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The Almighty Buck

AT&T/Comcast Consider Aussie-Style Bandwidth Caps 512

Posted by timothy
from the dialup-is-still-all-you-can-eat dept.
LazySiow writes "Having looked at Australia's pioneering efforts in cappedband services, AT&T Broadband and Comcast are considering applying download caps of their own. Since the two approved a merger proposal last week, they will be the largest broadband provider in the States, and will not only affect a large percentage of of users, it will set a large and potentially unstoppable precedent for caps all around the country."
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AT&T/Comcast Consider Aussie-Style Bandwidth Caps

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  • Their prerogative. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OverCode@work (196386) <overcodeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:30AM (#4704572) Homepage
    Just don't call it "unlimited internet", or it's false advertising.

    -John
    • by Bishop (4500) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:45AM (#4704778)
      In Ontario, Canada the phone monopoly, Bell, implemented data caps, and yet continued to advertise "Unlimited Internet Access." Their reasoning is that the Internet is still available 24/7: there are no time limits. The sad part is that a large number of customers bought into this and went on to defend Bell's "Unlimited Internet" despite the 5GB data cap. To add insult to injury if a customer were to do the sorts of activities shown in the Bell ads, music jamming online, sucking back video content, the customer would very quickly hit the 5GB data cap.
      • by hopbine (618442) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @08:50AM (#4705230)
        Bell Sympatico are changing to a 10 Gbyte cap, with a
        $30.00 (Canadian) maximum extra charge/month on anything over 10Gbytes upload or download.
        To be fair to Sympatico, their servers tend to be always available.

        • Charged at $8 per gigabyte over the cap. Reliable estimates by people in the know estimate that Bell's actual costs for bandwidth are in the range of 50 cents to $1 per gigabyte.

          And the $30 maximum charge? The Sympatico website CLEARLY states that it is TEMPORARY.

          There are a number of DSL competitors who give higher caps and charge between $3 and $1 per gigabyte for bandwidth. And they have to pay Bell for transit over the local loops!

          (Thank God the ILEC, Bell, isn't screwing the competitors over wrt provisioning like the US ILEC's did to their competition.)

          Unfortunately the Cable companies up here haven't yet been forced to share their infrastructure in the same way.
    • Capping spam (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:53AM (#4704797) Homepage
      Will they cap spam, too? Or will the limit only apply to their paying customers?
      • Re:Capping spam (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @07:42AM (#4704948)
        i think this was meant as a joke, but it does raise a (semi)valid point.
        We've always been paying for spam via higher access charges, cost of ISP resources, equipment, etc. Nobody really cares because it's an abstract cost. But in a system where, after a certain transfer threshold, you are charged per byte(or megabyte, gigabyte, whatever) i can tell you EXACTLY how much any given spam is costing me. Sure, it's likely a trivial sum, but multiply it by the huge volume sent to everyone, and we'll have a rough idea of how much money spam costs the recipiants. That number might not be so trivial.
        Then again, maybe it will be and we would need to rethink the "it costs us money" line from the antispam arguement. (not to try to vindicate spam in anyway, it mearly helps to have the facts straight) Anyway, i'm curious about it. Anyone have numbers for this?

        btw, similar arguements can be made for popups and banner ads for stuff i'd never buy anyway.
    • Well, Telstra (biggest telco in Australia) advertises "unlimited" dialup for $AU25/month. It's unlimited total time, but they disconnect you every 3 hours and charge you a high per-MB rate if you download more than around 300MB/month. It's pretty decpetive, and they have even advertised the 3 hour time limit as a feature ("we'll disconnect you after 3 hours if you forget to disconnect yourself!"). They're also the major telco, so the odds are that they also get money for every call you make to reconnect. IMHO, it's rather deceptive and dishonest on a number of fronts, but luckily you can easily get a better deal from lots of other ISPs.
    • by nolife (233813)
      Not only are they still calling it "Unlimited", in certain areas they are offering even more unlimited...

      I just got a snail mail from Comcast advertising a new service (at least in northern VA)... It is based on "allowing the whole family to be online at the same time" plan. Yes folks, these are the same high speed providers that cry wolf and complain about bandwidth hogs.

      A 802.11b wireless CM router all in one unit and 2/256 service for $64.99 with up to 5 machines. I currently pay $49 +$5 CM rental and only get 1.5/128 connectivity for one machine. So now we want your whole family to enjoy the internet all at once [until you hit that bandwidth limit].

      The advertisment has nice color pictures of the whole family online d/l things, graphs of speed comparisons of large media files, and all the power of the internet etc.., I saw nothing about d/l limits. One week they offer something but the next they are trying some behind the scene limits? They are advertising one thing to get your money then switch you later. BAIT AND SWITCH.

      Another twist is their usenet service. They outsource and provide 1GB with Giganews paid per month and if you want more they over a special deal with Giganews to get a discount on other packages. Well guess what, I did. I got a second account for 6 more GB/month and I use it all every month.
    • by macrom (537566) <macrom75@hotmail.com> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @10:19AM (#4705821) Homepage
      The problem is that our definition of unlimited and their definition of unlimited tend to be two separate entries in the dictionary. They say that the unlimited internet means you can go wherever you damn well please and not be restricted, trying to pull the crowd that uses internet services like Prodigy and AOL.

      We on the other hand think that unlimited means no download limits and no bandwidth caps. Unfortunately that won't ever happen. "Unlimited Internet" is not the same as "unlimited bandwidth" or "unlimited downloads", so a company saying "unlimited Internet" is correct from their FUD-ish marketing point-of-view.

      To me, if you want unbridled access, you need to be purchasing an unbridled pipe, such as a T-carrier line. It really aggravates me when people complain that they can't download 50 gigs of data in 10 seconds on a USD$39.99 Internet connection. It's like the people in my office that complain about rush hour traffic every morning yet refuse to take the toll roads that are often less congested. Pony up some cash if you want the luxury of faster access!

      We shouldn't expect some kind of uber-bandwidth for a few bucks a month. Probably not a popular opinion with the crowd here, but it's my take on this whole broadband-in-the-home thing. Now if the company tries to pawn off unlimited downloading on the cheap, well that company deserves to be held to their advertisment.
    • by Snork Asaurus (595692) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @11:50AM (#4706725) Journal
      It's called Marketing, damn it! We live in a new marketing age where many words (like free, unlimited, guarantee, service, quality, value, awesome, truth, elected and many, many others) have lost all of their original meaning. I posted an explanation here the other day. For those who missed it, here it is:

      As a result of the dot bomb and stock market downturn, a lot of unemployed MBA's have sought work elsewhere. Some have gone to ISP's, some to Cell Phone services companies, some to Cable Television service providers. All have one thing in common - they are implementing the standard b-school "Suck 'em In and Fleece Them" tiered service model:

      Dear Valued Customers,

      We are pleased to announce our new tiered service plans, specially designed to suit your specific needs. Now there is a plan for everyone! You may choose from:

      $9.99 Unlimited - The basic unlimited. There are limits and they're pretty damned low. No one will ever want this ( we just put it here so that our ads can scream "$9.99 UNLIMITED ! ")

      $19.99 More Unlimited Plan - still limited. Just not as limited as the Unlimited Plan.

      $29.99 Super Unlimited Plan - more unlimited than the More Unlimited Plan but less unlimited than the Ultra Unlimited Plan.

      $49.99 Ultra Unlimited Plan - this one is really, well, unlimited. OK, not really.

      $99.99 Mega Unlimited - Awesome! Really, really unlimited (on Tuesday nights only from 8:00 p.m. to midnight).

      $299.99 Ultra Supermega Supreme Unlimited. - Totally unlimited. Some restrictions apply. See contract for details. Offer void where people eat toast and in the state of Tennessee. Available only to new customers. Who live in Pittsburgh. On 4th Avenue. In a red house. With blue trim.

      $122,999,999.99 The Totally Ultra Supermega Supreme Buy the Damned Company Unlimited Plan. The most unlimited of all the unlimited plans. You can truly use all you want! Almost.

      Note: All plans are subject to cancellation if we feel like it.

