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The Internet Networking

ISP Capping Is Becoming the New DRM 395

Crazzaper writes "There's a lot of controversy over ISP capping with Time Warner leading the charge. Tom's Hardware has an interesting article about how capping is the new form of DRM at the ISP level. The author draws some comparison to business practices by large cable operators and their efforts to protect cable TV programming. While this is understandable from the cable operator's perspective, the article points out how capping will affect popular services such as Steam for game content publishing and distribution, cloud-computing and online media services. Apparently this is also an effective way of going after casual piracy."
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ISP Capping Is Becoming the New DRM

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  • In Europe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __NR_kill ( 1018116 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:24AM (#27555019)

    In particular in Belgium, there are just a few ISP's that do not have any capping. The major ISP's make BIG profit of the users who want to download lets say, more than the 40GB they offer. It's NOT a DRM, it's just another way to squeeze more money from their customers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SalaSSin ( 1414849 )
      With you there.
      I live in Belgium too, and what they're charging here for bandwith and download limits is WAY of the charts compared to most other western countries in the world :-(
      To make it clear: I'm paying 42,91 (that's $56,69) / month for 15 Mbps and 25GB limit...
    • by tjstork ( 137384 )

      If there's not capping or charges for bandwidth, then somebody gets rationed. There's a fixed amount of bandwidth available, and you have to decide who gets it. Whether or not that's someone that pays extra to get more or just some random assignment, you still have to decide.

      • by __aatmkh9910 ( 1504031 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:56AM (#27555253)
        ISPs just need to upgrade their backhauls to accommodate more traffic, they are selling people bandwidth that doesn't exist and hoping people don't use it, ISPs need to fess up about exactly how much bandwidth each customer will get. Here in the US, at least where I live, Verizon is one of the only ISPs left that doesn't do any sort of throttling or capping, and I've seen more than a few people switch to them for that exact reason.
      • by transporter_ii ( 986545 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:58AM (#27555269) Homepage

        And not only is there a fixed amount of bandwidth, but they oversell this bandwidth by a large margin. To build out a system where each and every person could utilize 100% of their bandwidth at one time would cost a fortune...and it wouldn't be sold for 29.95 a month.

        Go and look at some prices for services with guaranteed bandwidth. Suddenly, the tiered prices don't look so bad.

        As someone who worked at an ISP, I do feel for them. I quit my job because I could see the coming bandwidth crunch where I worked and I knew that no matter how we tried to play it, we would piss people off.


        • by andymadigan ( 792996 ) <> on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:19AM (#27555517)

          Time Warner spent $150 million on network upgrades while receiving $4.1 Billion in revenue from their high speed data services. We're a long, long way off from getting our money's worth on services here in the states.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 )

            Revenue != Profit unless costs are 0. It costs a lot of money to keep such a large network running and Internet is one of many services they provide. I do feel your point, though.

            • Of course there are network costs, but I wonder, how profitable are their Digital Phone and Cable TV services? TW claims that light users are subsidizing the heavy users, what are RR users subsidizing that TW should just get rid of?
              • Digital phone is probably wildly profitable, percentage-wise at least. I hate how everybody wants to bundle it with the other services. I already have a digital phone that goes wherever I go, as does my wife.

          • Apples to oranges comparison. One network upgrade vs the entire revenue for the entire service. You forgot the ongoing costs of maintaining the network.
            • by andymadigan ( 792996 ) <> on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:13AM (#27556065)
              Sorry for the misprint, that was the amount they spent on maintaining the network exact quote:

              "In 2008, TW made $4,159 Million, on high speed data alone, and then had to turn around and spend $146 Million to support the cost of the network. 2008 total profit on high speed data: $4.013 Billion"
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by jmauro ( 32523 )

                That is true only the most simplistic analysis and incorrect. The costs don't include any of the costs of discharging the debt incured on building the network. It also doesn't include the costs that would be applied to general cable usage that share the same communication system or any labor and tax costs that are incurred running the either system. It's just a subtraction of two lines (total data revenue and direct data costs) in the 10-K form and the "implication" that the result is 4 billion in pure p

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by andymadigan ( 792996 )
                  However, it does seem unlikely that even a doubling of network costs would bankrupt them, and yet they want to cap usage.
                • by Thraxen ( 455388 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @12:18PM (#27557913)

                  That's Time Warner's own information to their investors. They claim they made $4B in profit off their data services. You talk about their other services, like cable TV, but don't forget that those other services also have their own revenue streams. You act like they are being run purely off the profit from the data services. The bottom line is they have plenty of money to upgrade their network, but instead they would rather implement caps and squeeze the consumer for even more profit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 )

          Maybe you can tell me then - I figured that a certain amount of money used from out monthly subscription would be re-invested into the company to allow it to expand indefinitely (or nearly indefinitely). Is this not the case?

        • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:49AM (#27555815) Journal

          As someone who worked for an ISP, you should know pretty well that the connections were being oversold for profit margin, and this "coming bandwidth crunch" has been coming for what, 15 years? I have no sympathy for ISP's that couldn't see a slowly rolling tide that they have been putting off. Honestly they are the companies that provide the capacity and they know what's coming down the line as far as upgrades. Even now they bitch about small investments to increase capacity for longterm or longer-term.

      • by ThatDamnMurphyGuy ( 109869 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:58AM (#27555277) Homepage

        Well, my ISP sold me a 6Mb Down connection, the cost of which is charged by month. All day, every day of that month. So why should I not be able to fully utilize that 6Mb speed all day, every day of that month?

