/hour. That means they could store 120,000 hours of content for ~$16K per ISP. That's not their whole library by far, but I would be willing to bet that's enoug

      • by Comboman (895500) on Friday May 20, 2011 @10:38AM (#36191740)

        How many people are watching episode 20, season 2 of Rockford Files?

        A lot fewer than are watching The King's Speech or Little Fockers (unfortunately). Netflix doesn't has to cache their entire library to save bandwidth. Caching the top 50 or 100 downloads for that week would yield significant savings. Long Tail arguments aside, most people still watch whatever everyone else is watching.

  • obvious slant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:10AM (#36190714) Journal

    "40 gig just from streaming data" with a lowball 150 gig allowance, with recent slashdot articles saying netflix is a large minority of people's traffic... sounds like the ISPs are correct, that 150 gig is generous.

    • Well, if Netflix is 30% of the Internet's traffic, the average user's usage is 133 GB/month. A 17 GB overhead doesn't sound particularly generous to me.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        No, that doesn't follow at all. If Netflix is 30% of all Internet traffic, then it's obviously a greater than 30% share of the traffic generated by people who subscribe to Netflix, since most people do not subscribe to Netflix.
      • More than you need isn't generous? What's the new definition for generous?

    • by timeOday (582209)
      The phrase "just from streaming data" is obvious slant in itself, as if any amount of websurfing, gaming, or email would be significant compared to streaming a movie.
    • TFA: "It turns out Netflix users take up an average of 40GB per month just from streaming media, according to a different Sandvine report (PDF), Users that stream data through a device other than a PC – an Xbox or other game console, for example – use twice that amount of bandwidth for the same content. That puts DSL users who stream movies through their Xbox 360s two-thirds of the way to their data cap every month before they download a single app or send a single email."
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Well, the first question I'd ask is how many people are only casual users of Netflix' service. If you watch 90% TV/BluRay and use streaming to catch the last 10%, you'll skew the statistics for the "full time" user quite a lot. A cap doesn't become more acceptable because of grandmas sending email using 1 GB/mo send the average below the cap.

      The second issue is that Netflix is obviously limiting the bandwidth to what the market will deliver, 150 GB = three BluRays = 6 hours @ BluRay quality. High bandwidth

    • by orbital3 (153855)

      Only for now, and only if you're one of the people that hasn't cut cable TV service from their budgets. The average American watches 153 hours of TV every month [nielsen.com]. Netflix HD streams eat up approximately 2GB every hour (source: Netflix themselves [netflix.com] and verified by watching my own router traffic while watching HD Netflix streams).

      Some simple arithmetic leads us to 153 hours * 2GB/hr = 306GB per month for an average American who gets their TV fix from Netflix streaming or another comparable service. And this i

  • Seems like ISPs are pulling somewhat of a bait and switch with their business models. It troubles me that they are more than happy to give out "Unlimited Access" as long as there aren't any high bandwidth applications that are used by the masses. Now, it seems, Netflix is more popular than BitTorrent ever was (mostly because it doesn't leverage copyright infringement) and the ISPs are all too happy to tighten their pricing controls to prevent this.

    This proves that the ISPs are either incompetent (becaus

  • ISPs Underestimate? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geoffrobinson (109879) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:20AM (#36190830) Homepage

    Full disclosure: I used to work for a group within Comcast that looked at network traffic to the user. Let's just say I have a really strong dislike of all things Comcast.

    With that said, not a chance that the ISPs are not estimating correctly. They aren't estimating. At least at Comcast, they have an incredibly good idea of how much network traffic is going through their system. And they build to a given percentile of busiest time in the entire month.

    The only way you can say they are miscalculating what is going across the network is if Sandvine is not properly analyzing network traffic and is associating it with an incorrect network protocol.

    • by ruiner13 (527499)
      There is "knowing" and then there is "acknowledging". Even if they knew it, do you really think they'd tell people the exact numbers? I'm guessing that is considered "trade secret" and protected.
  • From the article:
    Users that stream data through a device other than a PC – an Xbox or other game console, for example – use twice that amount of bandwidth for the same content.