  • by Yousef (66495)
    If they cap your bandwidth, you should simply "cap" them... Knee-Caps are usually a nice target...
  • AOL (Score:3, Funny)

    by OrangeSpyderMan (589635) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:34AM (#4704584)
    lameness_filter=0

    I thought AOL already imposed CAPS ON THEIR USERS :-)
  • by wo1verin3 (473094)
    Rogers Cable in Toronto capped our speeds so badly it is doubtful we could even GET to the 5gb transfer limit that Sympatico has put in place if Rogers implemented it.

    On a more serious note, the Rogers answer was to cap speeds as opposed to a bandwidth cap. I went from 600kbp/s down to 150, and an upload cap of 40kbp/s which I can never achieve. =)
    • by EoRaptor (4083)

      Actually, Rogers capped the downstream rate at 1500kbits/sec, and the upstream rate at 190kbits a second, down from the old @Home setting on 3000kbit down, 400kbit up. This is just about half. Actually getting these speeds aren't really possible, Rogers doesn't have the infrastructure to support it.

      Having said that, Rogers plans to introduce *byte* caps, where there is a monthly limit on the amount of data you transfer in January of 2003, with billing for overusage beginning in March. It'll probably mimic the Sympatico caps, for anyone who cares.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Gonna have to pick between latest red hat download OR all the pron and pirated movies.
    • Gonna have to pick between latest red hat download OR all the pron and pirated movies.


      No, thats not the idea. The corps want you to spend more money on your broadband, not download less.

      So, you can download both redhat and pr0n, but you will be priced a bit higher. Now how much is that RedHat iso worth to you ? ;-)

  • by su007 (530279) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:35AM (#4704595) Homepage
    I hope users of this service let them know how much it is appreciated. Vote with your dollar and cancel your service if they cap your account. There are no doubt many other providers that would love to have you.

    The day it is introduced, call your provider and let them know you will be canceling due to this restriction. Have new service with another company installed and cancel on the last day of your billing cycle!
    • by Nogami_Saeko (466595) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:44AM (#4704631)
      The problem is much like the much-loved "reduced warantee" on hard-drives where all the manufacturers conspire to reduce warantees at the same time, the same could be true for the broadband industry.

      If all providers cap at the same time, then all of them make more money and nobody loses out...

      Never doubt the power of the dollar to induce competitors to work together to milk more money out of their customers.

      I agree though that companies should NOT be allowed to advertise their service as unlimited in this case.

      Some sort of FCC/CRTC regulation is needed where companies MUST include information on bandwidth and transfer caps in their advertising, and not in 3 point font at the bottom of a TV commercial or print ad.
      • If all providers cap at the same time, then all of them make more money and nobody loses out...

        Well, only temporarily. Very quickly, geeks across the country begin buying T-1's and starting their own, small, unlimited, ISPs.

        What's more, when you become the ISP, you can tell the RIAA/MPAA to fuck off when they send you a cease & desist letter about one of your customers. You might end up in court (for sure, if you are so blatant about it) but that's quite rare.
        • by warpSpeed (67927) <slashdot@fredcom.com> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @10:53AM (#4706107) Homepage Journal
          Very quickly, geeks across the country begin buying T-1's and starting their own, small, unlimited, ISPs.

          Get real, I own a very small ISP, and there is next to no money to be made in that buisness. There is NO SUCH thing as free bandwidth! It costs me lots of money to buy my bandwidth. My customers pay me for thier usage, and I keep tabs on how much is used and when. Otherwise I would have one or two users killing the service for everyone else.

          Now, a coop might be able to do such a thing if you have close proximity and can use wireless for distribution. But it requires that someone be responsible for the incoming line, and to deal with things, like DNS servers, email servers, IP allocation, or NATing and firewalling, etc. If you have a tight knit group of geeks, who do not quibble about usage and such, and you all can get along, you are set.

          Nice idea in theory, but back to reality for the majority of people out there... In practice there are many more variables/problems/issues to deal with when running a coop or an small buisness. There is liability, accouting, infrastructure, capitalization, to name a few. The sad truth is that the Cable providers will charge as much as they can to skim the cream off the top of the customer base. Those with few other options are not going to start a Coop, or thier own ISP just to get unlimited bandwidth, it is too har and time consuming. The economics are not there...

    • by NevermindPhreak (568683) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:44AM (#4704632)
      unfortunately, this is not the case. see, thanks to some fools in congress, cable companies have no local competition in many areas that cannot recieve DSL (like mine). therefore, the cable company can do just about whatever it damn well pleases (to a point). and, even if makes a download cap around here, its still better than the dialup in the neighborhood.

      personally, i hope they cap speeds, not download limits. my cable company (time warner, who privides road runner) already has an option for "business lines", cable lines that download twice as fast and upload several times faster, for about double the cost per month. there are even more choices beyond that. while i dont need the extra bandwidth, id gladly pay an extra 10 bucks a month for my service now.

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:01AM (#4704673) Homepage
      There are no doubt many other providers that would love to have you.

      The funny thing is, no there aren't.

      Hear me out.

      If you're the kind of user who downloads a gig a day, runs a web server, a MUD, a webcast radio station, and several sessions of KaZaA, the providers don't want you. They'd much rather do without your 30 or 40 dollars or whatever you spend a month than have to spend more providing you with bandwidth and technical support. To them you're more trouble than you're worth, and if by instituting a cap they lose you, well that's the price they're willing to pay.
      • by MikeFM (12491) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @07:19AM (#4704859) Homepage Journal
        A large part of the problem is the misuse of the Internet big companies are trying to force. Rather than treating the network as peers they want to have a few centralized services under corporate control and lots of little users that just sit there and suck up products and canned media. Essentially trying to turn the Internet into television/newsprint. It just doesn't work well.

        If ISP's would embrace people that want to run their own web servers, P2P, etc they could reduce a lot of their upstream bandwidth usage. How many people look for local news on a server half way across the country? How many check their email on servers sitting somewhere at Yahoo? How many download the newest game, movie, or music from a distant P2P peer? That is a lot of bandwidth they don't need to waste.

        Smart ISP's would provide community sites within their own network (and encourage power users to make their own sites) and provide nice web-based mail. A local IM server would be nice. Offering good proxy servers for web-surfing and a local P2P server that users can connect through rather than using servers elsewhere on the Internet. All are good ways to reduce the ISP's bandwidth usage while keeping happy customers.

        I've seen community ran wireless networks that offer all these things and do a very good job at it. If ISP's aren't careful with their limits eventually enough users will join such community network projects that a good deal of the ISP's business may suffer. Wireless networks now are pathworking their way into covering most major cities and even rural areas. At the same time advances are being made in long haul signals for wireless. Eventually this will be a threat to the ISP/telco business and they just accelerate the shift by driving away power users.
    • Voting with your dollar for value, will automatically be counted as a vote against high speed internet service and a vote for unwieldy monopolies that give you what they want secure in the knowledge you're legally obligated to like it. I would like to take this opportunity to tip my hat to Michael Powell, and the thevies at worldcom who played no small role in halving the value of my mutual funds inside of 12 months.

      Condalezza Rice and Michael Powell should get together and have the worlds stupidest politician. Through its powers of super nepotism it could grow up to have the diction of George Bush Mk II, the spelling and insight of Dan Quayle, the timing of Jimmy Carter, and the moral fiber of Ronald Regean.
    • Or vote with your preferred protocol.

      Here (New Zealand) all broadband ISPs have data caps (eg. 10Gb free per month and 10c/Mb after), but many only apply this limit to international traffic, and offer free national traffic.

      This means that the ISP is fast for international traffic because it isn't full of people leeching warez from america, and fast for national traffic because there is a lot of national broadband infrastructure.

      It also means that I download my stuff from people in the same country --- and let those who do have unlimited access for whatever reason (eg. works at a big ISP) do all the importing, and then several people download it from this person's web server, and then everybody else can grab it from the national P2P network [p2p.net.nz], which is not subject to throttling [idg.net.nz] like the international networks.

      Since ISPs introduced these caps, my P2P usage (and that of many others) has increased. The ISPs save money and provide better service too, the only losers are the vampires who continuously download without giving anything back.

      Upwards and onwards!

      I imagine ISPs in the USA may offer similar free-for-this-state traffic, and cap inter-state and international traffic..?