        Their capacity issues are not my problem. I'm simply using what I have paid for. IF their network can't handle it, only sell 3Mb or 1Mb connections.

        This sort of cap and overage shenanigans will not work in the future when EVERYTHING is online.Steam is a valid us of high transfers. So it Netflix, and OS upgrades.

        • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:15AM (#27555463) Journal

          Did you read the small print? I'd be very surprised if you are paying for 6Mb/s all day every day. Most likely, you are paying for a connection that supports peak throughput rates of 6Mb/s. It is possible to buy 6Mb/s connections, but they run to hundreds of dollars a month. If you think you can pay a few tens of dollars a month for a 6Mb/s connection that you can saturate 24/7 then I have a diamond ring to sell you.

          The only thing I have a problem with is ISPs not advertising their caps clearly. When they started selling broadband connections, there wasn't enough interesting content for most people to use more than a tiny fraction of their capacity. Now there is a lot more, and people are starting to go over the invisible line that they drew with the maximum that an average user would need. If you really need a connection that you can saturate, then you buy a leased line, and pay for it. For the price of my (capped) 10Mb/s connection, I could buy something like a 256Kb/s connection which allowed me to saturate the link all of the time (it would more if I want an SLA that guaranteed a certain uptime it would cost more). This seems to be what you are suggesting ISPs offer instead, but for most users it would be much less valuable. Being able to download an ISO image in a few minutes, or watch streaming video, is a lot more useful than being able to constantly saturate a slower link.

          • by ThatDamnMurphyGuy ( 109869 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:33AM (#27555659) Homepage

            I completely believe there is fine print. Regardless, they sold it as "unlimited". Yes, 6M is a peak throughput, but there was no restrictions on WHEN nor HOW LONG I use that 6M peak throughput.

            I'm actually ok with caps as long as they're sane. 5GB per month is not sane. 1 Steam game can put you over that quite easily. Caps simply will not be viable in a future where everything moves over the connection; esp when it's the same ISP moving IPTV.

            Metered would be ok with me as well. It would be interesting to see what happened if metered billing became the norm. I wonder if AdBlock would become a norm, and if there would be a movement back to more thin looking websites to save the bandwidth for the actual data rather than the look n feel.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              And more to the point. If ATT tried putting a 5G cap on my DSL, I'd drop it in a heart beat. I can get my work done at Starbuck, McDonalds and any other place with free wifi for customers. Let THEM deal with the caps.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Sandbags ( 964742 )

                That's not a bad idea... Unfortunately, most of the Starbucks I've been in QoS each user's connection to about 512K down, so good luck doing big dowloads or watching IP TV from there... Occasionally I've found better, but rarely. If we abused it too much, and Starbucks started eating charges I'm sure they'd impose daily caps on each MAC address, or impose their own throttling.

                I just signed up for AT&T DSL at a house I'm moving into Wednesday. Even including the dryline costs, it was $10 a month chea

            • by evilkasper ( 1292798 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:24AM (#27556189)
              So when I was trying to find out what my ISP's version of "unlimited" was it took me forever to actually find the page where they list the caps for the different tiers they have. I'd get pissed and switch to a different provider but it's not really an option, which seems to me to be the main reason for the poor customer service. Most of us have 2 options if we are lucky, not a lot of need for them to compete for our business.
            • I completely believe there is fine print. Regardless, they sold it as "unlimited".

              This requires a bit of context, doesn't it? "Unlimited" began being advertised at a time when dialup was charging for hourly use. The cable companies saw an opportunity here - "always on" connections that were not time limited. Hence "unlimited". I don't think there was a discussion around unlimited bandwidth even then -- just an assumption of unlimited connectivity in comparison to the time-limited usage of dial-up.

              So you think they'd get with the times and stop advertising unlimited, right? Well... guess what, they have. I can't find any of the major carriers advertising "unlimited" service, and haven't for several years now. So maybe you were among those who did sign up when they advertised "Unlimited" [connectivity] - your TOS agreement also lets them change that whenever they want.

              This isn't what we want to hear, but it seems to me that they're the basic facts of the matter.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by jedidiah ( 1196 )

                > This requires a bit of context, doesn't it? "Unlimited" began being advertised at a time when dialup was charging for hourly use.

                Nope. Not even close.

                It was "dialup" that made the break between being charged by the hour and being charged a flat monthly rate.

                By the time "broadband" came around, it was already taken for granted that what you
                paid for per month covered ALL OF YOUR ACCESS. There might have been usage caps even
                then. However, they were rare and typically represented absurdly high levels of us

            • by mpcooke3 ( 306161 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:57AM (#27556707) Homepage

              Regardless, they sold it as "unlimited". Yes, 6M is a peak throughput, but there was no restrictions on WHEN nor HOW LONG I use that 6M peak throughput.

              It's a bit like a water-slide park, where they originally charge kids $20 for 10 slides that have to be used the same day. Then they switch to a new pricing scheme where kids can have an unlimited number of slides on that day for $20.

              The scheme is so popular at drawing people in, none of the kids can get more than 5 slides in because the queues are so long.

              Sometimes people running a club do the same thing over here, you pay one fixed price to get in and you get unlimited drinks! Only catch is that the club is always packed and they only have 1 slow barman serving. It's also a very unpleasant experience at the bar!

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                Worth mentioning, that's initially a win for the service provider -- the slides are packed, but each kid is still paying $20. Even if you assume the waterpark was fully utilized at $20 for 10 slides, that means they have at least twice as many kids getting 5 slides, but still paying $20 each.