    Why would it take more bandwidth to stream the same content? Do they use a different streaming video format or codec for the consoles? The article and the linked pdf makes that statement but do not explain why.
    • by thpdg (519053)

      That quote is not from the Sandvine paper.
      It doesn't say anything about the same content using more bandwidth. It only implies that users are likely to watch more hours of content when they are using a device connected to their TV, rather than a standalone PC.

      • by Xian97 (714198)
        You are right, the quote was from the blog post, which took the figures to mean that more bandwidth is used rather than increased viewing, but the Sandvine article doesn't say that increased viewing is the reason for the disparity, just that 360 Netrlix users use double the amount of PC users.

        From Sandvine:
        Contrast Figure 4 with Figure 5, which shows the average daily data consumption of a Netflix user who uses the service via an Xbox 360. On average, a Netflix subscriber using an Xbox 360 has about twic
  • If traffic is "spiking" and causing infrastructure some problems its time to make a better infrastructure. What the traffic actually *is* should be irrelevant.

    The original report is about extortion, not about infrastructure. Blame a company flush with cash and charge them for nothing. As long at Netflix is paying their bandwidth provider they need to shut up.

    • This. I've noticed that more and more people publish articles simply it seems to get people distracted and overcomplicating the real issues, often when there aren't any, other than someone wanting a piece of someone else's pie.

  • by mounthood (993037) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:38AM (#36191026)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandvine#Comcast_Controversy [wikipedia.org]

    So a company that sells network control and monitoring software, and who has a dodgy past, says the bandwidth caps are OK.

    • by DinZy (513280)

      Good catch. I remembered the name but didn't catch the gross conflict of interest.

  • by airfoobar (1853132) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:45AM (#36191104)
    I strongly suspect that this whole "Netflix uses all the bandwidth" story was started by some ISP lobbyist somewhere, who wants to charge users more for certain services.
  • by fermion (181285) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:50AM (#36191174) Homepage Journal
    Second, ISPs underestimate what a 'normal' level of Internet use really is. 'When AT&T announced its data caps – 150GB per month for DSL users and 250GB for broadband – it called the data levels generous and said limits would only affect 2 percent of its customers. It turns out Netflix users take up an average of 40GB per month just from streaming media

    Normal, at least in the free market, is a compromise between what retailers are willing to sell and users are willing to pay for. People complain about high gas prices, but it is only recently that, again, users are actually responding to the prices. Likewise, it may seem that $2 for a coke is high, but largely retailers sell quite a bit of product in that way.

    In this case, bandwidth retailers are largely setting caps based on price points that are attractive to consumers and still provide them a profitable situation. We can argue whether the profits are excessive, but the situation is what it is. Netflix is a new business model, and some costs may be externalized to third parties that do not directly benefit from the service. I think the point of the report is to illustrate this point, and question Netflix as a viable model. OTOH, 'the internet' like 'the roads' s becoming a public resource in which continuously increasing trafic capacity is considered in the public interest, and the telcos clearly benefit from more consumers buying product in part driven by the desire for high bandwidth streaming media.

    • by tepples (727027)

      OTOH, 'the internet' like 'the roads' s becoming a public resource in which continuously increasing trafic capacity is considered in the public interest

      But even public highways are charged for based on heavy vs. light users. Tractor-trailers wear down a road far more than, say, bicycles. (Damage has been modeled as proportional to the fourth power of axle weight.) This is part of why owners of tractor-trailers pay far more per year for registration than owners of passenger cars.

  • Netflix' real problem is that they are disrupting (or are potentially disruptive to) some very large, well funded, politically active companies. They're screwed.

