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Will Cable Unplug the File Swappers? 882

netringer writes "The cable companies are planning to give the RIAA's case a hand and limit P2P file swapping. Yahoo has the Business Week story that cable companies are considering going away from the flat rate pricing model for cable Internet access. They plan to set a lower bandwidth cap for the flat rate and the raise the rates for bandwidth hogs who exceed the cap."
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Will Cable Unplug the File Swappers?

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  • by Rombuu ( 22914 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:22AM (#3686388)
    ...they are doing this becuase they are losing their asses providing broadband at current prices.
    • by DavittJPotter ( 160113 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:27AM (#3686433) Homepage Journal
      I'd like to see you back this up; I'm curious as to how they're losing their asses at current prices.

      If you figure $50/mo for broadband, and with say 5,000 subscribers, that's $250,000 monthly in revenue. I don't know what a DS3 costs, mind you, but I can't see it being even $100,000 monthly. Equipment costs, employees, I realize, all take part of that pie, but WTF is all this money going?
      • The Fat Cats (Score:5, Interesting)

        by T3kno ( 51315 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:34AM (#3686512) Homepage
        According to this Yahoo! [] page the CEO of Cox makes $1.5M a year, it does not list what the chairman makes but it's up there too. The sum total of all of the officers listed is $2.92 million dollars a year, and this is only for three officers. That comes out to $243,000 a month. So one way to think of it is that the big wigs want a raise :)
      • 1) A DS3 isn't that great. I worked for a local ISP that had 2 of them as BACKUP for the OC-12 rings. A cable operation would be looking at an OC line, minimum. Probably an OC-12 at least. Looking at several hundred thousand a month.

        2) The backbones (generally) aren't flat-rate. They have to pay so much per Gbit transferred generally. This is why most hosting companies take the approach that DSL and Cable providers are starting to look at, with X GB included in the monthly cost, with every GB (generally) over that costing extra.

        Now, having said that, your question still stands for the companies that own their own backbone, like AT&T.
      • With Videotron I pay $20 a month and pay extra for over use. I actually like it this way because I do all of my downloading from the office anyhow and this way I don't subsidise other people's high b/w use.

        Did I mention that's $20 CDN? I'm paying less than 1/3 of what you are when you toss in the exchange rate.

      • Try reading the article for a change. Sheesh.

        RUNNING FOR COVER. The cable companies' adoption of new pricing strategies has less to do with stopping piracy than with economics and business models. At an average monthly cost of $45, broadband is still perceived as too expensive by many consumers, and in recent months, prices have been rising, rather than dropping. That's slowing subscriber growth. According to market-research firm ARS, the rate of new signups for broadband in the first quarter of 2002 slid to 12%, the worst quarter on record.

        Disappointing demand has left cable operators scrambling to cover the $60 billion they spent building and upgrading their networks over the past decade. At the same time, they've tired of seeing a small group of heavy users tax their networks while paying the same flat rate as everybody else. AT&T Broadband says on its system, 1% percent of users account for 16% of bandwidth consumption.

        • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @12:33PM (#3687072) Homepage
          AT&T Broadband says on its system, 1% percent of users account for 16% of bandwidth consumption.

          What bugs me is the way they throw out this stat as if it's astounding-- it's not. Look at any system used by numerous people and you'll see about the same distribution. Take the US interstate highway system, for example: I'd lay money that 1% of the drivers thereon account for more than 16% of the traffic. How about campgrounds? 1% of the population accounts for a whopping 90% of campground usage. Their complaint is statistically meaningless.
          • by letxa2000 ( 215841 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @01:33PM (#3687539)
            Look at any system used by numerous people and you'll see about the same distribution. Take the US interstate highway system, for example: I'd lay money that 1% of the drivers thereon account for more than 16% of the traffic. How about campgrounds? 1% of the population accounts for a whopping 90% of campground usage. Their complaint is statistically meaningless.

            You got that right. Their "complaint" is not important. Virtually no businesses are able to obtain the exact same profit level on every single sale. There will be sales that are more profitable than others, but the idea is that the pricing is such that, as a whole, you make money.

            As you said, the entire population subsidizes the highway system used heavily by a small minority.