                What I've humbly suggested is, instead of pocketing the extra money, spend it on building more slides. It may take time, but you'll eventually get even more kids paying $20 each, and having a lot more fun.

                Instead, ISPs

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by mpcooke3 ( 306161 )

                  What I've humbly suggested is, instead of pocketing the extra money, spend it on building more slides. It may take time, but you'll eventually get even more kids paying $20 each, and having a lot more fun.

                  That's only worth it if people pick water slide parks based on how busy they are. If they mainly just select based on price and the 'Unlimited' feature then there isn't any point in building new slides.

                  Hell, if the people are mainly just interested in a cheap price and hearing the term 'Unlimited' maybe it's a better business strategy to spend the extra money on advertising your already overcrowded water slides!

                  You've now made a lot of money with little investment. What if someone else starts building an al

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MikeBabcock ( 65886 )

          I'm a heavy Internet user and hate caps and have a 10Mbit feed to my house and even I'm not that oblivious.

          The feed you pay for is a "peak speed" of 6Mbit first off, not a guaranteed speed. Secondly, your actual usage is probably discussed in the fine print near where it tells you not to spam and harass other users.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sjames ( 1099 )

        There's a fixed amount of bandwidth available, and you have to decide who gets it.

        Not really, no. Technology marches on and in the world of networking it keeps taking the form of endpoint hardware that allows the very same cables to carry orders of magnitude more bandwidth. It is now possible to put 128 channels of 10Gbps each on one fiber. Yes, over a Terrabit per second in aggregate on one pair out of 24 in a longhaul cable.

        Upstream bandwidth for an ISP the size of the major cable companies costs under 4 cents per GB.

        BTW, the reason they sell broadband in terms of max transfer rate but

    • Re:In Europe (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:13AM (#27555437)


      It may hold true for Belgium /in particular/, but Europe is too diverse to conform even loosely to the shenanigans you mentioned.

      On the oposite side of the spectrum, less than two hours away by plane, we have Sweden, where a 100Mbps pipe costs less than a Big Mac meal per week.

      Your neighbour, Holland, has pretty decent Internet, as does Germany, Finland and France.

      Damn ignorant first-poster.

    • I agree. What is most likely to happen is the pirates will smarten up and control their downloading to within their tier. ITs the people that don't get what the is going on that will get charged. What I don't understand is why the ISP's are taking on customers at a level that their equipment can handle and they are allowed to get away with giving you sub advertised service.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      That is why I choose my provider with my wallet. Do the same and let them know. I left one provider who did not have capping, but could not put it in their contract for one that could.

      And it is indeed just upselling things. Comparing accounts is hard, but for a fixed IP you pay some 20-50EUR per month extra. Yes, that is per month. Each broadband customer must have one IP anyway, so it does not matter if they give you a fixed one or not.

      When ADSL started in Belgium and everybody was surprised that it was ca

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      It's NOT a DRM, it's just another way to squeeze more money from their customers.

      I thought that was the very point of DRM.
      And I still think this.

  • by blcamp ( 211756 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:26AM (#27555037) Homepage

    Rather than have these ridiculous, confiscatory rates for so-called "unlimited" service (which will still be capped under some other excuse)... why don't the ISP's just provide metered service?

    This way, Grandma who just wants a couple of recipies every now and then, and occasionally looks at baby photos posted on thier adult children's Facebook accounts (and is not pulling down 10GB/month)... only pays a little bit.

    And the Torrent operators pay for what they use.

    Pay for what you consume. Fair for everyone.

    Or is that too much common-sense for all involved?

    • by Akido37 ( 1473009 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:29AM (#27555063)

      Pay for what you consume. Fair for everyone.

      Or is that too much common-sense for all involved?

      Because that's bullshit.

      The ISPs' costs aren't based on how much you download, but on the bandwidth they provide. A better limit, and more fair for consumers, would be tiered service based on speed.

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:24AM (#27555571) Journal

        Unfortunately, you are entirely wrong. ISP have two sets of costs. One is for providing a connection. The other is for the amount of data you transfer off-network. It costs them the same amount to provide me with a 10Mb/s connection that I use to transfer 1GB/month or a 512Kb/s connection that I use to transfer 1GB/month. The fact that they provide me with any connection at all incurs fixed costs in terms of infrastructure. The amount of data I transfer incurs costs from their upstream providers (or, in the case of the really big ISPs, the traffic affects the networks that will peer with them for free).

        This is why ISPs have been slowly moving from tiers based on different speeds to tiers based on usage amounts. The cheapest packages generally don't seem like good value, because the cost of providing the line is a fairly major part of them, and per-GB they are very expensive. The only reason that faster lines cost more is that they make the usage spikes bigger. If you go from 0 to 100% usage on a 512Kb/s line, it produces a much smaller spike than if you do the same on a 10MB/s line, and this makes it harder for the ISP to estimate their maximum total transfer and therefore the capacity they need for their upstream links. This is part of the reason why a lot of them have started providing different on-peak and off-peak caps.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The thing is this:

      I've paid $40 a month for the last 9 years, and I've regularly consumed over ~70GB of data per month on TWC. Now, suddenly, there is not enough bandwidth to go around and they need to charge me extra $1 for any gigabytes over 40GB?

