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The Internet AT&T Verizon Wireless Networking

No Such Thing As 'Unlimited' Data (wired.com) 622

An anonymous reader writes: According to an article at Wired, the era of 'unlimited' data services is coming to an end. Carriers don't give them out anymore unless they're hobbled, and they're even increasing the prices of grandfathered plans. Comcast's data caps are spreading, and Time Warner has been testing them for years as well. It's not even just about internet access — Microsoft recently decided to eliminate its unlimited cloud storage plan. The big question now is: were these companies cynical, or just naive? We have no way of evaluating their claims that a small number of users who abused the system caused it to be unprofitable for them. (A recent leaked memo from Comcast suggests it's about extracting more money, rather than network congestion.) But it's certainly true that limited plans make costs and revenue much easier to predict. Another question: were we, as consumers, naive in expecting these plans to last? As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unlimited data plans clearly won't work too well if everybody uses huge amounts. So did we let ourselves get suckered by clever marketing? T-Mobile plans may also be dropping unlimited data in 2016.
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No Such Thing As 'Unlimited' Data

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  • How can there be? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:28PM (#50893731)

    The real question is why someone could ever pay a flat fee for an infinite resource. It was obvious that could never last.

    The people that scream the loudest about it, are of course the ones abusing the system and hastening its demise...

    • by cahuenga ( 3493791 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:31PM (#50893759)
      How do they abuse an offer of 'unlimited'?
      • Clearly it was never actually unlimited; no reasonable person would have ever thought so. Even without throttling, it could never be unlimited: if everyone used a large amount all at the same time, these limits would be revealed. I think the intent was to provide an experience that freed the consumer from the fear of overages; I don't know if you recall or not, but it used to be pretty easy to rack up a massive cell phone bill because of such things. Again, I don't think any reasonable person ever thought "

        • by ooshna ( 1654125 )

          No what they marketed it as was unlimited data but at a certain rate. Whether I only go online to broswe youtube and watch netflix or i'm downloading GBs of data daily they promised access to the internet at a fixed speed. Its only now that everyone is cutting the cord and getting all there media online that they are pulling these shady tactics. What is the difference in cost to them if only 5% ever go above their cap anyways? whats the cost difference to transfer 400gb a month compared to their 250gb l

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          I generally agree with you but I also feel it never should have been sold as unlimited. Words do and should have specific meanings. Unlimited implies there are no limits or at least not limits out side of natural physical constraints. They should have sold it as "overage free" or something like that.

      • Normally unlimited in terms of normal use.
        Downloading more movies then you could possible watch. Hosting a site/torrent off of a reseduntal site.

        There is just going overboard. Normally unlimited means you will have an expected amount then if you go over it a bit one month it is no big deal. The expected amount is probably based off of say a few hours of Netflix and some you tube with perhaps 16 hours of streaming music.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        How do they abuse an offer of 'unlimited'?

        True, you can't "abuse" it. Obviously the carriers didn't anticipate how many people would store huge amounts of data. I find it hard to believe that anyone needs to store terabytes of data in a cloud, but apparently some store that much because it was "free". The carriers have responded by sun setting the plan.

      • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:00PM (#50894089)

        "How do they abuse an offer of 'unlimited'?"

        Normal people understand that an 'unlimited' offer of a resource that is actually both limited and communal should not be unreasonably monopolized.

        If you are the guy that goes downstairs and takes the entire 'continental breakfast' plate of danish up to your hotel room your abusing the fact that the hotel didn't place a 'limit' on the number of danish you could have.

        If you show up every morning at dawn and claim one of the beach volleyball courts, and then keep it to yourself all day, every day. You are abusing the the fact that the park has an unlimited first-come first serve policy.

        If you walk into a chinese buffet for brunch at 11am, plunk down your $8 for all you can eat, and then promptly take the entire tray of sweet and sour chicken balls depriving everyone else of any. You are abusing the all-you-can eat offer. If the restaurant brings out a second tray of balls and you immediately rush up and help yourself to all of them too. Then sit back down, sip on unlimited pop for 6 hours, and then start serving yourself dinner. Well, your the kind of customer they invite you to "leave and not to come back".

        Do you really need this explained to you?