            Consumers that carry large balances on their credit card give banks the money so that I can charge everything, pay it off, and pay absolutely nothing.

            Many people have insurance and they end up paying for my mistake if I crash and cause lots of damage and medical bills. My premiums certainly didn't cover it.

            It is also incredible to see companies trying to ration the use of their own product. It's counterproductive. The whole point of broadband is to be able to consume tons of data quickly. When they start limiting that they are reducing the value of their product and also limiting the things that can be done with Internet--and not just P2P. Videoconferencing, VoIP, gaming, streaming radio... These are things that 99% of the people still don't do, and WON'T do if they are limited on their bandwidth.

            As has been said, it's a monopoly. They can charge, so they will. They want millions of users using their broadband at dial-up levels, but charging them $50/month instead of $9/month that dial-up costs.

          • But the difference is that for all of your examples there is pay for use.

            Cars? Try state and federal taxes on gasoline. 1% of the drivers also pay for more than 16% of highway taxes

            Campgrounds? Try per night rates.

            Healtcare? 1% of the users account for 99% of the cost, and we pay for it in insurance. Ok, you got me on that one!
    • If they move away from a fixed-price model, then they're going to have to actively filter out all the spam, [banner|popup|popunder] ads, etc., that we're now subjected to.

      After all, why should I pay extra to watch commercials?

  • (begins downloading all the ISO's he'll ever use before they start charging extra)

    • Actually, according to the article, the average, or at least majority, user's reaction has been to take the low cost option.
  • Will This help? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rblancarte ( 213492 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:24AM (#3686401) Homepage
    Probably - but it won't totally curb it.

    Hell, where I see the problem is that it could go so far as to HURT the sales of Cable broadband connections, in which case they will probably have to go back to the flat rate system again.

    • this will be a tremendous all those struggling telcos trying to sell people on DSL instead of cable. if they do change their pricing, i guess i'll have to move from one evil empire (at&t) to another (verizon).
    • Re:Will This help? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kafka93 ( 243640 )
      Yes; I'd wager that many of the people who have broadband have it precisely because they *use* the bandwidth; if you're only transferring email, web pages, etc., then you might just as well use a dialup connection. The ability to transfer large files quickly and cheaply is the raison d'etre for cable/dsl/etc. -- if it becomes too expensive for the average user to transfer mp3s and pirated software, they're just not going to pay it. It's difficult to gauge what the critical point might be, but I would be doubtful as to my willingness to spend anything more than, say, $100/month -- and I imagine that's more than most.

      I believe that the "pay for content" idea is inherently flawed, and that it won't succeed whether applied to bandwidth or to web site access. I'd wager that, from an economic standpoint, introducing such fees would lead to *decreased* revenue for the providers. Only if the cost of broadband for the non-bw-hog were reduced to levels equal to or below those of regular dialup connections might such a change become at all viable..

      Having said all of that, I imagine that what we might wind up seeing is a model akin to that of cellular phones, where various pricing levels are available according to projected bandwidth use, with excess being charged at a set rate - but the cable companies will need to be *very* careful in determining the ideal prices and, at any rate, you can bet that the need to compete with DSL etc. will keep any price hikes in check.
      • Except that the price of 2nd phone line + dialup is within spitting distance of DSL or Cable. The added convenience of getting vastly better performance (I went from about 5K/s downloads to 160K/s) make the price difference worth it.

        Capping DSL/Cable downloads is probably going to be just fine for most people. I am a heavy user, and I would be surprised if I was passing 1GB/month.


    • Re:Will This help? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Olinator ( 412652 )

      Blockpoth the quoster:

      [...]it could go so far as to HURT the sales of Cable broadband connections[...]

      I wonder if a case couldn't be made that, by raising rates in a way that's designed to profit from filesharing, the broadband providers are implicitly approving any copyright infringement that takes place... Perhaps the recent FCC decision could be construed as placing broadband outside the umbra of "common carrier" status? It would be a bittersweet thing to see the {MP,RI}AA take Big Broadband to court for profiting from copyright infringement...

  • One bad apple spoils the whole damn bunch.
  • Sympatico and Rogers (Score:5, Informative)

    by fatwreckfan ( 322865 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:27AM (#3686430)
    Here in Canada, Sympatico's ADSL is already capped at 5GB up and 5GB down per month. Roger's cable will be following suit soon, but still no official word. Any info that's available now can be found in the Residential Broadband User's Assocation forum at [].