      Clearly, when I was their consumer for the last 9 years, they could afford to sell me data at ~57 cents/gigabyte ($40/70gb). Not once... NOT ONCE did I ever have any complaints from TWC about my usage. Even on months that I spiked to 100+ GB (not very often, mind

    • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:45AM (#27555169) Journal

      Because the cost to the ISP isn't based on how much I use. They have to maintain the infrastructure no matter how much it's being utilized. Their operating costs are the same whether their customers are using 50% of their bandwidth capacity or 99%. I shouldn't have to pay more because I use the resource that is available. If they are unable to deliver the service they are selling then they need to invest in upgrading their capacity. Bandwidth demand is only going to increase, gouging customers is not a solution to the problem.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by u38cg ( 607297 )
        I do agree with you that straightforward per-GB charging is not ideal. However, the fact is that if people actually paid a fair price for guaranteed service, they would be quite surprised. In the same way that hotels overbook rooms and airlines overbook flights, it cuts costs all round if this practice exists. Not an entirely simple problem, and not one that is easily solved by capping, either.
      • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:59AM (#27555281) Homepage

        > Because the cost to the ISP isn't based on how much I use.

        No. Their last mile capacity depends on your peak uasage but as soon as you get far enough upstream to be dealing with the aggregation of a significant number of users it depends on average usage. There is no ISP that would not have problems if all its customers maxed out their connections at once.

        • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:06AM (#27555361) Journal

          If all the customers are using their connection in such a way then that is the capacity that is being demanded and that is the capacity that the infrastructure needs to be able to handle. If it can't handle it, then the answer is simple; upgrade the network. Now that's an exaggeration, but the truth that no one at the ISPs wants to deal with is that raising price to encourage people to use less is not a long term solution. Eventually there is just going to be too much data being moved around and they'll have to expand their capacity. This is going to cost money and no one wants to spend it, especially when it's easier (in the short term at least, but they're shooting their own foot) to just charge more and change their business model to an arbitrarily priced metered service with hard caps.

          You're never going to convince the private sector that investing in more capacity is a good business move. Business can't look that far into the future. They see an easy way to make more money and that's what they will go for despite the fact that it's completely irresponsible and shortsighted.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Ok, let's assume the cost to the ISP doesn't directly depend on how much total download volume you use. The bandwidth they can provide is limited though (like you said, by their infrastructure), and the more you download, the more time during which you're taking up a portion of that bandwidth, which can't be assigned to somebody else. A cap on the download volume is, effectively, a cap on how much use you make of the limited good. Now, if you provide a good, and there is contention for that good, you need t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Because the cost to the ISP isn't based on how much I use. They have to maintain the infrastructure no matter how much it's being utilized.

        That's fantasyland. The only reason they need the infrastructure is because people use it. And the lion's share of that need for more infrastructure is people using it a lot. Otherwise, they could use less infrastructure and provide lower prices. Since you are the reason the rest of us can't get lower prices, it's in the interest of the rest of us to boot you from

    • by javilon ( 99157 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:54AM (#27555223) Homepage

      "Rather than have these ridiculous, confiscatory rates for so-called "unlimited" service (which will still be capped under some other excuse)... why don't the ISP's just provide metered service?"

      Because the ones most screwed up would be the grand moms of the word. They would be charged a hundred times more per kilobyte than the pirates. The scale wouldn't be linear. It would be something like:

      1GB cap -> 10$
      10 GB cap -> 20$
      50 GB cap -> 40$
      100 GB cap ->60$
      500 GB cap ->100$

      At that point the grand mum would realize that she is paying 10$ per GB while the guy next door is paying 0.2$ per GB. At that point two things would happen. First, she would realize that she is not getting a good deal, and second, she would arrive at a nice arrangement with the guy next door where for 5 bucks she gets to connect to his access point.

      The lesson to learn from this is that a byte is a byte and if you try to make the pricing steps too high, it won't work.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jaxtherat ( 1165473 )

        At that point the grand mum would realize that she is paying 10$ per GB while the guy next door is paying 0.2$ per GB.

        *worlds smallest violin*

        Welcome to economies of scale. []

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This entire Slashdot topic feels surreal to me. Capped plans are the norm here (Australia). Is that really not how it works in America!? The hypothetical "this would never work" pricing scheme in the parent post is pretty much how it works.

        The grandmother rarely ends up sharing the neighbours's access point because:

        * Usually the usage difference between neighbours is not enough to make the saving worthwhile - and where there ARE very light users, they're not savvy or confident enough to initiate this.

        * Neig

    • Ah yes, let's go back to the "good ol' days" of the late 80's and early 90's when the telcos gladly robbed you blind if you wanted to transfer data over their lines, because that was such an awesome idea...

      Here's a hint: If they start to charge by the gigabyte or megabyte then they'll only do so because they figure they can rape their customers.

      Of course, I'm swedish and I've never had any transfer limits on my internet connection, in the pre-1998 days when I was on dialup I did pay by the minute though, an

    • Because this has more to do with TW wanting to curb streaming video (since its competing with their video on demand services) than it does bandwidth use.

      If they only charged for use they'd be out of business in a month.

  • by ionix5891 ( 1228718 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:34AM (#27555087)

    I run several huge sites (bigger than slashdot)

    and we use 1200 to 1500 mbit outbound at anytime

    our agreements with datacenter and carries mean we pay $US 4.5 a mbit @ 95th percentile during peak hours ONLY (thats 12:00 to 24:00GMT)

    outgoing bandwidth offpeak time is FREE

    incoming bandwdith is FREE

    alot of large isps such as Comcast or UPC can peer for practically free with datacenters (who are heavily outbound) as these isps are heavily inbound

    this whole bandwidth cap is a joke, and site operators already pay alot of the privilege and were talking about pricing per mbit per month here not per GB

    • by mattbee ( 17533 ) <> on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:09AM (#27555397) Homepage

      You're comparing apples and oranges - internet transit bandwidth is cheap because for a particular piece of switch or fibre infrastructure in a data centre (where your hosting is), there are multiple commercial uses and plenty of opportunity to sell your bandwidth so it's used maximally. This results in a multi-tier system where you pay for a commodity according to volume, and a handful of centralised engineers can maintain it. Your sites are reaping the benefits of that economy.