        Furthermore, the 'unlimited' with broadband is even more special because it's origins come from the limited -connection times- that we generally had with dial-up. No more 50 hours of dialup! No more busy signals! "Unlimited internet" initially meant 24x7 connectivity; you're always online!

        It has never meant, "Go ahead and max out your download speed 24x7" except to people looking to abuse the fact that they weren't metering bandwidth.

        • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:10PM (#50894205)

          Normal people understand that an 'unlimited' offer of a resource that is actually both limited and communal should not be unreasonably monopolized.

          Normal people understand "unlimited" to actually mean "unlimited" when used to promote the service. If it isn't unlimited it should not be advertised as such. But these companies very clearly said that you would have "unlimited" bandwidth so any changes after the fact means that they lied. That is called bait and switch among other things.

          If you are the guy that goes downstairs and takes the entire 'continental breakfast' plate of danish up to your hotel room your abusing the fact that the hotel didn't place a 'limit' on the number of danish you could have.

          Did the hotel advertise the number of danishes as "unlimited"? My guess is that they did nothing of the sort. They merely said a free breakfast was available, not that you could take the entire buffet back to your room.

          If you walk into a chinese buffet for brunch at 11am, plunk down your $8 for all you can eat, and then promptly take the entire tray of sweet and sour chicken balls depriving everyone else of any.

          It's all you can EAT. Not all you can take. You seem to be fuzzy on the difference. Stomachs have a finite capacity and restaurants know this. (Well, unless you are the late John Pinette [wikipedia.org])

          • by vux984 ( 928602 )

            Normal people understand "unlimited" to actually mean "unlimited" when used to promote the service.

            Not when they understand its limited and communal resource that they are being given unmetered access to. Then they understand there aren't strict caps, but that they also cannot monopolize it. As in the examples I gave earlier.

            "Unlimited transactions" on a bank account for example is something that isn't a limited communal resource so people can use as many as they need. Now I suppose if someone allocated an HFT trading computer to just transfer 1 cent between two unlimited accounts millions of times per s

            • by Altrag ( 195300 )

              Not when they understand its limited and communal resource that they are being given unmetered access to.

              Your argument just collapsed. Average people know exactly sweet fuck all about how these things work. Even most technical people don't know the details of how ISP equipment runs.

              What we do know is that we haven't been charged per minute for our phone service or TV service for the past hundred years like the British have so why should the interwebs be any different? The internet comes to us through the exact same wires as our telephone and/or cable TV.

              Its only bait and switch if they change the terms or product on you.

              They did change the terms of the contract. Just as we

      • How do they abuse an offer of 'unlimited'?

        it was dumb for carriers to use this as a marketing ploy. they didn't understand the implications of what they were offering.

        however, if you, as a semi-technically literate person, really thought you'd be able to transfer TBs of data on that $60 a month data plan tethering your laptop, gaming PC, and smart TV, and streaming HD movies 23 hours a day ... well ... really?

      • by Krojack ( 575051 )

        I know people that have the Verizon Unlimited and use over 300+ GB/month. They brag about it too and how much of that is wasted. They do it because "they can" and hate Verizon.

        I'm also still on the VZW Unlimited and only used it within my means. Some months I may only use 5GB, others while traveling I might have used 15. I think 20 is the most I have ever used and it's always while traveling. So what it comes down to is some people abused it just to be dicks. If you're legit using 300+ GB and not pipi

    • Re:How can there be? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by countach74 ( 2484150 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:37PM (#50893807)
      I'm not sure why people have been clinging onto these ideals of "unlimited data." The vast majority of us use a very limited amount of data; why would you want to get lumped into a payment pool to help cover those who use excessive amounts? The rest of the world is moving to more finely-grained billing, which helps to more efficiently allocate scarce resources: cloud hosting and car insurance plans come to mind. Yet here we are, begging for a more expensive bill.
      • Finely grained billing would be nice if it's fairly priced, but the cable companies' version of "fine grained billing" is: Everyone gets to pay a high base rate and then they pay high overage fees for going over a small capped amount.

      • I ama cord cutting household. We have three young kids who love watching videos on YouTube. We stream our videos from providers such as Apple, HBO, PBS, etc. We aren't abusing anything, this is typical use. "Clinging" to the idea of unlimited data comes from companies selling unlimited data in the first place. If it's not unlimited, don't call it unlimited. Call it limited (which it is). They don't call it limited because in marketing, referring to it as limited data is not sexy at all.