      • by buysse (5473) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @08:59AM (#4705266) Homepage
        Not bloody likely. I'm in Minneapolis, MN. Here's my traceroute to the University of Minnesota:

        traceroute to 128.101.101.101 (128.101.101.101), 30 hops max, 38 byte packets
        1 xxxxxxxxxxx.rr.com (24.xxx.xxx.xxx) 1.480 ms 1.212 ms 3.600 ms
        2 10.y.y.y (10.y.y.y) 12.314 ms 19.837 ms 8.476 ms
        3 mplsmn01-rtr2-srp-2-0.mn.rr.com (24.26.162.2) 19.682 ms 9.169 ms 8.995 ms
        4 mplsmn01-rtr1-srp-2-0.mn.rr.com (24.26.162.1) 20.112 ms 12.612 ms 12.008 ms
        5 pop1-chi-P3-1.atdn.net (66.185.141.89) 28.199 ms 26.546 ms 23.704 ms
        6 bb1-chi-P0-0.atdn.net (66.185.141.84) 24.655 ms 25.107 ms 36.789 ms
        7 bb1-kcy-P7-0.atdn.net (66.185.152.125) 40.153 ms 38.884 ms 36.182 ms
        8 bb2-kcy-P1-0.atdn.net (66.185.152.127) 38.371 ms 71.896 ms 48.152 ms
        9 bb2-den-P7-0.atdn.net (66.185.152.188) 48.200 ms 48.099 ms 50.597 ms
        10 bb1-den-P1-0.atdn.net (66.185.152.136) 48.182 ms 48.030 ms 56.077 ms
        11 bb1-sun-P5-0.atdn.net (66.185.152.253) 74.332 ms 72.269 ms 73.656 ms
        12 bb2-sun-P1-0.atdn.net (66.185.152.1) 104.375 ms 73.225 ms 73.054 ms
        13 bb2-las-P7-0.atdn.net (66.185.152.22) 79.735 ms 81.554 ms 80.461 ms
        14 pop2-las-P1-0.atdn.net (66.185.137.163) 91.439 ms 78.519 ms 92.356 ms
        15 aol-gw.la2ca.ip.att.net (192.205.32.101) 98.355 ms 79.452 ms 81.495 ms
        16 gbr3-p50.la2ca.ip.att.net (12.123.28.130) 83.982 ms 99.443 ms 93.248 ms
        17 gbr4-p20.sffca.ip.att.net (12.122.2.69) 92.254 ms 90.989 ms 112.171 ms
        18 gbr3-p50.dvmco.ip.att.net (12.122.2.66) 111.926 ms 110.579 ms 110.642 ms
        19 gbr1-p100.dvmco.ip.att.net (12.122.5.18) 115.916 ms 111.989 ms 111.105 ms
        20 gar2-p360.dvmco.ip.att.net (12.123.36.137) 111.924 ms 111.556 ms 112.587 ms
        21 12.124.158.46 (12.124.158.46) 115.931 ms 120.008 ms 118.364 ms
        22 den-core-02.tamerica.net (205.171.16.17) 116.331 ms 117.854 ms 115.497 ms
        23 min-core-02.tamerica.net (205.171.8.98) 151.716 ms 141.178 ms 144.119 ms
        24 min-edge-01.inet.qwest.net (205.171.128.10) 156.578 ms 141.673 ms 152.590 ms
        25 65.121.10.62 (65.121.10.62) 151.691 ms 141.701 ms 242.474 ms
        26 tc2-qtr.northernlights.gigapop.net (192.42.152.129) 145.372 ms 144.367 ms 141.991 ms
        27 tc3x.router.umn.edu (160.94.26.97) 144.602 ms 143.957 ms 147.239 ms
        28 ntc-1-rsmx.rswitch.umn.edu (160.94.26.1) 144.811 ms 148.737 ms 144.713 ms
        29 ns.nts.umn.edu (128.101.101.101) 145.145 ms 161.426 ms 144.250 ms

        Note: the private network (10.0.0.0/8) is not mine -- it's Time Warner's.

        Even in the same state, I'm bouncing through 26 hops to reach the U of MN's border. More to the point, if I'm reading this right, the path on atdn.net is MSP-> Chicago-> Kansas City-> Denver-> sun(?)-> Las Vegas-> L.A.-> San Francisco-> Denver (again)-> Finally, back to Minnesota.

        Jebus, that sucks.
    • by carlfish (7229) <cmiller@pastiche.org> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @08:52AM (#4705239) Homepage Journal
      Welcome to the 80/20 rule. 80% of the bandwidth is used by 20% of the users, and 50% is being used by the top 10% of users. (Or it could be the top 5%. I did the sums back when I worked at an ISP, but my memory of these things is hazy now) Now, a little mathematics. You rewrite your user contracts to target the top 10%, and they leave.

      Suddenly you have effectively twice as much bandwidth for your remaining users as before. With decreased expansion costs and increased service-levels for your remaining customers, you could quite easily profit from your customers "voting with their feet".

      I bet the cable companies are just shaking in their boots over your threat to leave.

      Flat-rate pricing is a myth. It does far more damage to the Internet than it heals, since the need to artificially prevent people from fully utilising their connections without charging them more is is the cause of stupid rules like "You can't run a server and we'll cycle your IP occasionally" that really do impact on user freedom.

      Charles Miller
    • There is a perception that companies never like to use customers, but this is wrong. If you clog their pipes, they really don't want your business, and they may be saving money by seeing the back of you.

      Assume Joe Mpeg "votes with his dollar" and leaves Foo Company, no longer downloading 50 GB a month. Guess what? Foo Company can replace him with 50 "normal" customers who only download 1 GB a month each. In fact, Foo Company is likely to implement download caps designed expressly to get rid of unprofitable customers like Joe Mpeg, whilst still keeping the casual user who will never hit the cap during normal use.
    • And what other provider should I choose? That other Cable company that is not in my area? That DSL provider that refuses to service my area? These providers are government sanctioned monopolies. That is way they can change what they want when they want, for the most part you DO NOT have a choice. They also conspire between each other to offer similar services and pricing structures. I do have the option of dialup but this is not in the same playing field.
    • There are no doubt many other providers that would love to have you.

      Nope. In central Maryland (Howard County) there is one cable provider (Comcast) and no DSL (too far from the telco). Satellite is laggy and generally not Mac compatible. So what do you recommend?

  • This is the real cost of P2P - providers always work on an oversubscription of their services, just to make it economical. They never expected to see the utilization that they are seeing, mainly due to p2p applications.

    Once you start paying for each MB over the limit, then your MP3s will no longer be free. So, the big question is, are the ISPs in bed with the music industry ????
    • Good point. It's unrealistic to think an ISP is not oversubscribed. So there will alwais be some kind of cap. P2P makes this worse, much more than the average user is willing to understand.
    • by whois (27479)
      No this is not the real cost of point to point.

      This is caused by providers not charging what bandwidth costs them. Major ISPs are not overutilized or oversubscribed, all the "problems" of p2p are happening on the edge networks. Why is this? Because nobody wants to pay to upgrade.

      These providers are oversubscribing their networks by sometimes 6x their upstream capacity or more (3 is the norm). They do this so they can charge customers less for the bandwidth. Why would they want to charge less? Because they're in a price war with the cable modem company down the road.

      They can't afford to stay in the market because they're in over their heads, so they switch tactics. Instead of fixing the problem, they blame the customer (a common solution nowadays).

      So as someone said earlier, vote with you're money. If someone starts changing you're service in ways you don't like just go to their competitior. Saying "oh well, thats just the way it is" will only succeed in making this the standard practice for every provider.

      In my opinion bandwidth caps are ok as long as they're agreed upon when you signup for service (i.e. you ask for 500kbps down, and thats what you get). Per byte charges are historically disfavored for home users even though businesses like the idea. When's the last time you paid per minute on local calls? How many of you would accept a cell phone plan that provided no free minutes to call anywhere? Nobody likes it when the phone company changes their plan. Nobody would accept a new phone plan that was worse than the old one. Hows this sound: "Hey, we're lowering the amount of calls you can make on you're phone. If you go over 70 calls a month we'll charge you 45c a minute"

      Would you accept it? No. So why accept their proposed plan for new cable modem caps? Find a new provider, and let Chapter 11 convince these people not to play in a market they don't understand.