      The infrastructure for providing data bandwidth to residential areas has usually been put down by one or (if the area is lucky) two companies, involving very expensive digging up of public land. The return on investment for a particular piece of cable can only be provided by the homeowners, who are very price-sensitive compared to businesses. This infrastructure is mostly single-homed, needs roving national teams of engineers to maintain, and for a return that is often heavily regulated.

      That's why (as a relatively small player in broadband, but a larger one in hosting) we pay £300-odd per Mb for connectivity to *any home in the UK*, but only £5-15 for "internet transit", where we're not the ones paying for that expensive last mile of connectivity.

    • Bandwidth is always going to be cheaper at the datacenter... that's where all the bandwidth is, at the NOC located nearby. What the ISPs need to find a way to control is the last mile, where bandwidth isn't as plentiful.

    • I imagine there's a slight difference in the cost to provide a connection in a highly centralised location to the carrier's network when compared to connecting a consumer in the middle of nowhere to that same network. The maintenance and upgrade costs are going to be far different when compared, and when you factor in the volume of customers and support costs... I think it's pretty silly to try and compare a datacentre connection to a residential one.

      As for some of the other discussions going on: Bandwidth

      • I can understand about not wanting constant downloaders when you've oversold your bandwidth, but this requires a sophisticated pricing scheme to be unobtrusive.

        People A) don't want their connection to stop or be throttled till the end of the month and B) don't want to be slammed with overage charges.

        I think of the two, (severe) throttling after cap is hit is better for most home users, being less apt to cause them to constantly monitor their monthly bandwidth cap, and be paranoid about clicking on a YouTu

  • In the UK... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's rapidly becoming impossible to find an ISP (especially where there's no cable coverage) who will provide reasonable limits. Many ISPs started out offering 'unlimited' plans. These ISPs ended up with fair usage policies- I pay for 30 gigs a month for the same amount I paid for unlimited, and this 30 gigs per month is actually only 15- at 15 they reduce everything except email/HTTP to a crawl, at 20 they block most things except email/HTTP, and at 30 it's just unusable, despite the fact that they claim I
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      Entanet are largely a bt reseller too...
      The problem is the wholesale prices... If you have an 8mb dsl and use it 24/7 for an entire month the isp will pay 30+k for that backhaul bandwidth from bt, not to mention the isp's own infrastructure costs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by master811 ( 874700 )

      There are still a few good ISPs out there, but yeah they are very few and far between. [] is probably the best I know of and from experience, it's truly unlimited in pretty much every way, and it's not ridiculously overpriced unlike others which may offer similar services.

  • by agorist_apostle ( 1491899 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:45AM (#27555167)
    Let's see...people back in the 90s bitched about having rationed access, so companies got rid of it and went to unlimited use because their competition was. How long is it going to take a competitor to again figure out they can have all the business they can handle if they don't charge for volume?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Problem is unlike the 90's when dial up providers were rationing, there's no competition for broadband in a lot of areas. With dial-up it didnt matter what phone service you had, you could still get AOL, MSN, Netzero, Juno, ... Now with broadband, some people don't have that choice to make. Where I live, I have 1 option for internet, Comcast.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cvd6262 ( 180823 )

        I'm in the area outside of Rochester, where TW plans to cap. Less than an hour from here is Buffalo where Verizon has laid out FiOS. Guess what? No capping in Buffalo.

        So, you're correct: Competition cannot cure this, which is why a NY state legislator has rightly observed it as an abuse of monopoly.

    • by jcnnghm ( 538570 )

      Verizon already figured that out, that's why they built the FiOS network. The cable companies are too concerned about cannibalizing their TV revenue by going with low cost internet options like Hulu or Netflix to not impose the caps. When they got into the internet game it seems that they never really realized that their main business was probably on the way out, and now they're fighting like hell to stay relevant by attempting to make it impossible to use the other service because of the caps.

      • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

        I wouldn't say that Verizon "gets it", per se, but they're getting it a bit better than the rest. I still don't have TV or VoD- mainly because I've got fixed IP service. I can have VoIP from them, but I can't have the others because the ONT's they're using are incapable of providing the others allegedly with the service I've got from them. Oh, well, no boob-tube for me other than OTA; which is probably better. Means I won't be watching much of the pablum they've been shovelling of late. :-D

        • by jcnnghm ( 538570 )

          You can get both, but they've got to run a second fiber and install a second ONT. It's a pain in the ass, but they will do it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dhalka226 ( 559740 )

      I saw a great quote here on slashdot about this a few days ago, though I fear I'm not going to do it justice. It was from an Australian ISP, but along the same lines, where they said something like: "We'd be delighted if our highest-usage customers all went to our competition."

      And why wouldn't they? If you run a business and everybody is paying (say) $50, if you could skim the 1% who's downloading 200 gigs a month off and give them to a competitor and be left with customers who use 20, that's not bad fo

  • Welcome to my world (Score:4, Informative)

    by ewe2 ( 47163 ) <> on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:48AM (#27555191) Homepage Journal

    where capping is the norm here in Australia. It's just a wild guess but maybe this is just an ambit claim to make more money, you think?