      • by iamgnat ( 1015755 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:08PM (#50894185)

        I'm not sure why people have been clinging onto these ideals of "unlimited data."

        Maybe because the tiered plans they offer as an alternative are ridiculous?

        All these plan switches I've looked into offer a couple cheap options with ridiculously low caps then some larger (which still aren't always enough) plans for a non-comparative increased price. Often you find that the plan that would fit your needs is more expensive than what you are already paying for the unlimited plan. Finally if you end up going over the plan cap, the overage charges are obscene.

        Then factor in if your usage isn't predictable and can swing by 50% or more each month you then start talking about wasted money (paying for a big enough plan to cover your "bad months") or are getting screwed by the overages on the months you run high.

        This push for caps has nothing to do with any small subset of user's usage outside of the PR spin. It is all about getting us to pay them more money either upfront (too big of a plan) or after the fact (picking too small of a plan and then getting hit with overages with no effective warning or way to prevent it). If this was really about resources they would automatically throttle you after a certain point or these would be hard caps that cut you off until you took action (e.g. upped the limit) rather than just start adding dollar signs to your account. I have also yet to see one that offers easy to use/find tools that let you control what happens as you approach and hit the cap (e.g. notifications, throttle the bandwidth, cut it off) and that's the biggest indicator that this stuff is just to line their pockets while emptying yours.

        You also have to ask just how many residential users have any idea how much data they are consuming on regularly basis?

    • It isn't an "infinite resource" it is limited by bandwidth, which is what they say you are paying for. The network congestion claims from cable companies are a load of bullshit. There is no technical reason for the data caps, they are just extorting more money out of consumers because they have monopolies.
    • No, the ones doing the abuse here are the lying bastards in marketing who should have bloody well know this before they offered unlimited packages.

      If you sell me unlimited service, and then subsequently decide you can't live up to your bullshit promises ... it's not because I abused it, it's because you fucking lied about it in the first place.

      All of these telcos and ISPs have made a business model of massively oversubscribing their product, and then utterly failing to invest in the infrastructure.

      The real

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        These companies knew damned well they were lying when they sold it. Now I say "too fucking bad".

        Don't be a moron. I agree that the marketing people never should have ever started using unlimited. So now they're fixing it because the technical limitations of offering "unlimited" are slapping them in the face. But I don't understand what you want. Them still to give you true unlimited? Well get ready to pay up. The FTC to slap them with fines? Pfft. It's water under the bridge, how would you prove anything? At any rate, they'd just cut a check and move on. Stop stomping your feet and holding y

    • When it comes to bandwidth, it's not an Infinite resource. You can only upload/download X amount of data.

      I'm on a 150Mbit connection, that means I can download around 15MB/sec (just for the sake of argument, we'll leave out Speed Boost, Network congestion, etc..). That's about 1,296,000 MB a day (15 * 60 * 60 * 24). So I can basically download about 1.2TB of data a day. Now do that for 30 days and I'm at around 38TB for the month.

      On my service there is a "Cap" (they just send an email, nothing currentl

      • Unlimited is not a "marketing term". It means that there is no limits to usage. Marketing people use the term indiscriminately and that is the problem. Hell, I'm not opposed to bandwidth limits for "unlimited" usage. Namely, you can have Unlimited data, but are slowed to 1/5 speed after X MB/GB/TB of transfers. That would still be "unlimited" data, just not the rate at which abusers want. I have no problem with that kind of cap.

        • This:

          It means that there is no limits to usage.

          Contradicts this:

          Hell, I'm not opposed to bandwidth limits for "unlimited" usage. Namely, you can have Unlimited data, but are slowed to 1/5 speed after X MB/GB/TB of transfers.

          If it truly is "Unlimited" there should be no extra charges, no slowing down, etc...

          You are advocating for Unlimited* Internet Access!

          * - Except when you hit benchmark X, then it becomes "Limited".

    • Problem is it is a flat fee for a defined amount resource in the case of cable. They sold with an oversubscription rate in mind and are now trying to back out of that when they see it's not static. Internet usage grows but at the end of the day they sold me a 75mbs connection they should have to deliver on that. Mind you I can get sub 50c a mbs IP transit all over the place so I'm not realy getting more than I paid for.