      • they're in a price war with the cable modem company down the road.

        Who's the cable modem company down the road? I don't know where you live, but here it is RARE for anybody to have a choice of cable service. The best they can hope for is a choice between DSL from one of the baby bells, or cable modem from their cable provider.

        As a matter of fact, I've NEVER lived anywhere in the US where I had a choice between cable providers. The closest I ever came to that was when an upstart company tried to come in and compete with one of the big boys. They promised significantly lower prices. Guess what happened. The incumbent cable company pulled some legal crap to get them shut down before they even got up and running.

        Face it. For most of us there is no real choice. The only way we can vote with our $$$ is to go back to dialup.

  • by gTsiros (205624)
    ...every time i saw one of those "whaawhaa i don't want caps" articles on whatever-geeky-news-site

    They should just charge by the meg.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That's actually completely reasonable. If your only browsing and checking e-mail, maybe a game of quake here and there, then you might actually start paying less than you are now, with the multi-iso/night and movie freaks paying more of the cost. It's completely fair.
    • by Jon Peterson (1443) <{gro.tfirdwons} {ta} {noj}> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:58AM (#4704663) Homepage
      I fail to understand the whole 'bandwidth is free' mentality. As someone who has worked for a telco that did everything from lay fibre to manage routers, I can assure you that bandwidth is not free. Users who saturate their connections should not pay the same as users who occassionally browse the web, but like to do so at high speed. The sooner people pay per meg of data moved, the sooner we see:

      * Legislation against spam
      * Fewer stupid graphic heavy websites
      * Smaller more efficient programs
      * Greater use of zlib

      Furthermore, it means I can:

      * Stop subsidising college geeks trying to collect 40Gb of ripped music for the hell of it.

      Now, at the _commercial_ level, it's a different story, and I'd hate to see the removal of peering arrangements and so on. But at consumer level, gee, let's just pay for what we use and not pay for what we don't. Is it really so hard?

      Ideally, signup and connection to broadband should be trivially cheap, and then payment should be usage based. This opens broadband to poorer people, with amount of usage based on inclination and ability to pay. Currently, broadband is expensive to signup for, meaning its users are exclusively rich people who then think they should be able to host websites / download mp3's eternally as a basic human right. Feh.
      • Sure, I agree - pay for what you use. But charge fairly, not the extortionate prices Telstra and optus force upon us - prices which are way above the US in relative terms. I mean, $AUD70 ($US40) for 3GB per month, gimme a break.
      • by SlashChick (544252) <(erica) (at) (erica.biz)> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:46AM (#4704783) Homepage Journal
        I am a happy subscriber to ATTBI. Here in the Bay Area, they are absolutely great. No downtime, no major outages, as-advertised upload/download speeds (1.5MBps/256K for $45.95 a month.)

        I am firmly against bandwidth caps, and here's why.

        • Bandwidth caps curb innovation completely. As long as people are stuck on 56K or bandwidth-limiting broadband, content providers will be unable to provide more innovative, interesting content. Case in point: I work for a popular radio show, maintaining their website. They have over 2GB of audio content available for streaming. They have videos from when the hosts have made TV appearances. They have no incentive to put all of these archives of their programs up on the 'Net if people can't afford to listen to them! Not only will radio broadcasters suffer, but so will musicians, movie makers, and especially independent artists who drive revenue and create a fanbase online via music and movie distribution.
        • Bandwidth caps don't let people try new things easily. Want to download the latest Linux distro? How about just updating your home server? I've sucked down hundreds of Red Hat updates for my home print/web server, not to mention Red Hat 7.3 and 8.0 ISOs. I know I have 5GB invested in Red Hat downloads alone. Had I not had severeal online (and free) resources with which to install Red Hat, I probably would have just installed Windows 2000. And so would millions of others for whom the Internet is the first method of distribution for Linux and other Free operating systems.
        • Bandwidth caps don't effectively solve the P2P problem. You say, "I can stop subsidising college geeks trying to collect 40Gb of ripped music for the hell of it." The ISPs can just as easily stop this by throttling P2P ports. Want to download P2P stuff? Fine, ports used primarily for P2P are now at 56K speeds. This is the single most effective way to make P2P have less of an impact on the other users of the service.

        The moral is: don't punish people who like your service. I don't get punished by DirecTV and TiVo because I watch 20 hours of TV in a week instead of 2. True, Internet access requires more infrastructure per user than satellite does, but DirecTV has a per-user infrastructure cahrge as well (more satellites; installation; tech support). I expect that additional infrastructure charge to be covered in my monthly bill.

        Even traditionally per-use models, such as long distance, are moving to flat-rate fees for those who use them a lot. You can now get unlimited long distance for $30 a month thanks to VoIP, which was spawned by the same technologies that made the Internet possible.

        Don't cripple the growth of the Internet by advocating bandwidth limits. The only thing you will end up crippling is the continuing introduction of new, interesting websites with full-motion video and audio. The last thing we want is people defecting back to 56K, or worse, moving away from the Internet completely because "it's just not worth it."

        Broadband has made the Internet thrive. Don't hold that progress back.
        • But.... in the end, someone has to pay for the bandwidth. No data cap means that the cost of the bandwidth is spread out over all subscribers, no matter how much they use.

          "The last thing we want is people defecting back to 56K"

          I know many people who use the Internet occasionally, and who would love the convenience of fast, always-on Internet, but cannot justify the hefty monthy charge for broadband. These people have no option but to use 56K until we see metered broadband access with a low subscription charge. Not a good thing, especially since many of the casual users who do take the plunge and fork out for a high bandwidth link, start using the Internet more and try new things with it.
        • True, Internet access requires more infrastructure per user than satellite does, but DirecTV has a per-user infrastructure cahrge as well (more satellites; installation; tech support). I expect that additional infrastructure charge to be covered in my monthly bill.

          Satellite TV certainly has installation and tech support costs - but that is per subscriber - not based on usage. If I watch CNN 24 hours a day, or if I run it 1 hour a month, it costs them exactly the same - unless you count lost revenue to ads run by the satellite company due to lower ratings.

          The cost of satellites themselves are per-channel, not per customer. A single satellite can carry a limited number of channels, but can broadcast to the entire USA. If EVERYONE had a dish in their backyard, the same satellite would provide service to all of them.

          That is why satellite companies do not charge based on usage. Their per user cost actually drops significantly as you add users, since their biggest outlay is for the satellite itself. Their biggest outlays are huge one-time only expenses. After that they just sit back and collect...

          FYI - I'm running at 56k myself (actually, less than 28.8 when you count the lousy phone line). I'm running gentoo, and download tarballs all the time. I frequently download 50MB zip files. My only limitation is that I have to queue up my downloads and run them overnight. Right now, my only other option is Comcast - no DSL in my neighborhood due to distance from the CO. Of course, if I had any confidence in cable at all there wouldn't be a DirecTV dish in my back yard, and the cost of cable internet is well over $50 a month (no bundle discounts if you don't have cable TV service). So, the only thing a $40/month outlay will get me that I don't have already is some instant gratification, and probably a load of customer service complaints...
      • I'm the IT manager for a college here in Australia, and since we run a 'charge for what you use' system, I figured I'd recount a few of our experiences.

        Our cost structure is driven entirely by our upstream providers, and since we're connecting students, we aim to break even on bandwidth costs, and pay for our infrastructure out of a $25 connection fee.

        We have tiered charges, as part of an academic network, which look like this.
        sites in .anu.edu.au (and some other canberra institutions) - free
        sites in .edu.au - 2.5 c (AU) per meg
        sites in .au - 5 c (AU) per meg
        All other sites - 10 c (AU) per meg ...Although the actual prices have been falling each year, so they will likely be cut for 2003.

        In any case, our customers, I'll admit, are a fairly captive market as far as getting broadband access from their doom rooms go, however computer labs are run by a different division, and work quite differently. They have a 5meg per day quota, which accumulates over time, but is capped at 40 meg (and below at -20).

        A lot of people have recently been asking for this system to be expanded to the dorms, although from what I gather, it's more because this access is 'free' rather than being billed, not out of preference for the cost model.