    Next they'll be filtering the internets...

  • A throughput cap will only hurt consumers and legitimate transfer-intensive services like steam, netflix, xbox live, and hulu.

    The large few ISPs like to say that it's 1% of their subscribers who aren't playing fair. That's just not the truth. They see a trend emerging and they're not happy about it.

    You don't institute major policy change because of 1% of your users. You do it because in less than a year, it could be 15%-20% using as much as the 1% currently uses.

    Why? Online content providers are now offering larger quality services and more transfer-intensive services. Comcast certainly didn't like that. They have to pay for traffic outside their own network.

    It really is a scam. They sold me unlimited service and they have reneged on their part of the deal. They altered the contract. That should be illegal, but they did it.

    Caps and metered service are both money-saving scams. They will not prevent the inevitable.

    The only real solution is to increase network capacity.

    • I don't understand why the ISP companies aren't excited about this.

      If their network utilization is increasing then they must be doing something right as their customers are using their service more. Any other business would be thrilled about this.

      Instead of limiting what their customers are able to do, they should invest more in building their infrastructure to accommodate the increase in demand and grow their business.

      Instead they opt to shoot themselves by limiting their service and hinder growth so t
      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:17AM (#27555493) Homepage

        They're not excited. They're terrified. With services like Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, and other legitimate online video sources, the draw of their cable TV services is weakened. Why pay the cable company $50 a month if all of your favorites TV shows are online? (Legally, again. Let's not consider pirated shows for the moment as that introduces different arguments.)

        So they institute caps. Now you can download and watch a couple of HD movies from Hulu, but that could eat up your entire month's bandwidth allotment. So you're less likely to use online video and more likely to tune in on your TV. Cable wins. And if you decide to buck the system and view online videos? They charge you overage fees which coincidentally add up to approximately the cost of a cable subscription. Cable wins again.

        And just to introduce a Network Neutrality wrinkle into the equation, I'm pretty sure that they'll exempt any online video services that they introduce. If Time Warner releases "RoadRunner Online" where you can watch your favorite shows on your computer, they'll keep that usage from counting toward your monthly bandwidth cap. The net result will be that ISP sponsored online video sources will be given an advantage (maybe they will thrive, maybe not) while other legal online video sources will be held back with every attempt made to get them to wither and die. All to protect the cable companies' bottom lines.

        • And let's not forget, the cable company now offers phone, and the phone company now offers cable.
        • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

          I would rather pay them $30-50/mo for the pipe to the data and then an additional $10-20 for the video over that data pipe if they offer a compelling package. It's better, price-wise, than me spending what I'd spend on the two separately- and most people are the same. If they could economically do it for me for what I need out of FiOS (Peak data, fixed IP's...) I would be taking Verizon up on at least the TV service from them because it's better than Dish, which was already better than the Cable providers

      • Deploying more capacity takes time. It typically takes around 2 years for a major upgrade, and most of the consumer ISPs somehow completely failed to spot the fact that a lot of bandwidth-intensive services are being deployed. They now have high demand and lack the ability to fulfil it, so they are doing what every other company does in the same situation: charge the early adopters a lot. This lets them get the biggest return from their existing infrastructure, while they deploy more just fast enough to
    • by spinkham ( 56603 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:12AM (#27556053)

      If ISPs really wanted to reduce bandwith costs, they wouldn't have all dropped their internal Usenet feeds, and would be caching the heck out of everything.
      The reason no one has complained much before:
      Comcast:$43 for 250 GB - Seems mostly reasonable. 250 GB is a lot of traffic at the moment, if you're pulling more then 10 GB every day, you're doing some serious stuff and should probably get a business connection.
      Time Warner: $40 for 10GB? $60 for 40GB? - Not reasonable at all.

  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:56AM (#27555251) Homepage Journal
    Monday, July 17, 2006 []

    Network Neutrality : Two question for the great debate. In California there was an outrage when it was disclosed that electricity companies had deliberately idled plants while supplies were tight and then waited for prices to skyrocket on the spot market. If the current Internet network infrastructure provided by the backbone providers and Internet service providers can currently support much higher speeds and data quantities to current customers, then is the act of packet filtering and setting arbitrary low speed and data caps also effectively providing an "idled" service? Is a tiered Internet service, where content providers would be effectively competing on a similar market to the electricity "spot market", a market based entirely on Artificial Scarcity?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Monday, July 17, 2006 []

      Network Neutrality : Two question for the great debate. In California there was an outrage when it was disclosed that electricity companies had deliberately idled plants while supplies were tight and then waited for prices to skyrocket on the spot market. If the current Internet network infrastructure provided by the backbone providers and Internet service providers can currently support much higher speeds and data quantities to current customers, then is the act of packet filtering and setting arbitrary low speed and data caps also effectively providing an "idled" service? Is a tiered Internet service, where content providers would be effectively competing on a similar market to the electricity "spot market", a market based entirely on Artificial Scarcity?

      Unfortunately for CA the plant owners did exactly what was to be expected given the rules established by the state.

      CA's legislature thought they had setup that met their political goals - keep prices low to voters but in reality screwed up their entire pricing structure. Let's see - price caps (and rate reductions) to end users no matter what the supply cost was; mandated supply even if the cost was more to the utility than what they are getting paid; and a pricing model that encouraged getting the highest

  • What scares me.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:56AM (#27555255)
    Caps are fine, at least in the sense that they ALWAYS existed under some vague asterisk following the word "unlimited".

    But what's got me worried is the fact that when I started playing around on the internet, the most heavy web surfing was a few gifs and/or jpgs.