      They want their price gouging rates back, like phone service a low low price of 33 a m

    • The real question is why someone could ever pay a flat fee for an infinite resource. It was obvious that could never last.

      The people that scream the loudest about it, are of course the ones abusing the system and hastening its demise...

      So if it was clear that it would never last, why then did companies offer it in the first place without clearly stating that this is temporary and will go away in the near future.. We all know why..

      As for abusing the system.. Again, this is BS.. My wife's AT&T unlimited data plan which was grandfathered was hobbled because she used 3 or 4 GB one month. This is hardly us abusing the system the most.. We left for T-Mobile and have been significantly happier with their offerings. Fortunately we had a choic

    • The real question is why someone could ever pay a flat fee for an infinite resource. It was obvious that could never last.

      The people that scream the loudest about it, are of course the ones abusing the system and hastening its demise...

      In Canada we've had this discussion ad nausium. The reality is that data transfer is dirt cheap (penies per gb) and that once wholesalers were mandated on the incumbents networks all the sudden unlimited became possible again and cheap ($10-15 more than 400GB capped plans). Before the wholesalers the incumbents cried poor/congestion/the sky is falling and caps kept getting smaller/prices higher.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      Actually, paying a flat fee for an infinite resource isn't actually impossible. What the real problem is that people are paying a flat fee for an infinite resource for an effectively unlimited period.

      If you have me a billion dollars today and told me I had to spend it (not give it away to some random person) by tomorrow, I wouldn't be able to do it. It's not that I can't think of something to do with a billion dollars, its that you can't actually complete deals that would take big chunks out of that sum i

    • Really? The one move that helped AOL stay alive long enough as a dial-up service was moving to unlimited access in 1996. That grew the userbase right up until they merged with Time Warner at the same time home broadband was starting to become a thing.
      In other words, moving to unlimited access was a huge boon to the company, and would have worked long-term if always-on connections didn't happen. Unless there's a whole new way to connect to the internet coming in the next few years, this is all about the mon
    • by jdavidb ( 449077 )

      Years ago I signed up for internet service (dialup) from a company that said they had a special and that my rate would never increase. At some point after that they proved themselves incompetent by claiming my credit card was denied when trying to bill me (they had MM and DD swapped in my expiration date), and shortly after that they tried to raise my rates. I confronted them with the promise that the rates would never rise and they simply played dumb (or were possibly not playing).

      I was pretty distraught

    • It's irritating that people can't understand this. Look at the article and the summary: Comcast says the new caps aren't about congestion management, and so people immediately conclude it's about "extracting more money". Nobody can imagine it's about cost management--that a more "Fair and equitable experience" could mean that some guy doing 24x7 max-rate streaming of 8 HD videos while torrenting all the pornography on the Internet might just make the difference between Comcast changing $50/month and Com

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      I get unlimited long distance calling for a flat fee every month. "Unlimited" for a flat fee works just fine.

      One could make an argument that they really mean by "unlimited" is "unmetered"... that is either literally unmetered, or else any usage that might be recorded will not affect either what one is charged or what services will continue to be available to the subscriber at the same levels.

  • With shrinking cable television viewership, and the talk of making internet a utility, of course many of these companies want to find new ways to make money. The customers don't really get a choice - not enough people can get up and move to actually hurt many of these companies in any significant fashion. Look at cell phone plans. The real question is if there is collusion in the industry... To be certain: consumers don't get a real choice when the players are so few and so big.
  • Yes there is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:31PM (#50893763)

    Yes there is. Your pipe has a max speed. The theoretical maximum amount of data you could use by saturating your pipe 24x7 should be considered unlimited. Nothing less.

  • by justcauseisjustthat ( 1150803 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:32PM (#50893773)
    Only idiots would think data caps will work, with 4K videos starting to be streamed and 8K not far behind, people who think it's just those damn abusers are kidding themselves. Networks technology needs to grow faster and with much bigger bandwidth.
    • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:45PM (#50893893) Homepage

      The problem is not with data caps per se it is with the fact that US carriers are imposing an ever lower data cap with insufficient competition to allow customers to be able to pick and choose. In other countries with functional competition in the telecom sector this is not the case. Ex: My ISP here in France has a 3Gb/month data cap on 3G Data. On 4G data the data cap is 50 Gb/month and instead of billing all overage they reduce DL speed on those exceeding the data caps.

