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The Almighty Buck

Time Warner to Charge Extra for Over-Quota Bandwidth 933

Posted by timothy
from the you-will dept.
duckygator writes: "I just came across this article on NetworkWorld discussing Time Warner's announcement that they will begin charging users a fee for exceeding a monthly download limit. The actual limits and associated fees aren't discussed. Guess I knew this would be coming sooner or later ... Now I guess I'll just have to guess where the threshold will be. Anything more than email? Active gamer? Graphic artist?"
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Time Warner to Charge Extra for Over-Quota Bandwidth

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  • At my university, the routers to the commodity net are programmed to start dropping a percentage of your packets after you go over a bandwidth limit. It increases as you download more and more over your limit. Remember, people, bandwidth isn't cheap... this isn't necessarily a grand scheme from the big mega-corporations to extort money from you; just think of Joe Q. Public's 14 year old son running the warez FTP server down the street...
    • Um, actually bandwidth is as cheap as it has ever been. There is a glut in the marketplace that allow volume buyers to secure great rates.
    • actually (Score:3, Interesting)

      by clump (60191)
      Remember, people, bandwidth isn't cheap... this isn't necessarily a grand scheme from the big mega-corporations to extort money from you; just think of Joe Q. Public's 14 year old son running the warez FTP server down the street...
      My problem there is that ISPs sell you service that states 1.5Mbit down, 128Kb up, etc. In doing so, they basically sell you an amount and expect you *not* to use it. If you do use the bandwidth you paid for, you are then a hog or some other pejoritive term.

      So its deceptive to sell people an amount and them charge them again when they use it. I hope people will wake up and see that.
  • by mikeage (119105) <slashdot@miPLANC ... minus physicist> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:34PM (#3307303) Homepage
    Honestly... I wouldn't like this either, but remember when DSL companies (and cable) were dropping left and right? Bandwidth costs money, and it makes sense to charge people for usage, not just connection. In theory, it allows lower costs for light users, though I know that they'll only boost rates with this plan. But think about what the equivelent to a standard cable connection (100 - 200 K/sec) would cost if it was bought as a T1 line, and ask how their business plan would look if they provided it for $39.95/month
    • But think about what the equivelent to a standard cable connection (100 - 200 K/sec) would cost if it was bought as a T1 line, and ask how their business plan would look if they provided it for $39.95/month

      Yes, but that's like comparing a 10-mile limousine ride to an equivalent trip on the subway. T1s are much more expensive to run, hook up and operate than a shared medium like cable, and they're overpriced as it is. The raw internet connectivity is only a fraction of the cost of a T1.

      Whatever you think about the costs, I think this is a risky business model to adopt for such a young medium, and it will probably result in a lot of unhappy customers dropping broadband when they see a $50 charge on their bill from their kids downloading crap in the middle of the night. If the cable companies were only concerned about bandwidth, they'd drop packets to discourage network usage and let people pay for higher levels of service.

      • Or just do some throttling. We've discuused simplementing something like this where I work. For example when you start a download it will go at the full speed possable on the network for like 10 seconds. Being that we have multiple OC-3s that means that most webpage loads and downloads of small things should happen basically instantly. After that the traffic shaper pull teh connection back to something, say 1megabit per second for the next 40 seconds. Let's anything under 10-20mb slide in quick. Then it pulls it back to say 256kbit/sec for the rest of the transfer.

        Combine that with a limited upstream, say 128-256k/sec and noone can kill your bandwidth. People still get fast transactions on small things, but they have to share when they want to download large files.
    • If you're not a LEC you pay the LEC for the infrastructure to offer DSL. That's what sunk them. It wasn't the bandwidth costs as that is extremely inexpensive right now due to the glut in the market.
    • Bandwidth costs money, and it makes sense to charge people for usage, not just connection. In theory, it allows lower costs for light users,

      In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

      But think about what the equivelent to a standard cable connection (100 - 200 K/sec) would cost if it was bought as a T1 line, and ask how their business plan would look if they provided it for $39.95/month

      I could accept that argument if I were getting the connection and quality of service of a T1 line. Unfortunately I'm not. I'm getting a connection that is shared by everyone else in my community that peaks at 500 Kb/sec and is supported by $13/hour call center kids instead of a dedicated 1.55 Mb/sec data circuit supported by networking professionals. That's how their business plan looks so good.
    • by jchawk (127686) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @12:38AM (#3307962) Homepage Journal
      Let me say that I work for a DSL company. The comparison that is always made is the one of the normal connection being the equivalent of a t-1 line. However what most people don't understand is that dsl and cable traffic is mostly burst traffic. Meaning that there are relatively quick spikes. The norm at least in my area is that you can fit 125+ users on a t-1 line all at a full 512/512 symetric. If one person is cranking away all the time, there is bandwidth to spare, however if you have three people cranking then there is a problem. You simply take care of those users, or you upgrade the line to the backbone. My dsl company is a sister company with a phone company, so for us it's no big deal to just drop a DS3 in from the hut to our main offices.

      Even the smaller dsl companies have deals setup to get better pricing for bigger pipes, because remember they can get a burstable DS3, so you have 3 people cranking all the time, so what you other 120 odd users aren't.

      Now, I'm all for charging those trouble users, but I think the cable companies are just simply over selling their lines and taking steps to punish everyone. We get away with 125+ users per t-1, but that's because we've looked at it, and it works. Keeps everyone happy.

      The cable companys on the other hand are just over selling their cable lines, and it's hard to just up and rollout more cable lines. So for now it's mostly the cable companies fault, and I think they are just looking to further pad their wallets by punishing everyone.

      Mod this as you will, I'm not so sure anyone will even see it. :-)
    • > Honestly... I wouldn't like this either, but
      > remember when DSL companies (and cable) were
      > dropping left and right?