        I would say, then, that we have a fairly good representation of how a system like this can work, and I would say on the whole it does so pretty well. We have a wide mix of users, from those who spend $100s per month, to people who don't even go through $25 in a year.

        For a time last year, there was a hole in our billing system which was allowing people to get free web access through a proxy server on campus. People who discovered this, approached $400 a month before we found the problem (and luckily we had ways of tracking the usage, it just wasn't built into our standard billing process). Some of these people were rather displeased at having to pay back for the access, however it was all resolved without much trouble. What this proves, I suppose, is that the billing becomes a consideration for the residents, and they adjust their habits accordingly.

        For an average user, however, people seem happy with the system. I can't imagine justifying a move to a flat fee structure, even if it were capped, because it would be impossible to sell to the vast majority here. I suppose that's the main moral, Average users aren't willing to subsidize the heavy users, and it's the average users who make up the majority.

        There will always be some unhappy people when their loopholes are taken away, but these same people, in another area, are unhappy about subsidising others. Compulsory residents association fees, for example, most of which are spent on sport and alcohol, tend not to go over so well for those who don't participate, and hence don't get their money's worth. Of course, I could go on and on...free health care and so on and so on.

        Anyway, I should put an end to this rambling...

        The billing system we developed for all this is up for (open source) grabs if anyone wants to maintain it, since I'll be moving on, although it's very hacky and not exactly documented at all.

        On the whole, I'd consider our experience positive, and I would personally look for a usage based system despite being a rather high end user myself. Basically, I figure there's always going to be someone with more time than me who I'll be subsidizing.
      • by Soulslayer (21435) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @08:56AM (#4705250) Homepage
        Whoa there a second.

        There are several big problems with the treatment of internet access in the modern world.

        One issue is that telcos and cable companies imitating telcos are in control of the market. These companies take the physical asset cost saving approach of assuming certain peak loads and usage patterns per customer per hour of the day. The problem is that internet service is not a static one use service like the telephone was originally. As deliverables and uses change and grow, so do the bandwidth needs. This messes with those lovely assumptions about how much time and how much data each customer will expend while using their connection. In fact when people started using modems in large numbers the telcos started crying about how it was screwing up their careful usage calaculations because a modem user staid online for hours when the usage rates were calculated for the average 3 minute phone call. The internet is not a bloody phone system. Deal with it. There is a ton of dark fiber laying around out there that is not being used despite having already been paid for and having the hardware to connect it all. Give me the fiber link to my bloody house and light all the fiber out there before you start charging me more based on poor customer usage predictions.

        Another issue is that american buisness has a horrible case of short sightedness (encouraged greatly by the reactionary and short sighted tendencies of the stock market). Bandwidth does not incur huge ongoing costs. Bandwidth incurs a huge initial cost (the laying of fiber/copper, routing hardware; etc) followed by rather reasonable maintenance costs (in most cases cheaper than regular telco lines). There are three ways to recoup your losses from the initial setup:

        1) Charge a huge amount of money for use of the service because (in a wonderful self fulfilling prophecy arrangement) you have decided that not enough users will purchase the service.

        2) Charge a very low amount of money for the service in the hopes that you will gain enough customers fast enough to reduce cost of operation per customer.

        3) Charge a moderate amount of money to attempt to get as much back initially as possible while not alienating an overly large chunk of your customer base with prohibitive rates.

        For a while now providers have been going with option number 3 (which makes the most sense) and charging about $50 a month for high speed access.

        The recent moves towards usage caps is mostly in reaction to hemoraging money from failed or miscalculated ventures elsewhere and is an attempt to belatedly go back to option nubmer 1. Option number 1 being a huge reason why ISDN never really took off despite being around for a long time.

        Now this trick (basically a big bait and switch) of hooking customers at a moderate pricing scheme and then swapping it out for an expensive one will work in the short term, but it is ultimately going to wind up less profitable than charging a lower amount for services and increasing your customer base by nearly 10 times. Right now the US is way behind other countries in terms of broadband deployment. And it is not so much because the infrastructure isn't there. It's because the costs are still outside the comfort levels for most consumers.

        Leave broadband unlimited at $50 for decent (read higher than 512Kbps downstream/128Kbps upstream) connections and add lower cost plans at $12-$20 per month for low speed (below 512/128Kbps) and you will see a huge jump in subscribers that will also even out your bandwidth usage per customer (most people don't eat nearly as much bandwidth as gamers and the like do) and allow you to expand services.

        The below is way oversimplified, but helps illustrate the point a little.

        Current US households with broadband is estimated [europemedia.net] at ~15 million [www.nua.ie]. 15 million households with broadband now at $50/month = $750 million.

        Assuming you would keep those subscribers (with no usage caps) but offer the lower speed (again with no caps)at around $20 and you can add the remaining US households (85 million of them) for an addition $1.7 billion a month.

        This brings the theoretical total to $2.45 billion per month or $29.4 billion per year.

    • by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:56AM (#4704802)
      Charging by the meg is stupid; it's not like they are paying to create the content on Yahoo or eBay or wherever.

      It's like cable TV: you pay a flat rate, and you get a pipe "yay big" in size, down which content flows from someone else.

      Or like the federal highway commission charging you based on the number of miles you drive.

      If they want to provide some useful content, let them charge for that. If I elect to look at it, which I likely won't.

      If I'm going to pay them per meg, then they can damn well pay the content providers per meg (e.g. where's the kickback for Slashdot?).

      Sucks to be the guy who sells the pipe once, instead of the water company, who gets to sell the water over and over... oh well... if you don't like it, stay out of the pipe business, or buy into a water company.

      -- Terry
      • Your comments are wrong.

        If you use the net a lot, that means you transfer lots of MBs thru your adsl. You probably pay around $100. I use the net a little. I transfer more or less 5MB a day thru my crappy 56k dialup. Do you know how much that costs me per month? About $100. Even if my connection idles i still get to pay $100. Do you think that's fair?

        If you drive a lot, you pay for a lot of gas and use the road a lot so you pay more (often) at those toll stations.

        If i have my dialup idling i do not cost my ISP nothing (the phone company is another deal) except the occasional ping. That shouldn't cost me both my fucking arms and legs.

        You obviously use your connection a LOT and you see that it isn't your best interest if they start charging by the meg.

        I am not sure if there should be a charge for both up and down tho. i gotta think about that.
  • by Splat (9175) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:40AM (#4704613)
    Article seems to throw around the term "5Gb" making me think "e-gads, 625 megs a month?" but further research into other articles on this subject put the number at 5 gigaBYTES of traffic a month.

    Decimals hacked off .. feel free to redo my math with exact precision:

    5 gigs / 30 days = 166.66 megs a day.
    166.66 megs a day / 24 hour = 6.94 megs an hour
    6.94 megs an hour / 60 minutes = 115 kilobytes per minute
    115 Kilobytes / 60 seconds = 1.91 kilobytes a second...

    and 1.91 kilobytes * 8 = 15.28 kilobits a second.

    Comcast Online - 1994 speed at 2002 prices.
    • Your calculation is accurate and the conclusion is very cute, but this has no relevance whatsoever to the subject at hand. Comcast subscribers download stuff at the same speed as ever, until they hit the cap.

      If, as your calculation suggests, you are one of those people downloading things 24x7, then Comcast and all the others will be pleased as punch to see you cancel your subscription. Tell me this: which of the following persons incurs the highest operating cost to an ISP: the W4r3z d00d who is leeching a few gigabytes a day and hosting his warez on a server to others, or the housewife who likes the convenience of fast surfing and not having to dial up, but only surfs 1 hour a day and writes a few e-mails every now & then? Then tell me: is it right that both these persons should pay the same monthly fee?

      I say bring on metered internet access! Charge a low monthly fee that is attractive even for casual users, then charge by the megabyte. I think the only way ISPs will survive in the end is by such price differentiation, by passing on the (non-zero) cost of bandwith usage to the subscribers.

      (+5 informative? What gives?)
      • by radish (98371) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @09:04AM (#4705306) Homepage
        One important difference is support - I may use a fair amount of bandwidth but I never call the support desk. One might suppose that the non-tech housewife (or whoever), whilst using less bandwidth, could cost a fortune to support.
    • and 1.91 kilobytes * 8 = 15.28 kilobits a second.