    • I agree the idea behind the message, but I needed to be pedantic. The technology is more than adequate and continues to evolve. It's private company's investment into infrastructure as being the key issue. Line-based ISPs are NOT being forced to put the emphasis into infrastructure like they should be. Heck, Frontier Communications still pushes DSL as something to compete with cable. They just brought back FiOS plans on their website after basically hiding them for the last couple of years because their for
    • Only idiots would think data caps will work,

      I'm pretty sure you have to be an idiot (or simply illogical) to equate "infinite" with "large".

      If people need to stream 4K video frequently than data plans that make sense for that use will naturally spring into being. Until that time people on the very bleeding edge (as 4K video broadcasting still is) will rightfully have to pay for the far greater than average bandwidth they use, not ride on the backs of the average user for their own gain.

    • It's not that the cable companies are implementing data caps without knowing that 4K is coming. They're implementing data caps BECAUSE OF 4K and other Internet video sources. Internet video is cutting into their cable TV profits so the cable companies are leveraging their ISP monopolies to try to squash it before it takes off anymore. Using a monopoly in one market to squash competition in another market is illegal, but don't hold your breath on the government stopping the cable companies.

  • by Raseri ( 812266 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:38PM (#50893813)

    We have no way of evaluating their claims

    Not directly, anyway. We can still take an indirect approach, though, for example by looking at how many ISPs have been gobbled up and merged into each other over the last few years, at what point were there only a handful of real options left, when these caps started appearing, and so on. It also might help to remember that we've already been through this with the cell phone providers and their price gouging/fixing. Many of those providers are now ISPs as well, or have merged with them. Typically, once there isn't any real competition, prices start to go up. So to answer the question: Everybody should have seen this coming once all the mergers and acquisitions got going full force.

  • This is a bit like ripping off your grandfathers in plans. I have been buying my own phones so that I may keep my unlimited data plan, and now I hear the price will change? It makes no sense to retroactively change an agreement. I am most seriously displeased.
    • I have been buying my own phones so that I may keep my unlimited data plan, and now I hear the price will change? It makes no sense to retroactively change an agreement. I am most seriously displeased.

      You have no agreement, apart from (at most) the next month's service, which you paid for in advance. Your contract ran out a long time ago; you're buying your service month-to-month. The service provider has no obligation to continue offering you a grandfathered service plan. The only reason they don't discontinue such plans and force everyone to switch is that they risk losing customers with grandfathered plans to the competition. Up till now, they would have rather lost money on you than lose you as a cus

  • by It doesn't come easy ( 695416 ) * on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:41PM (#50893841) Journal
    Example, calls within the US. I have not paid "long distance" charges in years. On the other hand, everyone accepts the idea of paying for electricity at different tiers of usage. Of course, (at least where I live) there is a lot of competition between middle men (the actual producers are still heavily regulated). I would predict that there would be a lot less resistance to tiered internet usage IF we had true competition.
  • whether it existed or not, recent common carrier reform from the FCC made it sacrosanct. You cant cap, shape, hijack, or rate limit internet. Carriers are toeing a dangerous line by continuing to experiment with pre-2015 policy as though no reform had ever happened.
    Until the big penalties start rolling in, i suggest taking back as much bandwidth as you can. noscript and adblock get the job done, but you can also null-route known advertisers servers and subnets. http://pgl.yoyo.org/adservers/ [yoyo.org]
    If youre
    • Don't worry. Comcast isn't capping your Internet. They don't have "caps", they have "data thresholds" that you get charged a high rate for passing. But since they don't call them caps, everything is cool, right?

  • Bait and switch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bugler412 ( 2610815 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:43PM (#50893875)
    That's what it would be called in any other retail environment, and it's illegal. The providers called it unlimited and therefore it should be unlimited. It's not the fault of the consumer for taking them at their advertised word.
    • and yes, I personally recognize the technical reality. But that's not the point, and that's not how it was sold to consumers.
  • The same week you inform me that I need to pay $10 if I exceed 250GB of data, I will be canceling my account with you and switching to FIOS.

    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      The same week you inform me that I need to pay $10 if I exceed 250GB of data, I will be canceling my account with you and switching to FIOS.

      OK, then FIOS adopts caps. Where ya gonna go then? Huh? Huh?