    Now, we have full flash animations, games, interactive multimedia presentations. Not to mention embedded audio and video.

    Downloads use to be smaller as well. Now with more bandwidth available, software gets bundled with more features and more multimedia. Game demos have gone from 10-20 meg up to 500meg to 2+ gig, easy.

    Hell, I'm a legit user, I don't download music (anymore, I did when I was younger) and I don't pull pirated movies/software either. I don't run bittorrent except for the occasional WoW update (when I did play). But I've seen a large jump in bandwidth usage with my new Roku box for watching NetFlix on my tv. That's a lot of streaming video. Are they keeping tech like this in mind? Doubt it.

    So, say the caps are aimed at the bandwidth of today, ok, fine. What happens "tomorrow" when demos START at 2gig+? What happens when the only video online starts at widescreen HD? Our bandwidth usage, for simple surfing, has been going up. It would be shortsighted to think it won't keep going up. If the companies with hard established caps don't keep growing your cap, you're going to eventually have to pay for the top tier.

    Bandwidth usage inflates with time. I'm not holding my breath that the ISP's will generously increase caps over time.

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      back in the day game demos came on CD's and then DVD's with magazines. if we go back to the days of too much data and not enough pipe, we'll just go back to the days of getting DVD's mailed to you.

      for video we'll just go back to the DVD/Blu-Ray model

      video over the internet took off due to the get it now factor. now that mobile devices can play movies we'll go back to having your own DVD's, rip and carry your entertainment with you.

    • by glop ( 181086 )

      About the Roku:
      Yes the cable operators have that in mind. They probably are concerned that you are going to stop buying on demand movies from them. And they are probably scared that you might even cancel TV service if TV companies start teaming with Netflix or Amazon or Google to broadcast on the Net...

    • by jcnnghm ( 538570 )

      Hell, I'm a legit user, I don't download music (anymore, I did when I was younger) and I don't pull pirated movies/software either. I don't run bittorrent except for the occasional WoW update (when I did play). But I've seen a large jump in bandwidth usage with my new Roku box for watching NetFlix on my tv. That's a lot of streaming video. Are they keeping tech like this in mind? Doubt it.

      Of course they kept that tech in mind. Do you have any idea how much money the cable companies would lose if everyone canceled their TV services in favor of less expensive, on demand, online offerings? Enough that it makes sense to piss off some of their customers on the internet end, to keep all of their customers on the TV end. These bandwidth caps are designed to kill IPTV before it gets a real foothold.

  • The article should have read, "Apparently this is BEING EXCUSED BY PRETENDING THAT IT IS an effective way of going after casual piracy."

  • I wish in order to enact these kinds of changes companies had to cancel my service and then convince me to sign up again.

  • by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:09AM (#27555391)
    I wonder if this is an attempt by the ISPs to end around net neutrality. They set these caps low, users won't pay. But certain third parties who make revenue sharing deals with the ISPs (think Hulu, YouTube, etc.) are exempted from the caps. Since users won't pay higher for uncapped data, it will drive users to the "free" services, creating more revenue for the ISP.
  • by Drakin020 ( 980931 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:27AM (#27555591)

    Don't use their service. If you have to, get DSL or something.

    I felt real good last week because my company had the discussion of going with a fiber line through Time Warner. Me being the Network Administrator told our Time Warner sales rep that we would not be interested due to the fact that the company practicing bandwidth caps. Yeah I know our company would not experience the caps, but it's a loss of business for them, and it gets the message across.

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:27AM (#27555593)

    Ask Earthlink's semi-automated chat service about the Comcast Cap applying to their cable-modem-over-Comcast's-wire service, and they'll tell you that it doesn't apply to you because you're Earthlink's customer and they have no such policy. You'll save a couple bucks based on the local Comcast price, but you'll be limited to to the 6mbps/768kbps which is Comcast's lowest speed level. (Though you'll still get the Comcast PowerBurst instant speed double.)

    That, and people will wonder why you have a e-mail address still...

  • Biz class (Score:4, Interesting)

    by r_naked ( 150044 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:36AM (#27555695) Homepage

    My advice would be to get business class while you can, WITH a contract.

    About a year ago Brighthouse royally pissed me off with their slow roll out of SDV (switched digital video), and their horrendous HDTV offering. My solution was to get DirectTV and keep BH only for Internet. The problem was that unless you purchased their "all in one" package (cable, phone, Internet), you couldn't get their highest speed tier (20/5). I was told if I wanted just Internet, at that speed tier, that I would have to get business class and pay extra. This really miffed me at first, but now I see it was a blessing in disguise...

    Bottom line, I ended up paying ~20/mo MORE for DirectTV + BH biz class, but I got much better TV service.

    Now it looks like I am also going to see the benefit of having a contract. I am locked into a 3 year contract, but I am guaranteed that I am not going to be paying $150+ for unlimited bandwidth since that is included in the biz class contract (which they can't just arbitrarily change). As it stands, I pay $75/mo and that gets me 20/5 unlimited bandwidth, static IP, and NO restrictions on services (IE: no blocked ports).

    Something to think about,

    -- Brian

  • Better Than DPI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:53AM (#27555857) Homepage

    Total transfer has a cost. Your connection to the Internet, if kept running wide open full time, would be a money loser for the ISP. There are essentially three solutions to this:

    1. High transfer users are subsidized by low transfer users. This will fail as everyone becomes a high transfer user. My Mom now sends me YouTube videos occasionally.