    On top of the transfer caps both have increased the price of their service by $5/month, and apparently Rogers will be changing from a 3Mbps service to a 1.5Mbps service.

    I thought technology was supposed to move forward.
    • Videotron caps as well, then charges 7 cents per magabyte for excess!

      Yep. $71.68 per gig.

      Fortunately, the White Samsung modems don't support the necessary DOCSIS features to do bandwidth audits. (-:

    • Basic Assumptions
      Web Page - 50K
      Streaming Video - 1MB
      MP3 Size - 3MB
      Game - 30MB
      Full Length Video - 600MB

      1 GB Capped
      Web Pages - 20972
      Videos - 1024
      MP3's - 341
      Games - 34
      Full Length Movies - 2

      5 GB Capped
      Web Pages - 104858
      Videos - 5120
      MP3's - 1707
      Games - 171
      Full Length Movies - 9

      56K Dialup
      Web Pages - 338688
      Videos - 16538
      MP3's - 5513
      Games - 551
      Full Length Movies - 28

      Unlimited 384Kbps DSL
      Web Pages - 2322432
      Videos - 113400
      MP3's - 37800
      Games - 3780
      Full Length Movies - 189

  • by fruey ( 563914 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:28AM (#3686441) Homepage Journal
    Every major company providing broadband got it wrong. Modems peak out at 56kbps. That's usually about 4KB/s, 5 if you're lucky. No single consumer can hurt your bandwidth.

    Now provide broadband at the same flatrate type scheme. Now, your guy who stays online for hours but just chats on IRC and reads mail costs you way less than some dude who d/ls ISOs and streams 300kbps from once a week.

    They all got it wrong. Now they have to backtrack. Lowcost flatrate, unlimited broadband will become a thing of the past. I'd put my house on it.

    • Sort of like the free nights and weekends cellphone plans. My sister had one for quite awhile, and then was stupid enough to give it up for a digital phone instead. Arg! Let me see you get one of those offers nowadays for about $20-30/mo
    • by theCoder ( 23772 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:49AM (#3686673) Homepage Journal
      I wouldn't be so quick to put your house on it, unless you define what lowcost means. Consumers tend to like flatrate, unlimited things. Not all consumers, but there's a market for it. Why? Because it's (a) easier to deal with, especially in a budget and (b) not going to increase sharply without warning. Other service markets have flatrate options. For example, AT&T is advertising a lot for some program that offers unlimited calling to certain people (that's the catch) for a flat rate. ISPs did flatrate service for years after it had been metered. Memberships to zoos and museums or season passes to theme parks are the same idea.

      The cable market is in a crunch right now because they didn't charge enough for their flatrate. Because they're a monopoly, they may be able to get away with charging per use like electricity, but that's only because also like electric companies, there's not much competition. If there was competition in the cable market (not other forms of broadband, actual cable provider competition), there would always be a flatrate option, IMHO. It may not be lowcost (compared to the alternatives), but it would exist.
    • by rnd() ( 118781 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @12:25PM (#3686999) Homepage
      I too think you're wrong about this:

      Companies in the bandwidth business service to homes and business (this includes DSL, cablemodems, and T1s, etc.) have always effectively been bandwidth speculators. If you run an ISP and you have 10 customers with T1s and 100 with 56K modem access, you only need to purchase enough bandwidth to cover your customers' peak usage. It is the difference in price of the bandwidth you buy vs the bandwidth you sell that largely determines the amount of profit that you make.

      Depending on the kind of quality of service guarantee that you make to your customers (usually 100% bandwidth for business customers, and often no guarantee at all for residential customers) you may decide to insure against a failure to meet your peak bandwidth by purchasing more wholesale bandwidth.

      The key is that when determining your pricing you need to look at the kind of QOS guarantee that you want to make vs. the expected peak and average usage for the typical customer.