      The DSL companies dropped like flies when Rep Tauzin (R-LA) introduced a bill to essentially repeal the Communications Act of 96 and restore the Baby Bells to their 'rightful' place as monopolies over the local loop. Fear of that bill passing dried up the venture capital to the DSL providers at a time they were building out like mad and were short on cash, since when it passes CLECs disappear, leaving all of the DSL providers who aren't regional Bells screwed. That shit running downhill screwed the telco equipment makers like Nortel & Lucent, and pretty much lead to the dot.bomb meltdown. Put the blame where it belongs, Billy "Bell Boy" Tauzin. He is a Rep from my home state of Louisiana, but not my district so I can't vote against him. :(
  • Dang it. I just got my MAMP (MacOSX, Apache, MySQL, PHP) box going in my living room! I should probably shut off Netjuke [sourceforge.net] at the very least, now.
  • by jcronen (325664) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:35PM (#3307308) Homepage
    ...but I don't really care so long as I'm not affected.

    If it ends up that 5% of users end up paying extra, good. If it ends up that 95% of users end up paying extra, there's a problem.

    I think the biggest thing I fear is that the latter case will become the norm. Just like those per-pound salad bars, you never know how much you've used until you check out. I'm sure the cable companies would love to use that model, and want everyone to have $200 bills at the end of the month.

    What percentage of users paying "extra" is appropriate?

    • I'm sure the cable companies would love to use that model, and want everyone to have $200 bills at the end of the month.

      What percentage of users paying "extra" is appropriate?

      I'm sorry. Did you say "users" or "ex-users"?

    • by letxa2000 (215841) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:08PM (#3307528)
      I think the biggest thing I fear is that the latter case will become the norm. What percentage of users paying "extra" is appropriate?

      I think that's the main problem. I wouldn't mind paying for what I consume if I had some reason to believe it was fair.

      The problem is, they may be charging $44/month for some guy who only consumes 1MB or 2MB per month. The percentage of people consuming much less than 200MB is certainly very high. That's a "free ride" for Time Warner.

      The other end of the spectrum is the bandwidth hogs. They consume the bandwidth that they've supposedly paid for. Is that really a "free ride?" They contracted a cable modem and they're using it. On a more macro scale, they're compensating for the large majority that don't use a fraction of what they're entitled to.

      So I think it's fair to pay for the bandwidth you use as long as those that don't use it get an equivalent discount in the other direction. You can't have it both ways.

      That said, isn't Time Warner one of the companies that wants to sell us all this new-fangled digital multi-media content? They'll have to analyze their pricing structure in that context. If it costs more to acquire a movie-on-demand via their link than it does to rent it at Blockbuster, they're on-demand service aint going to go far...

      • "So I think it's fair to pay for the bandwidth you use as long as those that don't use it get an equivalent discount in the other direction. You can't have it both ways."

        I'm pretty sure they can have it both ways.

        Their line of reasoning was probably this: We project our average bandwidth use per user is X. At that rate if we charge $44, we will be making Y% profit.

        So now maybe X is higher than they estimated, so they aren't making Y%... or maybe the operating costs have increased over the last few years (no way!), and they aren't making Y%... or maybe they are greedy and they actually want Y+n%.

        I think the best and most effective way for them to do this would just be to raise everbody's rates. And I think that is perfectly fair too. I pay $44 per month to have *unlimited* bandwidth, and so does everyone else. You may only be downloading 1Meg or 2Megs, but that is your problem. If you didn't want to pay $44 for that, then you shouldn't have signed up.

        I don't think TW will be able to make up the difference by charging more for the high bandwidth users, assuming that the high bandwidth users are only 5% of the population. They'd have to shuck out a lot of cash, and I doubt any of them will. There are other options available that become cost effective at that point.

        So their option would be to raise everybody's rates, or define high bandwidth user such that it is something like 50%.

        Luckily for me, there is DSL in my area. costs more, but it might not in the near future if TW goes through with this.
      • by slackergod (37906) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:57PM (#3307790) Homepage Journal
        of course you can have it both ways.
        less is more, ignorance is strength.

        You signed on for cable service.
        They're trying as hard as they can
        to pave your on-ramp to the information
        superhighway. But should these poor
        ISPs be made to sit quietly by, while
        software pirates and terrorists
        steal their resources? For the love of the
        Homeguard, what are they to do? They
        have to stop them from stealing _somehow_.

        And yet, when they try to simply make things
        fairer, by fining these evil people who
        go over the speed limit of AOL's internet,
        what happens? Everyone trys to take advantage
        of them, and wants to be paid less for not
        speeding.

        Should AOL/TW just sit around, and watch
        it's hard-earned potential future profit projections? I think not. The piracy on
        the internet has gone to far. And what about
        those who spread the vicious propaganda that ISPs
        are providing a connection TO the internet,
        and not the internet itself? Well, I think
        every right-minded citizen would agree that
        they are little better than the terrorists
        themselves.

        (DISCLAIMER: It's a joke, mkay? SARCASM.)

        -Slackergod

      • That said, isn't Time Warner one of the companies that wants to sell us all this new-fangled digital multi-media content? They'll have to analyze their pricing structure in that context. If it costs more to acquire a movie-on-demand via their link than it does to rent it at Blockbuster, they're on-demand service aint going to go far...

        Excellent point. Add to that the fact that the courts have made them open up their networks to competitors. If someone is faced with high bills from TW/Roadrunner, switch to Earthlink. They're not gonna raise your rates and bend you over like that (at least not for a little while longer). Maybe it will buy you enough time to get DSL installed.
    • Just like those per-pound salad bars, you never know how much you've used until you check out. I'm sure the cable companies would love to use that model, and want everyone to have $200 bills at the end of the month.

      The issue that I have with that comparison is that most people know what a pound feels like by heft. If you end up with more salad than you wanted, you only end up paying a buck or two more at most. If you think that the cashier's scales are off you have a reasonable chance at proving them wrong.