      Comcast Online - 1994 speed at 2002 prices.


      Well, by that kind of math, we were going a lot faster than that in 1994 - using technology which was accessible to even the most casual consumer.

      Want instant access to movies? Just mail order a VHS tape - the equivalent of gigabytes of data in only two days.

      Never underestimate the bandwidth of a truckload of CDs...

      You aren't paying for the ability to retrieve data - you are paying for the peak bandwidth of the cable line. By far the most cost effective way of getting dozens of GB of data from point A to point B is still the mail...
  • ...The nanosecond that this happens, I'm cancelling, and going straight to DSL. I don't care if it's a little slower. My god, broadband which can only be used as a burstable 56K... What a travesty.

    I just hope that enough people are sufficiently wise consumers, and get the word out to the rest of the masses, to not stand for this, and to vote with their wallets.

    With any luck, though, once the caps start hitting, there will be a sufficient incentive even for the unwashed adigerati to realize that this is a BAD THING, and do the same. I just feel sorry for those poor saps who don't yet have DSL available in their area, if this should happen.

    It's a real danger, if it is allowed to set a precedent, if the consumers stomach it, than DSL providers too [as DSL is less and less provisionable by independant ISP's and more and more becoming a monopoly of the local bell [competing against the local cable monopoly]] may start to oligopolistically go along with it. Yikes; oligopoly, I wish... it's more a duopoly, given that CLECS are pretty much dead.

    *sigh*. Sometimes, I wish I was in korea.
    • Here in Belgium, Broadband AND DSL are capped from the start with lower bandwidth than you can have. For Example my DSL line is a 1024Kb/128Kb capped at 10GB a month. If I get to the limit, my connection is not stopped, but my download speed is reduced at the speed of a sluggish 56k. For that, I can buy 5GB pack to add 5GB of download at full speed for 5Euro...

      Now, I rarely download MP3 and never DivX. But I have a web server (500 visit a day from 3614 players from a potential of 9000 french DAoC players), a mail server, and some DAV folders...

      I never use more than 6 GB a month...

      All that to say that the precedent is already set in others country and only the MP3 and DivX junky complain about it, the causual (and the not so causual) user have nothing to fear about this...

      You fear oligopoly? well, in Europe we come from Monopoly of the national telecom and now we get oligopoly with telecom from other country 'invading' our country. And I can say that oligopoly is better than monopoly. It is near impossible to create a mom & pops ISP here in Europe...
  • Assuming ISP lose the legal battle and are forced to play cop for the media giants and caps become a standard fixture, the process of weeding out the media pirates becomes a step easier. Simply search the logs of the ISPs' best customers. These are the guys/gals who fit the profile of tv/movie/music swappers.

    Once the ISP/cop legal battle has set a precident, it won't matter that ISPs won't want to expose their best customers, they will have no choice.

    This backs up the idea that the best Digital Restriction Managment isn't technogly, it's lawyers.
  • by explosionhead (574066) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:41AM (#4704626) Homepage
    We paid about $80AU (around $40US) for a 256k down 56 up ADSL line. We liked it a hell of a lot, spent most of my time gaming, girlfriend loved it and got addicted to ifilm. Our biggest month was 11GB.
    Then mid last year, they started capping at 3GB, no price reductions, nothing. Capping basically made it no longer cost-effective, so they gave us a chance to jump ship, which we did.
    Within 2 months, all of the other broadband providers introduced caps (usually at 3GB). Only a few weeks ago has one provider re-introduced unlimited plans.
    Point of my ramble is, that once you put a cap on broadband, you have to watch everything you DL, and that sucks. It'll just get to the point that you're better off with back with yor 56k. Yell at Comcast/AT&T until they back off. Do it for your own good.
  • by JM (18663)

    Mergers are good for competition

  • by p00p5m1th (627042)
    Caps are easy to turn off. It's the third button up on the left hand side. It's 'Stickey Keys' you gotta watch out for.
  • AT&T BI (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jagasian (129329) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:46AM (#4704637)
    AT&T Broadband Internet has got to be the worst ISP I have ever used. Yes, I am still stuck with them right now, as DSL is not available in my area, but many times I have been minutes away from calling them and telling them to cancel my service.

    AT&T BI is a great ISP if you enjoy...
    • 75% packet loss or more to servers in the same city as you.
    • 300ms latency to servers in the same city as you.
    • packet jitter so bad you could swear you really were SURFING the internet because the packets come in waves.
    • not playing online games.
    • your "always on" internet service being disconnected.
    • paying 5x more for the same service that a 56k user gets.
    • the worst customer support center EVER! One of the many outages took 2 weeks to fix, and thats because they didn't send anyone out until one and a half weeks after I called!
    • having your ISP change the TOS on you every other day.
    The one thing with ATTBI that has always worked correctly has been email... well, that is when I am connected.

    I will go back to dialup if I have to. Heck, its just $10 a month. Saving $40 a month and still getting roughly the same service... sounds like a wise move.
    • With service like that, sounds like those out of DSL service areas (who don't want to drop $1,000+ on moving closer to a telco office) would be better off with a DirectPC satellite connection. Sure, the latency sucks, but it can't be any less reliable, and you can take it with you if you move.
  • While I can understand that capping is something that might very well be needed, I think that the broadband companies are going about it the wrong way...

    What I personally would like to see (well, preferably no capping, but I cant see that continuing) is a daily limit - say 500mb-1gb, after which the connection slows down to modem / just over modem speeds, with up to 3 days (for example) which can be carried forward to the next

    The main problems are caused by so many people running kazaa/etc and leaving it on - they should be the ones who are restricted, not a blanket restriction like 5gb a month which could easily be exceeded by "normal usage" (I am confident I have used more than 5gb in any one month without running p2p applications)

    However, having said all of that, I expect that even though some companies will introduce capping, it will follow (atleast in the UK) the same trend as phone access...
    Some phone access is capped, but there are always the "unlimited" plans still available (and some companies actually do keep to the unlimited promise!)
  • by release7 (545012) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:51AM (#4704653) Homepage Journal
    Folks, there is a vast conspiracy out there to get your money. Believe it or not, there are people out there willing to do anything to get it. They will lie, they will cheat, they will steal, and the government is unwilling to stop them. In fact, the government will often help them do it as long as these greedy folks come up with some lame excuse coupled with an army of lobbyists and some money to spread around.

    The conspiracy has one simple, ultimate goal: to transfer as much money from your pocket into theirs. They have the will and organized money to make it happen and there is very little you or anyone else will be able to do about it.

    You can make false claims that you are all powerful and can take your business elsewhere, but then you will all realize all businesses operate in this manner. They will all charge bullshit fees, they will invent reasons to charge you more bullshit fees, and they will all utilize contracts that lock you into them. They will all, in short, steal as much of your money that can get away with.

    Welcome to the "free" market---free not as in fair, but free as in free to steal.

      • there is a vast conspiracy out there to get your money

        They will lie, they will cheat, they will steal, and the government is unwilling to stop them

      That's because everytime a company gets some of your money, there's tax that going to be paid...
    • by doug363 (256267)
      Let me just point out that you're free to do the same. Lie, persuade, complain, change services, take undue advantage of introductory offers... Really. Being aggressive is sometimes necessary, and standing up for yourself will usually get yourself a better deal. But don't be rude if you can avoid it. Get angry, sure, but rudeness often just gets you a bad comment next to your name, and less patience the next time you have to deal with them. Treat them in the same way as they treat you.

      This sort of stuff has been going on ever since there was competition. People have been taking advantage of each other for thousands of years. It's not new, it's just obvious in this case.

      And since when did "free" ever mean "fair"? Fairness is nice, but for the most part I'd prefer to have freedoms than government-mandated "fairness".

  • Whoever tries this in the US will be the first to go out of business. People just wont stand for it. I'll go to juno for 9.99$ a month and save 40$ a month. Remember all those adds showing people talking to garndma online and downloading movies, and researching reports, and video chat ?

    For people in my age group (20 something) DSL is a *lifestyle issue*. I download the TV I wanna watch, I get all my music from emusic, my musican friends send me their track (24 bit wav of course -- mp3 eats quality) ... we will not give it up easily :) ... and just think of all the things I wont admit to doing with DSL

    • *News Flash* *News Flash* *News Flash*

      Oh my God - This just in:

      20 something American saw cool lifestyle portrayed in T.V. add - now pissed that reality is not the same.