      As the internet changes and more people begin file sharing, expect the cost of supplying 'unlimited' bandwidth to increase. ISPs can maintain acceptable profit margins either by increasing the flat rate price or by charging by the kilobyte. The nice thing is, having access to filesharing drastically increases the value of the broadband connection, so there is no reason to believe that people wouldn't be perfectly willing to pay more. Successful ISPs will sell the increased value rather than impose a bandwidth penalty on their users. For customers who like the always on nature of broadband but don't really care about high bandwidth, the variable rate pricing will probably present a great alternative to today's flat-rate pricing.

  • by WhyDoubt ( 472635 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:28AM (#3686445)
    If I gotta pay extra to get the latest distros either way I go, maybe I should buy them direct. At least then I would be supporting the distributors and not the cable company.
    • And what about the people crunching SETI@home [] or folding@home [] or []'s challenges? Sure, 3 or 4K may not seem like much, but it adds up, and I imagine there will be a small decrease in the participation in these projects if users feel the need to conserve bandwidth.

      Of course, we could start a company, and try to get ISPs in on it... Have always-on connections offer reduced rates for use of your computer's extra time. That way people could get high-speed connections for less without really sacrificing anything.

      That same theory might also make ISPs more lenient about multiple computers on a home connection. (don't know about your cable provider, but mine doesn't like that).

  • exceed the cap? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GutBomb ( 541585 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:29AM (#3686461) Homepage
    They plan to set a lower bandwidth cap for the flat rate and the raise the rates for bandwidth hogs who exceed the cap The wording is a little off. You can't exceed a bandwidth cap. you CAN exceed a monthy transfer limit unless they implement some hard limit. Some ISPs in Europe do this by giving you 2mbps download speed and a limited amount of transfer (like 1-5GB) and if you transfer more than that in your billing period they throttle the download speed down to 56kbps until the next billing period starts.
  • by qurob ( 543434 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:30AM (#3686466) Homepage

    They started to raise rates. They started giving lower quality of service, in both uptime, and stability. They wanted to charge $5.95 a month for modem rental. No more servers. No more static ip addresses. Blocking certain ports.

    What did I do?

    Turned it back in. $39.95 I have no problem paying, but $67.95, for crap?

    No thanks
  • by SirChive ( 229195 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:31AM (#3686473)
    The whole concept behind broadband was that we, the user, would have high bandwidth to do with as we like. But now this idea is completely lost.

    Since the broadband provider in a given area is usually an effective monopoly they have figured out that they can jack prices on those who want and need broadband.

    It's only incidental that this helps the RIAA. It's really about huge corporations lobbying the government in order to preserve their monopoly and then turning around and putting the screws to the end user.

    The dream of cheap broadband for the masses has died on the altar of the holy corporation.
    • by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:42AM (#3686590) Homepage Journal

      The whole concept behind broadband was that we, the user, would have high bandwidth to do with as we like. But now this idea is completely lost.

      No, the concept behind broadband was that they, the corporations, would make money from selling you high-speed internet access. When they no longer make money doing this, they will either stop providing the service altogether or will change their pricing plan so they make money again.

  • by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:32AM (#3686478)
    ... comments from people saying "My music collection has grown at the same rate, I only use it to sample, I listen to albums that aren't available from new bands" etc. etc.

    The fact of the matter is people used Napster and are using these filesharing applications mainly because they get it for free.

    Reducing a product to an insanely cheap price won't work, because you just can't beat free.

    Hell, back in the old days Amiga games were 15 pounds and people still pirated them - and before that Spectrum games were 3 pounds and you still found people with 90 minute tapes with 3 odd games shoved on there.

    I don't have magic solutions to keep everyone (including the RIAA happy) but I'm sure other people do. But I think that we should really admit what we've known all along that these filesharing allow you to get something for free. Yes, there are legitimate uses for it, but the fraction of those people who do use it like that are in the minority.

    • From the article:

      "I only do it because it's free," he says matter-of-factly. "I don't do it to sample new music before I buy, like Napster always used to say."

      So obviously, this asshole's opinion and yours MUST represent the view of EVERYONE who uses a file-sharing application.

      I don't know about anyone else, but I rarely use any P2P apps. Most of my bandwidth use is for A) VPNing to work, to admin servers and such, or B) Downloading ISOs for the latest distros, updating my boxen, etc., or C) pr0n.

