As soon as they said Accelerando was "one of the best sci-fi novels of all time" I tuned out. The author clearly knows nothing about anything.
Nothing beats hands-on experience, so get some on the cheap. Get an MSDN Technet subscription; for $199 a year, you'll get free personal/learning licenses of SQL Server, Exchange, and just about every other big Microsoft program. Play with them. Set them up. Try to break them, then fix them.
Many people assume their options are "cable," "DSL," and "cell." In a lot of places, especially more rural ones, there's a fourth option: fixed-wireless/WISP service. WISPA, a trade association for fixed-wireless ISPs (think wi-fi with bigger antennas), would be glad to point you towards a local WISP. (Disclaimers: I used to work for a WISP for several years, and the WISPA Web site is fairly US-centric.)
Never underestimate the patience of the dial-up user. My mother refuses to move past dial-up (mostly because I've got her a free account, whereas she'd have to pay a whoppin' ten bucks a month for DSL), and does in fact watch YouTube videos. Yes, it takes two or three hours for the video to download, but it can be done apparently.
Next to that, an extra few seconds for jQuery is nothin'.
If you're one of those rare souls interested in discussion, sign up at individual.net. It's ten Euro a year (twelve US dollars or so), decent spam filtering. No binaries groups, but some of us view this as a bonus, rather than a shortcoming.
Link to Original Source
Throttling is dirt-cheap.
I work for an ISP that's probably comparable (wireless, so each connection is slower than a cable connection, but there's more of them). If you want to roll your own stuff, a juicy PC with two network cards and some layer-7 rules should be doable for under $1000.
You can also buy one of these, and configure it to do the shaping for about $1500, if you want a sexy rackmount unit and support.
They work quite well for basically everything except encrypted BitTorrent (and I'm sure that's just a matter of time).
It takes a decent amount of electricity to run that much hardware. That may not be the kind of "donation" the OP had in mind - donating to the local power utility.
Start competing with your employer. If they can afford to do whatever it is they do, and still just give away thousands of dollars in gear, there's obviously room for improvement.