      I'm really crying for you buddy, oh yeah.

  • Telstra is evil (Score:3, Informative)

    by noz (253073) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @05:58AM (#4704664)
    "70 per cent of Telstra's broadband customers did not reach their download limits."

    Telstra [bigpond.com]'s most limited account is 300Mb limit per month at AU$54.95. Each additional Mb is charged at 15.9c per megabyte.

    Some Australian ISPs charge for each additional megabtye over your limit, and others throttle your speed to something ridiculous (like 28.8kbps). I ordered the latter for my uncle when setting up his ADSL because many people are ignorant of their web usage (at least at first).

    If a user on the 300Mb plan downloads 500Mb in their first month, they will pay

    $54.95 + 200Mb * $0.159 = $54.95 + $31.80 = $86.75.

    If you think that is bad, if a 3Gb user downloads 3.8Gb in their first month (like most teenagers I know), they're up for

    $87.95 + 800Mb * $0.139 = $87.95 + $111.20 = $199.15.

    I'm suprised no Aussies brought this up in the recent article Add-Ons Add Up [slashdot.org].

    Independent resources for market research include Whirlpool [whirlpool.net.au] (Australian Broadband News) and Broadband Choice [broadbandchoice.com.au] for indexed summaries of all providers plans. Read them first! Please!
  • Not exactly... (Score:5, Informative)

    by xeosdd (605679) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:10AM (#4704688)
    The way it works here in Australia is not quite what most people have mentioned. Our two cable providers (Telstra and Optus) now both offer caps, and most ADSL providers also cap their connections. They restrict the ammount of data we can transfer to and from our modems, with some providers also capping the maximum transfer speeds (Telstra cable at the moment offers an "uncapped speed" service, but I imagine that'll go in a few months time too -- they really can't help themselves). Most providers give arround 3GB a month for arround AU$80 a month for cable, and usually a little more for ADSL. If you use up your limit, you start paying ~13c/MB...

    Optus offers a slightly nicer system. Once you use up all your limit, they drop you down to a 28kbps connection, so you join the hundreds of thousands of dialup users in australia on sub-par connections. But at least you don't then pay for phone calls on top of this.

    And while I'm complaining about cable networks, it seems that Telstra & Optus can now give each other CATV channels, to "aid competition". Which is really strange, since they were always competing with each other anyway. And the ironic twist is this: Telstra (our partially-government-owned telco, soon to be fully privatized) is charging more for the extra channels from Optus, while Optus is charging less for the Telstra channels. We would have switched to Optus many moons ago indeed, but for some reason, the government wouldn't allow one single unified cable network to be installed, but insisted that both companies install their own. But Optus, not having the backing of the government, decided to put their cable up in more populated areas, so of course, people who actually might use it (like us) miss out.

    In conclusion, you really have to fight it! Most broadband users just sat there and did nothing about the cap, and now we're stuck with it. I've always envisioned the USA as a "mondo cheap bandwidth" place, and now that you're reduced to the garbage that we have to face every day...

    Viva la bandwidth!
    • by wolvie_ (135527) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @07:20AM (#4704861)
      The heavy users did complain bitterly when Telstra first put in data caps, but so many low usage users found it an improvement, as they ended up with cheaper access than before. The government competition watchdog [accc.gov.au] thought it was an improvement as it let smaller ISPs who didn't own international backbones compete with the all-you-can-eat plans offered by Telstra/Optus.

      Anyway, it isn't as bad as you make it out to be in your post. I live in Sydney and have iiNet ADSL [ii.net], which has 12GB caps on a 512/128 link for AU$80. They shape you to 72kbps once you hit the cap, and they have a heap of unmetered internal content, including a few 128kbps Shoutcast streams and free P2P within your state. It puts the value you get from Telstra/Optus to shame.

      i-green [igreen.net] offer unlimited 256/64 for AU$80 too. Data caps aren't the end of the world - they just encourage competition in the market, and encourage ISPs to peer together to offer cheaper data to the customers.

  • are goddamn rediculous

    i have DSL thru interquest.net and my apartment complex.

    according to my windoze XP connection stats, I have downloaded 7.5 GB and uploaded 1.1 GB in the last 12 days, and that doesn't include my G4 Cube and my roommate's computer.

    If my ISP decides to start capping our up/down totals, I will drop them like a bad habit.
  • Despite the typically sensational headline of this article, an Australian ADSL provider, Green Telecommunications (formely Apple Telecommunications...can you guess why they had to change their name?) has recently re-launched an unlimited download ADSL plan. For AUD$160/month, you get unlimited 512/128k ADSL access. Not all Australian internet experiences are as backward as Slashdot would have you believe...try finding an affordable internet cafe in any major US city compared to the choices you have in Sydney...it's like zapping back 10,000 years when you get off the plane in LAX or SFO.

    Green Telecommunications [applecomm.net]
    • (formely Apple Telecommunications...can you guess why they had to change their name?) has recently re-launched an unlimited download ADSL plan.

      Surely, it's because the Australian Association of Apple-Growers fought against this company threatening their livelihood by making their (teenage) kids addicted to porno? The company then changed its name to reflect its eco-friendliness ("Hey apple folks, we're green; we're on your side!")?

  • I'm always surprised when I read stories like this on /. Here in HK 58% [cio-asia.com] (as of October 2001... probably much more now) of all internet users are broadband subscribers.

    Why? that's easy - choose between 3Mbps downstream speed and 256Kbps upstream for US$38/month or 6Mbps downstream speed and 256Kbps upstream for US$51/month. Theoretically you're limited to 100 or 200 hours respectively but they waive that as part of the continual promotions because the competition is so fierce.

    The result? If you use the internet much you get broadband... it's become the norm. The mindset has shifted and dial-up is definitely only a legacy thing now.
  • These incumbent telcos are obsolete [isen.com]
  • Quoting the original poster - "it will set a large and potentially unstoppable precedent for caps all around the country"

    You simply can't make a statement like this, because this move is going to piss people off and thus drive people away from AT&T. There is always going to be a player that will move in to fill this niche market and pick these people up with a better service that meets their needs.
  • by mshiltonj (220311) <{mshiltonj} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:25AM (#4704733) Homepage Journal
    I rarely do gnutella anymore. I just pick a radio station from shoutcast [shoutcast.com] and go with it. I've got a 128k stream running for about 6-10 hours each weekday. Capping will kill that. It'll also kill any broadband based service -- like those legit movie and music sites popping up.

    And people will get extremely pissed off by paying to download all those x10 popup graphics. Not that I see those anymore. (Thanks, Mozilla.)

    How much time did you spend searching and researching online for the last car you bought?

    I think it will dampen the online economy.

  • Local Mirrors (Score:5, Informative)

    by ColaMan (37550) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:26AM (#4704737) Homepage Journal
    I have a 1 GB cap at home, and I surf for a few hours daily, and don't reach it.
    I admin a system with a 5GB cap at work (1500kbps down) and so far this month we've transferred 715MB, between 10 of us.

    Capping is fine , as long as there's a local mirror of something that I want, for free.
    Eg. I'm with Telstra - they have a area for a lot of online games - they then have a file area for files required for games etc. All this (being on a local Telstra server) is free. Now ,the file area also gets used quite a lot for other software, for example, linux ISO's (I Dl'd RedHat 7.3 from there), Staroffice and other big downloads. People can request files to be put on there. It's not the Whole-Internet-For-Download(tm) but it's ok.

    So, If they drop a SimTel (or whatever) mirror in locally and don't charge, then the only people who'll *really* suffer are the P2P crowd.

    Yes , it limits other uses of the internet , such as video-on-demand etc... but the infrastructure still isn't there for everyone to have a cheap, guaranteed X Mbit pipe to their door.
  • WARNING! (Score:4, Informative)

    by redshift-systems (622407) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @06:28AM (#4704745)
    BEfore making any rash decisions based on any Australian model (under which I am currently exposed to) it should be made aware that Telstra Australia has an effective Monopoly on telephone services, with phone services and internet services being closely tied together, this leaves us with expensive internet service costs, only meagerly reduced if you are also using other Telstra services. We have to suffer these "justifiable" caps for no reason other than Telstra being in a position to dictate terms and derail competition. Remind you of someone else????They also own the physical network Australia-wide. Copy us at your peril.
  • by jaseuk (217780)
    If its P2P thats adding the overhead then ISPs should consider adding some decent traffic shaping, to throttle p2p traffic.