      Sure, I used to download tons of music from Napster and OpenNap. But most of it was either music I already owned, but was lost or scratched, or live bootleg sets. I might still be buying CDs to this day, if the RIAA hadn't made it clear that we're all a bunch of cheap commie pinko pir8s. Fuck the RIAA, and fuck you. I'll continue buying my records from the artists and labels that don't brand me a theif.

      Reducing a product to an insanely cheap price won't work, because you just can't beat free.

      They havent tried, have they? Thanks for clearing things up for me.
    • > mainly because they get it for free

      How about mainly because you can get it from home, you can burn it across all your mediums (CD/MP3player/computer), you can easily share it with a friend (keeping in mind that it is not uncommon for people's friends to live in entirely seperate geographies much more so today than 20 years ago, so there is a significant advantage over snail mailing a CD to lend to a friend. Oh wait, I'll bet lending a CD is illegal too now.)

      There are a plethora of reasons why Napster beats your local music store. Price is certainly one factor, but technology adoption does not soley rely on price.

      I still can't figure out why Sony cand mp3-ize their collection, stick it online with some php scripts to count your purchases, and be done with it. That'd kill the Naspter-closes pretty quickly, given the numerous problems file sharing networks have (reliability, data authenticity, etc.)

      Sony would say people would just share what they downloaded, but then they'd miss my point above. Price doth not adoption make. There are many many reasons why technology is successfully adopted (or not adopted), and if I were a giant like Sony, I'd have the money to cover way more of those reasons than any file sharing network could. The problem is, it seems like these companies are frozen in the headlights of change, and the RIAA hasn't clued into any solution other than bullying, which surely wont help their case in the long run.
    • well you know what... I must be that oddball wierdo.

      I fire up gnutella to start trolling for something diferent. I find it, listen to it and a few other cuts off of the album(s) and then within a week order it (in fact Some of them I order 3 of their albums.)

      Why? not because I want the CD, but because I want the Mp3 in a quality that is acceptable and that is ripped with a decent encoder.. 99% of all the p2p mp3's out there suck, and they suck bad. 192 or VBR encoded with maximum quality with the latest Lame encoder rivals the professional hardware based mpeg2 layer 3 encoder we have here at work. I also have my id3 tags correct, and I dont have it labelled wrong. Unlike again with 90% of the crap out there.

      Yes, there is a huge amount of us legitimate users. I have purchased over 40 CD's this year alone based on what I have ILLEGALLY listened to from Gnutella and Open Nap servers.

      Funny... If I didnt get the ability to sample this music (they sure as hell dont play it on the radio!) I would have never bought it.

      I do know what the magic solution is... pretty much leave it alone or allow internet and non-profit radio stations to play everything they want for free.. those that will buy things will get frustrated with the crap-quality out there and buy it. and the ankle-biter kiddies? no matter what you try to do to stop them... you wont... you cant... it is 100% impossible to stop them. and if you allow non-profit to broadcast you are allowing alternative venues and format to exist creating diversity (although you arent squeezing every drop of blood out of the people... which is all they care about)

      yes, the losers of the world will still get their jollies on stealing... the rest of us are looking for a music avenue that doesnt suck...

      Oh, and if you make it legal for non-profit to broadcast music, it would almost remove the pirate-radio problem... as anyone can get a LPFM license.... Pirate radio exists because of greed, the greed of BMI and ASCAP to extort thousands out of a group or person that makes nothing..
    • Reducing a product to an insanely cheap price won't work, because you just can't beat free.

      I agree with you that the vast majority of music trading is NOT for sampling, but to get music for free, but I disagree with this statement to some extent. P2P networks are not that reliable, and the quality of the MP3s is often pretty bad (often cut off). It's better if all you want are popular music, but if you want something even semi-obscure, or less popular like classical recordings, you are out of luck.

      If the price was right, I think a LOT of people who use the service just because it was a) complete, b) good quality, and c) much less hassle. I know I would.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Most cable users are leeches anyway because the
    upstream is capped to 128kbps, and running a
    server of any kind violates TOS. This kind of move
    might make the p2p networks better.
  • This was news [] back in February. I think the article it links to is gone though.