    2. Deep packet inspection (DPI), with the high transfer user of services the ISP likes being subsidized by the high transfer user of services the ISP does not like. IE: They charge company A or inhibit customer B, while allowing company C to send high volume content to customer D. Some ISPs think this it the right answer because some services are inherently high volume. Others like the idea of being a toll-road and getting to charge monopoly rents. Ultimately this is insidious because it hides the cost and distorts the free market.

    3. Tiered pricing based on the numbers of 1's and 0's you consume, but without regard to which 1's and 0's you consume. IE: net neutrality with tiered pricing.

    Of those three options, is there really any question that option 3 is the best?

    One may argue, "The ISPs are charging too much, their profit is too high, it's an inefficient market and prices are too high because of lack of competition." Fine, maybe that's true. The answer to that problem is increased competition. Asserting that the ISPs should not be allowed to use option 3 to solve a problem which may be real, however, can only lead to either option 1 or option 2 being used instead. Option 1 would imply increasing the price to everyone. Is that really fair? Should I really continue to have my Internet access subsidized by the guy next door who doesn't use high volume media? I mean, I like it and all, but it's not fair, it's not free market, and it makes the ISPs want to find ways to shut me off so they can focus their business on the guy next door.

    Option 3, on the other hand, makes me the most important customer to the ISP. It makes them want high volume users. It makes them more money when we use more Internet. Suddenly the ISP's profit incentive is directly in line with making the Internet faster and encouraging high volume services. Seems like a pretty good thing, no?

    So choose your poison:

    1. Subsidization with the ISP hating high volume users.

    2. Deep packet inspection with the ISP choosing which 1's and 0's are "good" and which are "bad".

    3. Net neutrality with tiering, and the ISP becomes profit motivated to encourage high bandwidth and high volume services.

    Gee, tough question.

    Tom, I love ya. I was making banner ads for your site back in 1997, and loved every little review you put out. But you're off your nut on this one.

  • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:53AM (#27555859)

    They had a cap, but once you hit the cap you just had your speed reduced.

    So up to X gb (I think it was 5, which is low, but it was a wireless service) you had the full 1.5 mbps speed. After that, they dropped you to 300k, or you could pay extra to increase your cap that month.

    I think that you need a much larger cap on cable for it for fair (maybe 5-10g for the cheap, grandmother style connection, 50g for the $40 standard one) and just drop your speed to 1-2 mbps when you hit that so it's harder for you to keep going over. I think people would complain a lot less about bandwidth caps if they were softer caps like that - at least, living with it for a few months, it was worse than being uncapped, but it was entirely usable and bearable.

  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:11AM (#27556037) Homepage Journal
    Since the ISPs are complaining about their lack of competence to deal with the coming flood of content...

    Once solution is to have all the broadband customers install/use wireless routers that can interconnect as many as possible to a geo-local area ( your local neighbourhood ) virtual private network that shares the bandwidth load for bulk content distribution across multiple customer to ISP connections. If N users wish to fetch the same content, each person only need to download 1/N of the content, using neighbourhood network to swap the different parts. Think of it as a neighbourhood bittorrent.

    This could be set up/managed as a web service, with the client P2N2P ( Peer to Neighbourhood to Peer ) software running on each users computer ( or running as a proxy service on the wireless routers ), via managed a multi platform subscription aggregation client such as Miro 2.0 Open internet TV [].

    The service could operate like this:
    1) Via a website or web2.0 interface, people create content "channels" which are a list of URIs ( HTTP/FTP/TORRENT) of content with descriptions, just like podcasts.
    2) The service would then fetch the content, on demand and store the content temporarily on its host/distribution site. The host service would do sharing via torrent, so uploading is not done by the Neighbourhood Peers.
    3) The service would hold the content and distribute it to P2N2P clients so that the content can be recombined via a local Neighbourhood VPNs.
    4) Each piece of content itself be encrypted at the URI source, so the service need not hold the keys, to deal with any concerns over end use privacy issues.
    5) The subscription aggregation client could incorporate and distribute advertising as a means of paying for hosting the service.

  • by octaene ( 171858 ) <> on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:22AM (#27556167) Homepage
    Here at IBM, our company has just decided to stop reimbursing work-from-home employees for Internet access []. Combined with this new data transfer capping trend, I fully anticipate having to explain to a customer why I can't take care of that server problem until next month because my daughter used up our bandwidth allocation on the Playhouse Disney web site. That's going to go over really well...
  • by Big Boss ( 7354 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @11:07AM (#27556843)

    If the local ISPs start this crap here, I'll buy business class service with an SLA (or even a T1) and start running CAT5 to the neighbors, which happen to be my family, and split the costs. Maybe even set up a WISP.

    Or get a group together to lobby the city council to join Utopia.

  • by znerk ( 1162519 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @11:12AM (#27556895)

    We should just run cat5 to all of our neighbors' houses, and sidestep the ISPs, doing the same for the internet that F/OSS has done for operating systems. Yes, someone has to have a good (ie, pricey) internet connection, but I'm willing to bet that a feed large enough for your block could be had for less than each individual connection is currently costing.

    Doing it with wireless N routers instead would eliminate the cabling requirements, as well... admittedly, it increases the lag, but if the ISP suddenly starts losing customers a few blocks at a time, maybe the rates will drop on the lower-latency existing infrastructure.

    Of course there are issues with this idea, but nothing is perfect. If you find this to be an untenable plan, come up with a better one (and share it with us).

    Take the power away from the monopoly, and we start to see more/better competition in the marketplace.

C makes it easy for you to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ makes that harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg. -- Bjarne Stroustrup