  • I'm happy with my G.Bond ADSL2+ connection which gives me full 48/6 Mbps pretty cheaply. With cable there are always problems with upstream performance and latency. Using DSL I get steady 10 ms round-trip latency (DSLAM).
  • The quality of Netflix video is crap. This 40GB represents about 24.5 hours of Netflixing, which is certainly a totally believable number. That's about one film at Blu-ray rates. Netflix is savvy enough to not totally piss off the average ISP, and as well, they're playing on enough small devices (BD players, game consoles) that they have to be concerned about network thoughput with smaller buffers. In short, their quality isn't getting better any time soon. And no love for more restricted systems like satel

    • I totally disagree. Its video quality is great if you have the connection to support it FOR WHAT THE SERVICE IS. Its a fucking video jukebox in the sky and the video is still WAY better then ANYTHING i had as a kid. If you want ultimate quality go to Blu-ray and suck up $25 per title. FOR WHAT NETFLIX IS, the quality is excellent.
  • It doesn't matter if it's only saturating the last mile and not the backbone. Why? Because the last mile is what's expensive to fix. There's lots and lots of last miles, but there's only a few egress backbone points. In WAN networking the physical costs of creating infrastructure are what cost a lot of money.
  • If Netflix is 30% of Internet content and an average user uses 40GB of bandwidth for NetFlix, then that users overall bandwidth should be about 134GB a month. I'm not sure how a limit of 150GB to 250GB isn't at least covering average use. It might have been an underestimate that only 2% would be effected, but that also largely depends on what the Netflix usage data looks like in terms of distribution.

  • by flibbidyfloo (451053) on Friday May 20, 2011 @11:41AM (#36192404)

    I'm no lover of Comcast or AT&T, but I think the point about ISPs underestimating normal use is unfair.

    It says that Netflix users take up an average of 40GB per month just from streaming media. In my experience, your "average" user isn't doing anything that uses more bandwidth than Netflix. Even with the lower data cap of 150GB, that leaves room for a three-fold increase in streaming bandwidth before you come close to using your allocation, with room left over downlaoding 3 or 4 full-sized games a month. Even with the supposed doubling of that rate for console users (which I doubt), that leaves plenty of room. And Mr. Fogarty needs to check his math, as 80 150*2/3.

    Even if console Netflix users were averaging 100GB/mo for streaming, who can use 50GB/mo on email, web surfing, and youtube?

    I think the author is overestimating how much bandwidth average users need.

    Full disclosure: I am far from an average user. I have Netflix and DirecTV, both of which I use streaming video on. I also download a few DVD-sized images every month, and my wife practically lives on the web in the evenings. And yet according to my Tomato router stats, I've never even hit the halfway mark of my 250GB Comcast cap.

  • by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Friday May 20, 2011 @11:52AM (#36192514)
    What the summary fails to mention is that console Netflix users use even more data per month on average: 80 GB. That doesn't account for other forms of consumption, such as Hulu or downloaded games. There's a chart that shows PS3 users consume the most data of all.
  • by ffejie (779512) on Friday May 20, 2011 @04:12PM (#36195196)
    I didn't get a chance to read either report yet, but it seems like 150GB would be pretty generous.

    it called the data levels generous and said limits would only affect 2 percent of its customers. It turns out Netflix users take up an average of 40GB per month just from streaming media, according to a different Sandvine report (PDF).

    So an Average Netflix user uses 40GB per month "just" for streaming media. However, that's easily the biggest chunk of the average user's usage. I can't imagine the average user is also pulling down another 40GB worth of webpages without streaming media. I would guess that if the average user is doing 40GB of Netflix, they're probably also only doing 10-20GB of everything else. Assuming various things about the distribution, it's not hard to imagine that only 2% of users are pulling down 150GB, which is more than double the average user.

    Yes, I know you can get to 150GB if you're legally downloading Linux torrents all day, but remember, we're talking about average people here.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Friday May 20, 2011 @04:14PM (#36195228) Homepage

    When AT&T announced its data caps – 150GB per month for DSL users and 250GB for broadband – it called the data levels generous and said limits would only affect 2 percent of its customers. It turns out Netflix users take up an average of 40GB per month just from streaming media, according to a different Sandvine report

    So, basically, the thing that is by far the biggest use of bandwidth for most people uses between 16 and 26% of their cap? Based on this it appears AT&T was right--most people won't hit the cap.

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