    I'm not suprised by this, even if I am disappointed. It's just not financially viable for the bandwidth usage that some of the file swappers are taking up.
  • by countach ( 534280 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:32AM (#3686489)
    If file sharing is what users want, then maybe the cable companies should subsidise the "super sharers" who are absorbing a disproportionate amount of bandwidth, in order to keep the normal users happy and able to download the songs they want. If they succeed in blocking all the music sharing, maybe the ordinary users won't pay the big fees for cable and the cable companies lose.
  • How much is it to get a direct T1 to my house? Try to cap that!
    • Re:T1? (Score:4, Informative)

      by warpSpeed ( 67927 ) <> on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:47AM (#3686643) Homepage Journal
      Depends on where you live, what you want, and the length of the contract. I would guess that you can get a "deal" on a T1 for about $600/mo and the price can go up to $2000/mo. It all depends on length of the contract and your provider. (check out for pricing)

      I have a hard time listening to the broadband whiners saysng that they are getting ripped off by the cable providers, etc. It costs money to support infrastructure, and to get connected to the top level providers. You want dedicated bandwidth that is always avaiable? Your gonna have to pay for it. If you are getting service from your cable /DSL provider and it works most of the time, you probably are getting your monies worth.

      In the US T1s are a "tarrifed service" from the phone company. It is my understanding that they have to deliver the line/service if it is requested just about anywhere it is requested. Thats why they charge an arm and a leg for the local loop. They have to support the lines whereever it is installed.

  • Not even close (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adam613 ( 449819 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:33AM (#3686499)
    Cable companies dropping their customers by raising prices isn't going to hurt P2P that much. The xxAAs are up against a much bigger enemy: college students. Most large universities have dorm-room ethernet connections which are far superior to cable modem access (I've had both, so I know the difference). A big problem with cable is that the upload speed sucks. Universities don't have that problem. And dorm-room ethernet isn't going away or going up in price just because the RIAA says it should. So maybe the cable companies can cause a few people inconvenience, but they can't win the RIAA's war.
    • Except that many large universities than I know of (Purdue) have daily limits on bandwidth in the dorms, whereupon it starts dropping packets like mad once you use so much in a day. Also, the whole of their resnet is on a very crappy line, whereas the rest of the campus is on a very nice line to the outside world. I'm sure lots of people still use P2P, but not everyone is getting 3 mbps downstream on it like I am sitting at home on my cable. (Note: I don't actually do that very often, but I do get speeds of 1-3 mbps downstream very often, and about 356kbps upstream).
      • Heh, The University of Oklahoma regularly ships out ~400mbits of data during regular semesters. Approximately 80% of this data is P2P.
    • Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TechnoLust ( 528463 )
      Actually, the cable companies are shooting themselves in the foot if they are trying to stop P2P. I know a lot of people that have broadband for that reason alone. Regardless of whether or not it is wrong or legal, it is pretty much the only "Killer App" for broadband right now.
    • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @01:44PM (#3687635) Journal
      Universities have to pay for that internet too, and you bet they're starting to cap student use. They just don't get as much press over it and do so in a slower, more beauracratic manner.

      I am one of those people that shares gigabytes per day, primarily through the anime fansub scene. For those of you who may not follow it, two years ago, a 25 minute anime episode was about 50mb in size, and was in 320x240 realplayer format. Then broadband and DivX came along, and suddenly everything is DVD quality and over 200mb in size at 640x480. The catch was, despite more broadband actually getting it has become much harder. Downloading takes forever. Connections are quickly saturated. ISPs are capping like crazy. All the fansubbers and primary distributors are so obsessed with high quality that they failed to appreciate the tradeoffs.

      The point it, the internet is neither unlimited nor free. There are costs, but we weren't directly paying for them, so we pretend they don't exist. The P2P networks were a manifestation like this. They don't even make a distinction between the guy next door and someone halfway across the world.

      We're all going to have to get used to working with a lot less bandwidth, and paying for our fair share. Unlimited flat-rate broadband was untenable. It should have been this way from the beginning.
  • I've seen companies limit bandwidth like this before... it's quite silly giving a max or 2 or 5 gigs per month...

    On a 56k Modem you can bring down about 9 GB in a month if it's on 24/7. I know it's really not that practical, but I have never heard of limiting usage on a modem. Maybe it's cause all pirates are impatient and use cable.
    • On a 56k Modem you can bring down about 9 GB in a month if it's on 24/7. I know it's really not that practical, but I have never heard of limiting usage on a modem. Maybe it's cause all pirates are impatient and use cable.