      On the other hand, most broadband users wouldn't know a megabit of downstream traffic if it bit them in the ass (no pun intended). A user could very easily exceed his bandwidth limit and end up with a bill several times his current rate. Without some sort of accurate bandwidth consumption measuring tool that TW/RR and the users agree on as accurate, what recourse would a user have if a database error mistakenly shows that they owe $200 extra that month? How can an average user be expected to know how much bandwidth they are using per month?
      • On the other hand, most broadband users wouldn't know a megabit of downstream traffic if it bit them in the ass

        Just because a user doesn't know that they can monitor their bandwidth doesn't give them an excuse.

        In Win2k or better, you can just look at the properties for your network interface and see how much traffic has been passed. I am also 90% sure that there are countless freeware tools that do the same. In fact, the provider probably has a web page where a user can track their usage.

        The bigger issue here is trying to get users into the habit of watching their usage. If you leave a room, you turn off the light. Do you know what a "kilowatt-hour" feels like?

        • by rcs1000 (462363) <rcs1000@gmaiYEATSl.com minus poet> on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @07:10AM (#3308801)
          There is a difference:

          What happens if you get infected by a trojan/virus?

          It's unlikely someone can sneak into your house and use your electricity. It is perfectly possible someone uses your internet connection.

          Also, if I decide to 'ping bomb' your box, should you be required to pay?

          You can't have electricty forced down your wires if you haven't turned on the lights, you can have bits forced into your PC if you haven't powered up IE.

          Thoughts, thoughts...

          *r
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @02:52AM (#3308395)
      Sorry, but they advertised the service as faster than DSL and about the same price. Toss in quick installation and you've got yourself a customer base. Now you've got people *gasp* using the bandwidth they're paying for. It doesn't matter if you never turn your PC on or if you never shut Grokster down, you have the right to what you paid for. If their business model wasn't profitable to begin with, then they are being the disingenuous jerks that conned you into connecting into their cable network when you could be on a DSL connection instead.

      This is another example of short-sighted business plans, a desperate grass at building a customer base, and then selling-short until most of the competition in the area gets finacially hurt.

      Why people feel that the grokster 24/7 kid should be punished is beyond me. They sold him the service now they must deal with it. Conversely, if heavy users are going to be punished then give breaks to lightweight users. Of course that means the same pricing plan as DSL, which is who they're fighting and distancing themselves from. Sorry, but this is more corporate bullying than anything else.
  • by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:36PM (#3307314) Journal
    This totally sucks. I am totally sick of

    [--Bandwidth Limit Exceeded by Customer. Balance of transmission cached and will be released during our nex billing period. Time Warner Cable.--]

  • by Courageous (228506) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:37PM (#3307320)

    In my area, a cable modem costs $40 on top of cable, but a very nice DSL feed with 5 static IP's is only $65. This is only a 25 dollar difference monthly. If the differences closes up any, I'll simply switch. 5 static IP addresses are in and of themselves worth quite a bit to me. TW only offers static IP's with their business class service, which, IIRC, is $150 monthly.

    C//
  • by Chasing Amy (450778) <asdfijoaisdf@askdfjpasodf.com> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:38PM (#3307321) Homepage
    As long as the threshold is at a reasonable point, I can't say I'd complain about it. It's only fair that those who use the most should pay the most, rather than having those who use the least subsidize the hogs.

    And I say this as one of the hogs who'd have to pay more if I were on that cable system. I regularly transfer about 1.2 GB *a day* so, yes, I should have to pay more than the relatively small sum I pay per month now. :-) As it is, the guys who use their connections for low-traffic everyday uses like checking e-mail and websurfing are paying the same rate I do, and that just isn't fair to them.

    The problem would be setting a reasonable scale of bandwidth and rates, and I somehow doubt the limits are going to be very reasonable...
  • Read the article! (Score:2, Redundant)

    by clark625 (308380)

    "But if you consistently go over the limit, you're going to have to pay."

    This to me sounds very reasonable. It doesn't sound like you're just automagically going to receive a bill for twice the regular service. They plan to warn you about just how much bandwidth you are using. Sounds reasonable.

    My school does this with e-mail. Some people would bang away at the POP3 server every minute or less just so they could get the e-mail almost instantly. If you checked your e-mail over something like 500 times a day, you got a friendly warning that such practices are not good for the community. If you didn't stop, they would block your e-mail until you started to understand.

    I guess I don't see a problem with this--at least not at face value. Sounds like TW is just trying to do their best to serve all their customers at some minimum level.

  • by mcwop (31034) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:39PM (#3307336) Homepage
    Downloading security patches from a certain company could break the bank for some people.

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    Kinda goes against the purpose of "broadband" doesn't it. Wonder if Comcast is next.

    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:00PM (#3307475)
      Downloading security patches from a certain company could break the bank for some people.

      Yeah, but maybe not the company you're thinking of. The update packages available since the latest release a certain very popular Linux distro weigh in at something like 800MB. All of the "critical updates" to update an old CD installation of Win98 are only 30MB or so.

      I sure wish they'd figure out how to issue binary diffs instead of complete rpm packages. How much bandwidth was wasted having millions of people download a dozen full packages for the 10 lines of screwed up code in zlib? (No, I don't want to compile it from source. I just want binary packages signed with the disto's gpg key.)

      • That includes updates to ALOT of software. Scientific applications, a few office suites, several databases, countless server suites, databases, games, desktop environments. You won't find that much on any Win98 CD.

        Consider just the updates to critical packages of this "certain very popular Linux distro", and I'm sure you'll come up with different numbers.
  • C'mon people. How many of you have unlimited downloads on cable or xDSL - all the time?

    Charging for data is the only way an ISP can fairly doll out its data expenses, given that it's the way most ISP's are charged by their wholesale provider.