    I believe BT Internet (UK) is doing this, but you won't find it mentioned anywhere.

    Jason
  • by weave (48069) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @07:01AM (#4704813) Journal
    If they are going to cap total bandwidth, then they should uncap the throughput caps. If I can't hog over 6 gigs a month, then the times when I do need to download something big, at least let me do it fast, get it through the system and re-clear up the line quickly.

    Oh, and btw, I guess this will kill the idea of delivering movies over the net. Who is going to pay a few bucks to download a pay-per-view movie that takes about 800 megs if that's going to add to your monthly allowance?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @07:47AM (#4704966)
    I'm a small-ISP manager, so take the below with the corresponding grain of salt: Bytes cost us money. We never have advertised (and I've never seen) "unlimited". 24/7 connectivity, yes. Unlimited, no.

    As a DSL customer (or cable, for that matter) you are connected to a circuit of the speed that corresponds with your billing agreement. But, you might say, why can I only get 350kbs when I have a 768/128 circuit? Well, that's because there are several people that either think it's their God-given right to do P2P at full throttle on the upload, or sustain a constant 500kbs download 24 hours a day.

    Everybody here on /. is smart enough to realize that cable and DSL are consumer products, and as such, the pricing model is not designed for 24/7 max upload and download. If you want 24/7 1.54/128, buy a T. That's only about $700 a month.

    It's kinda like dialup; if you and a bunch of other customers are connected 24 hours a day for $19.95/month, but the phone line that you are connecting to costs the ISP $25.00/month, the ISP loses money.

    High speed is similar. The _average_ download/upload is maybe 20kbs/8kbs. If enough people sustain for days (or weeks) 300kbs/128kbs, the network is gonna get thrashed, and the ISP will do one of three things - charge more, throttle bandwidth, or go out of business because enough of the customers bailed out due to slow download speeds, attributed to 5% of the customers using 50 or a hundred times the bandwidth of the "normal" customer. Or, if they are really gluttons for punishment, they'll order up more T's to handle the psycho bandwidth, then go out of business, because 5% of the customers thought that it was their God-given right to go full throttle 24/7.

    To further belabor the point, I recall a really good analogy, and that is of electric power. If there were no power meter on the outside of your abode, and you thought it a cool idea to set up a Beowolf cluster of a thousand machines, all with monitors, you would be getting more power than your neighbor, but paying the same amount. But let's say PC's (with monitors) were $1.00 apiece, and lots of your neighbors could install clustering software in an hour. So, you and a few of your neighbors are each using 50KW, while the _average_ power usage is maybe 400W. Free lunch? For a while...until the power company figures out that they are losing a ton of money to the Beowolf gangs.

    Hey, I have fairly sucky cable service. It drops off every couple of days, and the latency is so bad sometimes that I have to go to our office to do any work using vi!. (I can't get DSL from my employer...too far away from the DSLAM.) But still, as evil and sucky as the cable company is, there is only a finite amount of bandwidth available, and if they want to get more, of course they have to pay.

    I hereby propose an inititave to P2P developers: default upload is not full-throttle. THAT is what is making P2P the black-sheep of ISP's. Something like a dialog box that spells it out for the user. "At what percentage do you wish to upload? If you choose 100%, Your ISP might not think you're very nice.

    • Well, that's because there are several people that either think it's their God-given right to do P2P at full throttle on the upload, or sustain a constant 500kbs download 24 hours a day.

      As someone who also managed a small ISP for a time I can understand what your saying, but there is a solution.

      Find out who these BW hogs are and TOS them out the door! Thats the great thing about being a private buisness, is that you can refuse service to anyone.

      Yes, I know that those who are useing full bandwidth 24/7 will scream like bloody murder and generate some bad PR over it. But it is better in the long run imho to get a rep for killing users who are obviously violating TOS rather than the alternative.

    • I'm a small-ISP manager, so take the below with the corresponding grain of salt: Bytes cost us money.

      No, bytes don't cost you money, your connection does.

      Understand this: there is no fixed relationship between traffic and cost.

      Here's what a connection costs:

      1. Equipment acquisition: variable, one-time charge. Varies based on the capabilities of the equipment. But this equipment is more or less subject to Moore's Law, so the acquisition costs of equipment with a given bandwidth capability should be dropping over time unless the market's broken.
      2. Provisioning: fixed, one-time charge. More or less independent of bandwidth. It costs about as much to run a copper wire as it does to run fiber, but fiber has a lot more bandwidth.
      3. Support and maintenance: Fixed, periodic cost. There may be some variation here because the highest-end equipment tends to be rarer and thus getting people who can maintain it well will be more expensive, but other than that the problems are the same and the expertise required to keep it going is the same.
      4. Business overhead: Variable, periodic cost. Varies based primarily on the size of the company relative to the number of customers it has.

      The only cost that has any relationship at all with bandwidth capability is the acquisition of equipment, and as I noted that should be something which drops significantly over time because of Moore's Law.

      So: the fact that your upstream provider charges you based on your bandwidth usage is artificial. It needn't be that way. I'll go so far as to say that it shouldn't be that way.

      It seems to me that a lot of this nonsense would disappear if upstream providers charged for what they're actually providing: a pipe, and little more.

      Anyway, people need to get a clue about what bandwidth costs and why it costs. Then they'd realize that download caps are nonsense.

  • Sympatico took a lot of flak when it introduced caps on its high speed service of 5gig uploads and 5 gig downloads. Something must happened as they recently changed their policy to 10 gig total of up/downloads. That is better except now everyone will be tempted to just download and on Kazaa not share for uploads. Maybe that is a concession to Hollywood who wants us to download(and pay) for their movies but not share with anyone else?
  • Australia (Score:3, Informative)

    by droyad (412569) on Tuesday November 19, 2002 @08:33AM (#4705165)
    In Australia we have 2 main broadband providers Telstra and Optus.
    Telstra caps thier retail broadband at a certain limit, and then starts charging.
    Optus also caps their retail broadband and then throtles the speed to 40-56k once the customer goes over, but does not charge more.

    For retail customers optus's system is better because they know exactly how much they have to pay. I had one customer who paid AU$700 ($400US) for his internet because he did not understand how much 300mb was.

    Business is another matter all together.
  • This is what happens when you give one company too much control over a wide spread market.

    Now its true they have the right its their lines, but considering you cant choose your cable company, we dont have a lot of alternatives in many areas. Hardwire cable service IS a monopoly in any given market area.

    I'm not debating the rational of *reasonable* capping, only the lack of options if i want to go somewhere else for my broadband that does cater to my needs.

    I also dont agree with changing agreements during a contract.. but that's a whole different topic.

  • There is a very good rationale for bandwidth caps.
    Telcos are charge by the MB for data, ie the more data the more expensive the customer is to the telco. So why shouldn't high users pay more than the casual user? It's very fair. The only problem I have is the high cost of data in australia.

    Secondly networks with Unlimited internet have higher contention ratios (usually 1:30 or 1:50 or even 1:100) leading to a few high-bandwidth users slowing down everyone else. Business users on the other hand pay a lot more (2-3x) than retail, but get better ratios, 1:5. This extends to dail-up as well, the ISP who don't have unlimited accounts have better overall speed.

    (A contention ratio is how many people share a pipe. Say on a 1.5mbit ADSL connection, on a 1:50 ration, 50 people with 1.5mbit connection share a 1.5mbit connection to the internet. So if all users were to use their connection at the same time they would only get 1.5/50mb/s = 30kb/s. I should know, I work for an ADSL ISP)

    Don't like it? Pay for it. If you want a guaranteed download speed with very low data costs, get a T1 . The top speed is equivilent to a 1.5mb/s ADSL, but costs 3-4 times as much because you will always get 1.5mb/s. It is much cheaper to multiplex several, bursty data lines over the one line. This is because if you look at typical end-user usage it varies wildly.

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