      BTW, you're in goddam select territory for having a choice between Comcast and FIOS in the firs place. Hardly anybody I know has that choice.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:46PM (#50893911)

    I have no idea how carriers and customers are going to agree on sane pricing. We're right back to the AT&T model of very expensive metered connections. I'm old enough to remember when in-state long distance phone calls were billed at 15+ cents a minute. With HD video streams eating more and more bandwidth as quality improves, typical
    unmetered monthly allotments will get used up after a couple of streaming sessions. There's that, plus Facebook constantly pulls data in the background, as do messaging apps, as does the automatic cloud backup mechanism on iOS. I predict the carriers will keep billing at current rates until enough people start complaining, then we'll go through another anti-trust process.

    That said, there's parallels in the software/infrastructure world. Adobe knows they have a lock on professional creative applications (Photoshop, Premiere, etc.) and decided to force people to pay the Creative Cloud bill forever to use them rather than pay once for a license. Microsoft is headed that way too; Windows 10 may be free, but options for perpetually licensing server software are getting harder to justify to the MBAs. The next step is convincing everyone to just run their stuff in Azure for $XXXX per month rather than forking over that same amount one time. Both situations are only coming around again because consumers are receptive to them, or because they have no other choice.

    • Yep. JetBrains is trying to go that direction with their new "subscription" model too, though they didn't jump in with quite both feet after the initial announcement wasn't met with universal enthusiasm. They make good products, no doubt. But there are plenty of 'good enough' alternatives to make me wonder if their dreams will come true.

      Because the other 'unlimited' resource that actually isn't is the ability for everyone to pay regular subscription fees for everything all the time forever. And with the

  • The big question now is: were these companies cynical, or just naive?

    Probably a bit of both.

    We have no way of evaluating their claims that a small number of users who abused the system caused it to be unprofitable for them.

    I happen to be a certified accountant (among other things) and my guess is that any claims that just a few users are able to make the service unprofitable are probably bogus. You could make a pretty good analysis with just a little bit of information. Comcast for example provides a breakout of their revenues from their internet services. We also know what their profit margins are overall. While crude we can get at least a rough idea of what the profits on their internet service m

  • True, unlimited data is a myth but there are a lot of things that could be done to help this. By consolidating everything online the carriers have ensured they are in a position to make it as scarce a resource as possible to drive value. By introducing the option to cache content offline through intelligent AI and taking advantage of off-peak times we could make better use of the limited resources. I would have no problem 'DVR'ing my Netflix and YouTube content so that I can save my bandwidth for data that

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:51PM (#50893963)

    ... with metered plans. Just as long as the billing meter is certified by the Washington State Department of Agriculture weights and measures program [wa.gov].

    INB4 not applicable because FCC. The airlines tried claiming this due to their status as regulated by the FAA. They got slapped down hard by the courts and must comply with state regs.

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:52PM (#50893977)

    We have no way of evaluating their claims that a small number of users who abused the system caused it to be unprofitable for them.

    Anecdote incoming, but when I helped out on college IT it was fairly consistent that the top 20% of users (well, network ports) were responsible for 80-90% of the usage. And further the top 2% (which was two dozen or so) were responsible for about 50-60% of the usage. This was pretty consistently the same few ports too -- not just that at any point the usage was skewed but that over time those users were using a ton. Since we didn't have a huge pipe to the internet, those super-users would, from time to time, really degrade everyone else's connection. That lead to the idea that we could mitigate this situation by a fair and objective set of rules:

    (1) No data "caps" -- we are not interested in aggregating data over long periods of time
    (2) A byte is a byte -- we are not interested in packet inspection, only counts
    (3) Traffic shaping only kicks in during actual congestion -- we are not interested in doing anything until service is actually degraded

    What we ended up doing was that when the pipe to the internet was 75% full or more, any user that over the last 15 minutes was in the top 20% of traffic and consuming more than 5x the average use for that time period would get shunted into the lowest QoS bucket. This classification continued until either the usage dropped or (most likely) the outbound pipe was no longer congested.