    I'm all for a dead cheap ADSL monthly rent, and bandwith charges for every meg, so long as my ISP keeps it's rates fair to all, and plans it's charges in such a way that it won't go out of business in 18 months.
    • Um, I think you need to understand that the bandwidth costs are cheap. Very cheap. The costs come into play with the infrastructure ... especially for cable companies. The more people you add the more your infrastructure costs rise, but the bandwidth demands don't rise proportionately.
  • by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <gorkon@ g m a i l .com> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:42PM (#3307353)
    Alot of times, these Cable Modem guys sink thier own boat. They KNOW they can't handle additional users, but then I see adverts all over the freaking place for Road Runner. This is like selling pepsi when you ain't got none. Why in the world would you market it if you know you can't handle it? Although I am not holding my breath on this happening either. It could happen, but my guess is they want to see how pissed people would get. The funny thing is, all of the things they advertise ARE heavy bandwidth uses. Streaming Video and all of that are high users of bandwidth.
    • What we are talking about here isnt what they advertise. People running various P2P/FTP/Mail services etc from a traditional 40/month broadband line is simply irresponsible and I am glad they are working to curb it. Yes, broadband is cool and all, but in all reality, the days of offering unlimited bandwidth in the days of mp3s and dvd-quality rips floating are just about over.

      Streaming video, music, etc is *nothing* compared to the guy who runs a 100 gb 0-day ftp server from his cable modem. Those people send several gigs a day over the pipe, and its hurts everyone.
      • by lpontiac (173839) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:33PM (#3307692)
        People running various P2P/FTP/Mail services etc from a traditional 40/month broadband line is simply irresponsible

        Mail? Dude, personal mail is pretty low volume, even mail for you and all your friends is pretty low volume. I don't think running your own mailserver is an unreasonable activity.

      • What you don't get. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by twitter (104583) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:48PM (#3307752) Homepage Journal
        People running various P2P/FTP/Mail services etc from a traditional 40/month broadband line is simply irresponsible and I am glad they are working to curb it. Yes, broadband is cool and all, but in all reality, the days of offering unlimited bandwidth in the days of mp3s and dvd-quality rips floating are just about over.

        Streaming video, music, etc is *nothing* compared to the guy who runs a 100 gb 0-day ftp server from his cable modem. Those people send several gigs a day over the pipe, and its hurts everyone.

        Wow, I almost feel angry at those theives that are stealing my bandwith, thanks for pointing out the evils lurking on my local cable net. I'll be sure to phone "r-u-shutup" if I notice any unauthorized port 21 traffic.

        Now let's get real and pull apart what you said. Let's start with the purpose of the internet: to share information and computing resources. It was made for "servers". ISPs that don't let you run a server are not Internet Service Providers, but something else like a Browser Provider of Adverts. Now let's think about those 100 Gig/day ftp sites. When was the last day you made 100 Gigs of original content? I hate to admit it, but my ftp site does not see anything like that kind of creativity or traffic. People downloading Warez, movies and other comercial garbage deserve to have their line cut and will. It has NOTHING to do with what is happening here which is a pay per the minute fee for downloading adverts.

        What you see is the inevitable result of the death of "broadband" competition. The local Bells feel free to crush their DSL competitors and the cable companies have municipal monopolies in most of their areas of domination. With your coices left to two or fewer providers, is it any supprise that you will pay for the minute? People once tollerated this for phone service and seem destined to put up with it again, even if they decide to re regulate the whole mess.

        Attitudes like yours make the local Bell, large publishers and the government happy. None of them want you to publish, and all of them want as much of your money as they can grab. "Shut up and give it up, Bitch" is their song. Why would you want to sing it?

      • The upload caps are the answer to people running P2P and FTPs. My Verizon DSL is limited to 90 kbps uploads which means that when people are lucky they can pull stuff off me at 9 or 10 KB/s. Not that much bandwidth, and if I am using the internet myself at the same time I put my own limits at about 3 KB/s because I start getting unacceptable pings if too much of my upload is used. So generally I might fileshare at 3 KB/s during the day and at night when I'm not using it I let people pull the whole 10 KB/s.

        Also, P2P would fall apart if people couldn't run it on their $40/month line.

        Tim
  • people using more bandwidth will have to pay more than people using less? how outrageous!
  • "who regularly upload and download large graphics files, for instance, stand a greater risk of being affected than those who use their cable connection mostly for e-mail."

    Who would get $40/month cable internet mostly for email?
    • I've always wondered that same thing. I'm probably not a GB/day user, but if my only alternative is to watch the bandwidth meter because it's no longer all-you-can-eat, I'm back to dialup. Why should I pay that much to read email and web pages?

      Whether the "Waaaaah, you're using too much bandwith!" crowd realizes it or not, any kind of metering will be the death of the Internet as a populist phenomenon. Imagine putting all your company's information on the web, only to have people ask you to mail it to them, because they're damned if they're going to use their meager quota to download information about your products.

      Besides, the "scarcity" in bandwidth is due mostly to the premium price for upstream bandwidth engineered to prevent the little guy from doing any significant publishing or file sharing.

  • So Lets Recap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by danheskett (178529) <(danheskett) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:43PM (#3307363)
    This is entirely a good thing.

    My subnet on a RR network is filled with insecure, rude, and silly Warez hosts, blasting broadcast packets, trojan attempts, and general mischief. I know of people who routinely transfer 8-10 Gb per DAY (yes, per day - they max out at around 1000 kilobits second, 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day = 88473600000 bits/per day = ~10.2 gigabytes per day!) of mp3s, warez, movies, spam, etc.

    It doesnt take many of those types to *really* impact overall performance for everyone else. Even if you are on a really well managed network, all users suffer. Its really annoying to keep getting disconnected while trying to work remotely, or to get 3 kb/s downloads from legitimate high-bandwidth sites at peaks time because you *know* your peers are being hogs.

    The days where $40-60 a month entitled you to transfer 1/3 of a terrabyte a month are over. I fully support. I dont mind paying a little extra for more bandwidth, better latency, etc. Give me a reasonable daily/weekly/monthly limit (I mean, come on, would the typical heavy user really need more than 1 gb or so a day?) and I will be happy.

    And to the rest of you, who somehow feel entitled to gouge bandwidth with impunity, get a real dedicated high-speed line or go to hell.
    • Re:So Lets Recap (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Indras (515472)
      would the typical heavy user really need more than 1 gb or so a day?

      If it was 30Gb per month, I'd be happy, I don't think I would exceed that in downloading (in uploading, I barely scratch a meg a day, just a couple e-mails and some simple browsing). However, if I was capped at 1Gb per day, It would take more than one day to get the latest Linux distro. I just downloaded the full Redhat Skipjack beta in six hours, 650Mb per disk, two disks for the basic Redhat install, plus three more for powertools, etc = 3,250Mb. That would annoy the crap out of me to have to wait four days to get my isos.

      I don't think I'm alone here, either.
  • I would love to see the conversation with my cable company.

    ME: I'm calling to pay my cable bill.
    Cable Operator: OK, we charge a $5 fee for paying over the phone, you can pay on-line for free.
    ME: I can't pay online.
    CO: Is your internet access down. ME: No, if I load the billing page, I'll go over my limit, and get charged an extra $5.
    CO: I'm sorry I can't wavie the fee.
    ME passes out due to bleeding from ears

  • by Ali Jenab (565034) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:45PM (#3307379)
    I used to work for a large internet provider [verio.net] (which shall remain nameless) who had contracts with several small cable franchises for end-user internet services. As a network engineer I was responsible for planning and supervising the rollout of metered cable modem service in one mid-sized city, as a pilot program. Needless to say, things didn't work as well as we had hoped. Here are some of the problems we ran into:
    • Fraud. Several prolific warez kiddies figured out how to change their MAC address to bill their service to their neighbors or even to our own router (!). We're still not sure exactly how that happened. Sure, we cut them off and connected their modems to a high voltage source as punishment (our contract allowed it), but how many more are there who we didn't catch?
    • Billing issues. People who obviously ran up a very high bandwidth bill would call us and complain when they got their statements, asking us to lower their bills. Our position was that it wasn't our responsibility that they couldn't figure out how to close Napster or stop downloading porn. When they paid with credit card we would sometimes lose the dispute, but things were okay when they paid with cash or check.
    • Expectation of quality. As you know, a cable modem is a shared medium and cable companies are not at fault for your neighbors' downloading habits. However, it was considered a potential legal liability to be providing a service of varying quality.
    For these reasons and many others, metered cable modem service just won't work.

    /ali

  • by RelliK (4466)
    Finally they figure out that the best way to deal with bandwidth abusers is to charge them extra. Hopefully it means they'll stop going after home firewalls.
  • Metering Specifics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by schwap (191462) <beauh@schw o o g le.org> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:48PM (#3307391) Homepage
    I wonder if it would be possible to setup a few processes to ping a range of IP addresses to cause accounts to run over their quota. Would they distinguish real traffic from garbage such as that?
  • by coupland (160334) <dchase@NOSPam.hotmail.com> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:49PM (#3307406) Journal

    > I'll just have to guess where the threshold will be. Anything more than email? Active gamer?

    Please spare us the drama. I've done benchmarks and an active gamer who performs regular web surfing and casual file downloads does not approach the quota limits. Quotas are designed to thwart the WaReZ PuPp13z of DC, Kazaa, and WinMX fame who are not only throttling the backbone, they're the reason your cable modem drops carrier every Saturday morning. Cry "wolf!" all you want, I signed up for internet access with a quota and I can't wait until my ISP starts to impose it on me and (more importantly) my k1dd13 neighbours. Spare us the social diatribe...

  • I'm sick of seeing companies changing the price model for bandwidth. Once you have an OC-192, what the hell does it matter if you fill it, or not. You're already paying for the whole damn thing, whether it is full or not. Some people will use the network like mad, and some won't. That's how it works. Not to mention, that's why we pay for your fucking service.

    I may download 18 full 650MB isos one month, and the next month I spend all of my time writing code and checking my email. That's the way it is supposed to work. What one guy doesn't use, the other will.

    Besides, if you're tired of your users filling up your OC-192 24 hours a day with peer to peer filesharing apps, why don't you try doing something truly innovative. Start your own server to act as a proxy, and firewall the users from actually passing through your router. Now you've just removed all of the pointless "I'm still here" packets, and only left the data transfer packets. What's better, your network users can share all they want over your internal network, and it won't cost you a dime in additional internet bandwidth. What a fucking idea!

    Sorry for being such a prick about this, but I've had my fill of clueless network admins who insist on fighting what their users really want.
    • Great "Fucking" idea indeed. You'll make tons of profit, if you manage to survive the hordes or RIAA/MPAA lawyers who descend upon you. It's proven: legal fees cost a lot more than bandwidth.

      I do wish that my local CO hade an OC-192. We're stuck with a paltry five OC-3s.
  • by Sarcasmooo! (267601) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:51PM (#3307420)
    No one saw a problem with Time Warner owning the cable companies in places like my hometown of Charlotte, and now they have no competition, so they can pull this crap despite having already implemented bandwidth caps to supposedly avoid the need for it. Companies like Carolina Cable tried and tried to get their foot in the door, but when TW/AOL can just put off access to the pipes they control, those companies have a better chance of going bankrupt first (CC ran out of money a long time ago). Some free market this is. Uggghhhhh, fuck it all.
  • So I don't imagine that they'll be so obliging to give customers a little applet that monitors their bandwidth use on their desktop, will they?

    No, I suppose they'll just start charging whenever you run over, yet not offer any easy way of tracking it, right?

    That's capitalism. Capitalism is also the fact that they'll still get plenty of stupid customers.
  • by Jason Pollock (45537) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:54PM (#3307440) Homepage

    Now we'll see what people see as the real value of mp3s. Is it still a good idea to download it if the download is going to cost you 10c/meg? We'll find out shortly.