    What the fuck does this have to do with Comcast? Well, as much as I hate them I do have to admit that there is a plausible case for a small fraction of users degrading service for the rest of their paying customers (or necessitating costly upgrades that will be passed along to everyone). And they have implemented their congestion control in the most indefensible way I can imagine -- monthly caps cannot possibly solve the issue of overloading on short time-scales. So I'm left with the idea that, instead of sperging about "unlimited", the tech community actually try to be productive in endorsing a fair set of guidelines (maybe not at all like those above!) on how to manage networks to ensure that a minority of users don't degrade service for everyone. Not that Comcast doesn't deserve sperging of course ...

  • 3rd party certified meters are needed with per small unit billing Like gas stations. Gas stations can't bill you for the next full gallon they have to bill you for what you pump and not round it up to the next Gallon. also the pumps are checked by the state / town / etc to see if they are reading right.

  • So did we let ourselves get suckered by clever marketing?

    Yep, you did.

    Streaming movies is so much better and more convenient than using physical media!

    No, it's not. You're using tons of bandwidth watching movies in streaming 1080p all month, then you gripe about being throttled or charged for overage. Then maybe you screw up by having DVDs and Bluray discs, ripping them, and storing them in 'The Cloud', and again you whine about bandwidth charges. Yep, you all fell for it hook line and sinker.
    Stop using 'The Cloud'. Stop streaming everything. Get an antenna, watch free OTA HDTV. Use Redbox, or get Netflix to send you discs, watch them. You li

  • Every other country (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SumDog ( 466607 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:10PM (#50894211) Homepage Journal

    Every other country is offering unlimited plans. Cheaper unlimited plans in Australia and New Zealand are now the norm.

    Here's the thing, we're not talking about a resource. There is not finite supply of water pouring into your house. We're talking about bandwidth. We're talking about electrons that are always flowing down the wire. There is no real resource being consumed by using more data.

    During non-peak times when your switches are not at capacity, it doesn't really take more electricity to process more data (not really; not measurably). During peak times, it may be more difficult to offer quality of service because everyone is streaming something (even if it's just a video). Your total cost is in the infrastructure for standard data at peak.

    It's not a resource like power or water. That electricity is always running over those wires. The more powerful switches you need are a sunk cost!

  • So did we let ourselves get suckered by clever marketing?

    Probably not. It is hard to believe that more than (approximately) 0% of people thought it wasn't fraud. But because it was such up-front blatant fraud, everyone wanted to hold the fraudulent companies to their word, as a sort of punishment. Keep in mind that these same companies were already pretty hated and this probably isn't most peoples' first encounters with their lies, so the desire for punishment is pretty .. heart-felt. Maybe "vengeance" wo

  • Remember when unlimited data on a phone plan was no big deal, but minutes and SMS were severely limited, and you paid by the minute/SMS - both incomeing and outgoing? That was way back when everyone used voice calling and texting was done over SMS instead of iMessage and Hangouts. Now there's no pressure on the voice/SMS so the carriers are giving you unlimited of that, but data is being used more and more so everything is becoming metered.

    • Back then, the limit was in your phone. Or in your computer's storage. They could offer unlimited data while most people had not resources to use all that. I guess they were being naïve at first and fraudulent later.
  • What was happening was a few businesses were uploading all of their CCTV data to OneDrive. Like, over a TB a day. OneDrive was not intended as online backup so that's what probably caused the change and choke. Take what I said with salt.
  • VW lied about car emissions so that more people would buy their cars.

    Comcast et al lied about available data so that more people would buy their broadband/cloud-service/....

    VW is paying a price for its lies, there may well be criminal prosecutions; I doubt that anyone at Comcast, Time Warner, Microsoft, ... will pay any price.

  • I'm not personally aware of any large carrier that charges on data volume (for upstream/backbone) and they are paying for the same electricity basically regardless of use. Outside of making sure they have enough pipe all the costs for Comcast, Time Warner, etc... are fixed! So, yes they can give you an unlimited plan because basically unless you're flooding the pipe their own bandwidth is unlimited. The argument that you should pay more for more use is nearly insane -- it does't cost them anything extra for
  • When you get rid of unlimited data, you bring back the old days of Compuserve. It removes the freedom of individual users and puts it in the hands of a few.

    To think of it, doesn't Net Neutrality have a point in killing the meter?

  • That we need to just start charging for what is used.

    A reasonable cost per megabyte downloaded/uploaded.

    That would keep it cheap for those that use it responsibly and expensive for those who don't

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