    I already live in the world of the monthly free traffic quota. Here in New Zealand, I have a 2meg down/256k up cable connection, with 1Gb of (international) traffic free for ~US$40.

    Traffic charges are tiered with national traffic (NZ) is at US$.008/meg and international traffic is at US$.08c/meg. So, downloading that image of Serious Sam SE will set you back US$52. All of a sudden, it makes sense to go out and buy the thing for ~US$40.

    I can't see this as anything other than a positive development.

    Before anyone starts, think about what this will do for the packaged linux software business. It might actually be cheaper to go out and buy the CD than download the ISO from Red Hat. All of a sudden RH turns a sale with a cost to them into a sale with profit! That _has_ to be a good thing.

    Jason Pollock
    • So, you should download Serious Sam off someone else in New Zealand!

      Tim
    • by ralian (127441) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @12:58AM (#3308050) Homepage
      Before anyone starts, think about what this will do for the packaged linux software business. It might actually be cheaper to go out and buy the CD than download the ISO from Red Hat. All of a sudden RH turns a sale with a cost to them into a sale with profit! That _has_ to be a good thing.

      Oh my god, what tripe you utter. One of the primary benefits, if not the primary benefit of Linux is how it is free for download, and for several very, very valid reasons.

      a) It means someone (say, the 16-year-old using the familay computer)can try out a new operating system without paying $50. Seriously, how many people would have ever tried Linux, would have ever used anything besides Windows, if they had had to pay for a boxed distro instead of downloading one? (I know I sure as hell wouldn't have - let me tell you, when I started using Linux, I was in high school, and I did not have $50 lying around to test something I didn't need.) That's how Linux started - people in colleges freely downloading Slack to try out on their 386s.

      b) You know Linux's vaunted stability and high bug-catching rate? Yeah? You know where that comes from? I'll tell you. People downloading betas and unfinished distros to test them. Your plan would entail causing the download a beta to cost more than buying a release version. You know where Linux's stability and security goes from there? Down the drain.

      Repeat after me: Allowing people to download Linux gratis is good.

  • You know, if there was any REAL competition in broadband, I'd say that this is good, because it'd sink AOLTimeWarner, as all their subscribers flee to alternative providers.

    But, since getting broadband internet is a lot like getting cable television, I think that the consumer is going to get screwed big time by this.

    Seriously, has deregulation ever benefited consumers? I can't think of a time off the top of my head when it has. It seems to me that it always benefits big business at the consumer's expense, and this is yet another example of the consumer getting screwed by a deregulated conglomerate.
    • Biggest deregulation ever...the phone system. How much is long distance now? Somewhere around 5 cents a minute, if you're mindful of your plans.

      20 years ago when at&t was the only game in town? A good plan would be a quarter a minute. And that was when a quarter was worth a hell of alot more.

  • by sunhou (238795) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:59PM (#3307464)
    Will they just count what you download to your machine? I.e. will stuff downloaded from their Usenet servers count the same as stuff downloaded from outside their own network? I wonder where their bottleneck is. If the bottleneck is getting data from the rest of the world into their network, then downloading stuff from their servers wouldn't hurt too much.

    Have any of the other companies that have done things like this made any distinction between the two?
  • Cable modem vs. DSL (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:59PM (#3307467) Homepage
    What this reflects, I suspect, is a desire to hang too many cable modems on one segment. It's so easy to hang lots of modems on one segment, and expensive to provide a wideband link from the segment concentrator back to the head end. Segment concentrators have to go on telephone poles, which is not a great environment for electronics.

    In the DSL world, you normally have a existing dedicated pair back to the central office, and bandwith from the CO usually isn't the limiting factor. And all the equipment is either at the customer or in the central office.

  • I live in a barn. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Carbino (567898) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:01PM (#3307477)
    With virus scanners and other programs set to check for updates automatically, email programs set to check for new mail every X minutes, not to mention the little leaks from programs with the potential like Kazaa, I would think it would be a little like all the electricity that trickles into all the appliances in the modern home when they are "off". How much "wasted" bandwidth would the average user lose in say a year? I guess I will have to start remebering to turn off the light/computer when I leave the room.
  • good filters (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oyenstikker (536040) <slashdot.sbyrne@org> on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:03PM (#3307494) Homepage Journal
    If they're gonna charge by bandwidth they had better do a VERY good job filtering spam. And how much bandwidth is 5,000 hits from Nimbda?
    • Your point about Nimda and spam really raises a interesting issue: many things we do while our computers are on cause data to flow in and out through the cable modem, and it's not always our fault.

      Now, catching Code Red could potentially cost someone lots of bandwith money. Those stupid pop-under downloads might install a P2P program without your knowledge or consent. Online media files are often much larger than you expect.

      This makes me think that the cost of administring these quotas (paying phone operators and tech support staff who will have to put up with hours of my constant bitching and excuses about my bill) will be higher than the cost of adding fatter pipes to the network and keeping everything uncapped.

      I would honestly prefer that my download bandwith be cut (expecially during peak hours) than to have to constantly fret and worry that I'm close to my bandwidth cap, so I'd better turn off Shoutcast.

      I hope they do a test run of this program in some small district, to see how users respond. I suspect that once people see their bill and the cryptic charges, many will try to dispute them. I promise I'll be on the phone the day my first metered RR bill arives. Will they "itemize" the usage fees like any other utility? Will they do it by port number? By time? By source? Will they charge the same for Usenet downloads, even if it puts no pressure on their connection to the internet? Will there be a warning when I've reached 75% of my monthly quota? Without these things, customers will bitch endlessly, and the workforce necessary to accomodate all the bitching will be more expensive than the overdue RR network improvements. Everybody who thinks this is a bad idea should put the RR customer service number in their speed dial and call them all the time to ask a bunch of really obscure questions, like "Oh God, I don't know what my daughter did on my computer just now. Can you please check how close I am to my cap? Oh, really, well, can you check how much I downloaded today? What? That's not what my meter says..." and so on.

  • by vanguard (102038) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:22PM (#3307629)
    I run a rather unpopular website with some pictures of my coral reef tank. Sadly, Time Warner doesn't want me to run a server because of the traffic it could consume.

    Now that they have a per for traffic model, can I run my server?
  • Welcome to Australia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by purplemonkeydan (214160) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:28PM (#3307667)
    This is the same model us here in Australia have been offered. With my cable ISP, Telstra BigPond [bigpond.com], you can download a maximum of 3GB a month before you are charged 11 cents per MB (there are different plans available with more or less data, but the 3GB one is the one most users are on, and is the best value).

    All Telstra content is exempt from this, and does not count towards your quota. Telstra mirror the major Linux and *BSD distros, service packs, game demos, movie trailers as well as providing video streams (including full replays of every NRL and AFL game).

    The other major cable ISP, Optusnet [optusnet.com.au], allows users to download up to 10 times the average of all customers over a 14 day period. Currently, the average user downloads 75MB a day. They have a tool called Netstats that allows users to get this information. Optus does have a fairer system, but they haven very limited availability (only selected parts of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane; nothing outside those cities), and you cannot run servers at all (Telstra allows this). There are also rumours that since SingTel bought Optus, they are looking at changing this system to a flat download limit.

    I'm going to go against popular opinion and say that I don't mind this system at all. I download less than 3GB's a month, I get all the Linux distros for free, and can comfortably download whatever I like. It costs a hell of a lot to send data to and from the US, and I'd rather that my ISP is profitable and won't sink.

    I also don't see why I should subsidise 12-year old warez kiddies; if they want their warez, they can damn well pay for it.
  • by Mustang Matt (133426) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @12:17AM (#3307883)
    So what happens if someone on their network sends out 10 million spam messages and 50,000 of them hit my servers.

    Will they pay me for allowing a spammer to send that much crap through my lines?
  • Dumb question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dswensen (252552) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @12:26AM (#3307934) Homepage
    This may seem like a really naive question (probably because it is), but can someone explain to me in layman's terms why bandwidth is so expensive?

    Right and left, I see personal sites dropping like flies or going members-only because they're being hit with multi-thousand dollar bills because they suddenly got popular. Why does it cost so much? What resource is being consumed that justifies these huge amounts of money?

    It's an honest question -- I really don't know how it works, and I'm curious to know.

    • Re:Dumb question (Score:3, Informative)

      by Greyfox (87712)
      Well back when I was doing provisioning for MCI, we charged $1600 a month plus local loop charges for a T1 (1.5 megabits per second) or $23,000 a month for a T3 (45 megabits per second.) That works great when you're shoehorning 56k dialup users onto the line at $20 a month, doesn't work quite so great when you're shoehorning 3 megabit per second cable customers onto the line.

      I haven't priced things recently but I suspect that despite the lines from my house to my ISP getting MUCH faster at the same price, the lines from my ISP to the backbone still cost about the same.

      Why does it cost so much on the backbone? Well they've laid thousands of miles of wire that they need to maintain and still make a profit, and those border routers and hardware for same don't come cheap. Not to mention a NOC, salaries for the guys who make sure the network stays running... it adds up.

      Now the immediate response to this is "Add more backbone" but that's what companies were doing during the tech boom a couple of years ago. Now all that excess capacity sits unused and unprofitable. I don't think anyone will be adding more capacity to the network anytime soon.

    • Re:Dumb question (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      • can someone explain to me in layman's terms why bandwidth is so expensive
      • Step 1: I pay hard cash for hardware, then pay a bunch of people money to lay cables and plug in routers, then I continue to pay money to service and maintain this hardware.
      • Step 2: Jane Investor buys a bunch of cables and routers and plugs one of her cables into one of my routers. We are now The Internet.
      • Step 3: Jane wants to send a packet through her cable over my router.

      Now, pop quiz. Do I:

      • A: Let her do it for nothing, because there's no direct cost to me other than creating a tiny electrical pulse in my router?
      • B: Charge her a small amount, to recoup my investment and defray my flat rate expenses.

      If you answered A, you are either a Star Trek character or a .com venture capitalist. If you answered B, you are an actual member of the human race.

  • A Technical Solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by slyfox (100931) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @12:44AM (#3307992)
    Instead of offering xxx kbits/second and charging more per bit after a certain usage threshold, the ISPs should sell a broadband connection with a "peak" and "sustained" rating (e.g., 512kb peak and 56kb sustained.) A users would receive bursts of 512kb throughput, but after an hour or two straight at full throttle the ISP's router would slowly limit throughput to the sustained rate.

    One simple and well-known algorithm to implement this solution is a token-bucket. (More information from Cisco's web site) [cisco.com] The basic idea is that you have a bucket that collects token at some rate. This rate corresponds to the peak rate of transfer. The bucket also has a maximum capacity which corresponds to the size of the 'burst' you'll allow. When a packet arrives and the bucket is non-empty, the packet is forwarded and one token is removed from the bucket. When the bucket is empty the packet is queued or dropped.

    Going back to the above example, consider a token-bucket where tokens arrive at 56kb/second, and the bucket can hold (60*60*512) kbits of tokens. This bucket would allow full peak allows full use for a hour or two, at which time the bucket would be close to empty and packets could only be sent the sustained rate.

    This kind of setup would not effect most users at all, but would limit the worst offenders to 1/10th or 1/100th the bandwith usage.

    • by carm$y$ (532675)
      with a "peak" and "sustained" rating (e.g., 512kb peak and 56kb sustained.)

      You make a slight confusion here (or make it sound confusing), what do you mean by 56kb sustained? Because if it's 56 kbit, that's dial-up speed, and I don't think anybody would be stupid enough to pay "broadband" price for dial-up speed. I wouldn't, for sure.

      Also, why call "offenders" people who just use what they paid for? Do you also call people drinking all the coke before trashing the can "offenders"?

      (ok, maybe this sounds too harsh; the technical point and the link to Cisco are ok, and you actually deserve +5, informative)

  • by bstadil (7110) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @01:00AM (#3308061) Homepage
    I read thru all the post and it amazes me that nobody (Maybe I missed it) has picked up on the fact its Time Warner. This is as much an attempt to protect their Music and Film biz as its a "cost of bandwidth" issue. We are just about now getting to the point where its somewhat practical to download DivX movies in addition to Mp3 music. If they can cap the bandwidth at this point they have bought themselves a few years to try and figure out how to avoid movies going the route of music.
  • This only shows... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits (437) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @01:13AM (#3308104) Homepage

    ...that fierce competition, if applied to a bunch of morons, can produce monopolies that jack up the price immediately after gaining control, and still provide a shitty product. Flat rate was the standard since the time of dialup, but when DSL and cable companies started the price war they ended up:

    1. Offering a service sold at loss, expecting to cover it by more expensive services, then wondering why everybody subscribes to it and no one wants anything else.
    2. Overselling the bandwidth to a ridiculious level (>100 times). Residential "1.5Mbps DSL" would be actually 3 times slower than a dialup if all users were downloading or tried to receive something streamed at the same time -- and when people started doing just that, of course, results started to suck.

    As the result, anyone who attempted to provide decent quality was losing money on supporting low-priced service to run at some tolerable level, and the only people who survived were ones that provided only or mostly high-priced services (Covad -- and it barely survived), or ones that simply had a shitload of money to burn (SBC, USWest/Qwest, TW). Now the survivors are trying to bring the prices to the level where they can actually make money, but since the public got accustomed to low prices in the advertisements, former low-priced services are becoming high-priced through more sneaky tactics, and customers overall lose compared to the hypothetical situation when prices and service were reasonable to begin with. As some fictional character said, "dodge this", free market worshipers/propaganda workers with degrees.

    Necessary bit of disclosure: this is written over a Covad line that costs me $114/mo and works.

  • Can they do it? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hyrdra (260687) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @03:23AM (#3308461) Homepage Journal
    As a CMTS technician and head end operator who was around for the first rollout and one of the few who actually read the DOCSIS spec, I can testify what Time Warner is proposing is going to be difficult. Given the current state of the network, it's a wonder it even works. When I was there, we were doing things for the most part ad hoc and flying by the seat of our pants. The user database, cable modem SMS database, and interactive user content were completely separate on isolated systems, running on a variety of architectures and different places.

    For example, the typical account server that manages BOOTP requests and allows modems on the network is operated by the national Road Runner, while we operate our own DHCP servers. The TFTP server that transfers configuration information to customer modems to adjust settings is hosted and operated by a 3rd party service. In the first case, the BOOTP server runs on an AIX system, the DHCP server is Win NT, and the TFTP server is run directly off of the Cisco UBR.

    Currently, we have no way of knowing what users are even on the system (e.g. IP's or MAC's to names). Why? Because our user database isn't connected to the CMTS. When we have to turn off a modem for non-payment, we have to go in and add a line in the UBR's file to map specific MAC addresses to a disabled DOCSIS configuration file. So yes, it is controlled by your MAC addresses but still the config file can be forged to give you access anyway. Cable modems have voluntary network access, that is, they must restrict themselves from going on the network if the head end tells them. That doesn't mean they can't somehow still go on the network, albeit not 'authorized'. Quite literally, there are no network locks other than the customer's modem.

    Things were more of a mess just a few weeks ago. The configuration files weren't even using shared secret or message integrity checks to ensure customers didn't tamper with the files to gain unauthorized service. We only found this out after our OC-192 was getting heavily saturated connected to the Road Runner backbone. Doing a dump of connected modems (which displays frequency info, signal info, etc. and is generally used for debugging), yielded over 65 modems operating in excess of 10 Mb/s up and down. Talk about getting a deal for $39 a month. I had no idea how long these users had been exploiting the system, but I suspected at least a few had done so for around 11 months based on old logs from one of our router, which keeps bandwidth info for specific IP's (we could determine it was these users because they were also using static IP's).

    Currently, there are around 80 modems on the system that technically shouldn't be. The reasons for this are varied, from mistyped MAC addresses to fraud, we don't have time to investigate and the current DOCSIS version we are using doesn't offer fixes for these types of problems.

    Clearly, Time Warner needs to do a lot of work if they want to do anything like bandwidth limits. This may be a franchise-only problem, but the way I see it is the combination of the very much flawed DOCSIS spec to cable operators who ARE NOT internet service providers leads to these kinds of network abuses. Just look at TR's national web site that ends in errors every turn for proof they are running are glued together operation. This leads me to wonder if that article was to scare users into using less bandwidth, thus solving the problem for them? Otherwise they need a serious investment in infrastructure in order to make it happen in real life. Personally, I haven't heard anything to the affect of bandwidth limiting. We don't even have the capability to monitor it now, as I've said all along...
  • Belgium, Europe (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @03:31AM (#3308474)
    Well, here the bandwith for the bradband has been limited since it came out. As a matter of fact, you have 3-4 choices, these prices are average:

    500MB/Month at like 25/Month
    10GB/Month at 40/Month
    20GB/Month at 65/Month
    Unlimited at 90/Month

    Each additional MB is invoiced at 0,05 ....

    Maybe this is what will happen in the states too??

    Good luck!
  • by volpone (551472) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @10:02AM (#3309273)

    This brings up significant privacy concerns. Today, electric companies are required by law to report "inordinate amounts" of electricity being used in residences. This is because people growing marijuana in their closets use UV lamps, which require gobs of power per day. The electric companies contact the cops, the cops get a search warrant, and the drug dealers are taken to jail.

    In the scheme described in the NetworkWorld article, Time Warner will keep track of how much you will upload/download. Download too much, and the police may suspect that you're getting illegal software or music. See the logical progression? I don't relish the idea of the cops snooping in on my business because I u/d too many packets while deathmatching...

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