      I did hear some noise made about this, actually, though it was some years ago. It wasn't the bandwidth that ISPs were worried about, though; it was having one less telephone line available for other paying customers.

      By the by, ISPs talked about dropping flat-rate plans at the time, but it never happened. So don't panic--because unless every company buys into the variable-rate pricing at once, I don't think it's going to happen at all.

  • by LennyDotCom ( 26658 ) <> on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:34AM (#3686508) Homepage Journal
    The media companies that have beeen waiting for broadband to become popular so they can sell streaming entertainment might have a problem. How will people feel about paying to watch a movie online plus have to pay thier cable provider extra for each movie they watch?
    • lacking vision (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kootch ( 81702 )
      you mean like AOL/TimeWarner? Oh wait, they already own a cable service.

      What's to say that streaming movies from any of AOL/TimeWarner's online properties to someone on their network won't count towards their "cap"? I don't think it would be impossible for them to do, plus, it would actually be a nice synergy (or confluence) of their disparate properties.

      Or I can easily see Blockbuster teaming up with any other broadband provider and doing the same thing.

      Basically, it's pay-per-view, 'cept streaming digitally. Make it cheaper than going and renting a flick from the store with as best quality as you can put down the pipes... or hell, make it so that one household can "rent" x number of movies a month for free.

      But to get there, they need to retire the huge bandwidth hogs on the shared network. I'm not talking about joe-counterstrike-server, but the people that are acting as hubs for filesharing networks 24 hours a day and killing the local loop. Reduce them in size (by having them see their new bill), and broadband becomes a much more interesting phenomenon.
  • This was always inevitable. Small ISPs buy transit from larger upstreams who (usually) bill at the 95th percentile - ie., if only 4% of your users are P2P obsessives sharing 40 gigs of mp3z etc, you may get away lightly. But if 30% of your users are permanently up- and down-loading tons of ffuts, it's going to hurt someone's bottom line.

    Incidentally... I imagine P2P usage would severely impact peering arrangements. Suppose ISP A supplies eyeballs to ISP B, who carries lots of content, peering arrangements have to take account of that ratio. If the eyeballs suddenly become servers - well aggregate 250 128Kbps streams and you can bet the little dials on the front of people's routers are going to start spinning very fast. Anyone from a real network care to comment?
  • Hatchet job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:35AM (#3686515) Homepage
    That story is the textbook definition of a hatchet job.

    Cable ISPs could care less what you download. Bandwidth hogs are actually a net loss for ISPs, so they intend to charge those more. It is a mere accident that those hogs happen to be MP3 users.

    For all the ISP cares, they could be SETI hogs, or pr0n hogs or remote X server/client hogs. So please drop the reference to the RIAA.

  • by torqer ( 538711 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:35AM (#3686518)
    Their Hardcore MP3 downloader has downed 5000 songs in two years. That's just under 7 songs a day. 7 songs at 5 megs a peice for a 30 day month is 1050. Just barely a gig.

    So we have cable company's going to put caps on their service. Fine. From all the information I have seen it seems to be tentatively set at 2-3 for the lowest class of service. Leaving a sizeable chunk for other stuff as well. Looks like this isn't going to stop p2p to me.

  • Warning: RANT below (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SkyLeach ( 188871 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:36AM (#3686527) Homepage
    I am sick and tired of Cable companies whining about their costs and expenses while the rip new assholes into every single one of their subscribers.

    1.) they lie constantly. They lied about my apartment building's contract being expired so that they could then refuse to refund me the money they charged me for installation.

    2.) They lied and said that I would have DSL modem speeds. Well, I *would* have DSL speeds if I wasn't sharing my bandwidth with 10,000 other people downloading their pr0n all night long.

    3.) they build exclusive deals with complexes preventing you from getting the much cheaper, more reliable and faster DSL service offered by the telco.

    I'm sick of this bullshit government sponsered monopolistic rape-the-consumer stuff.

    I say let's all move for congress to take all communicaitons hardware and make it an independant co-op agency. Make it illegal to have for-profit communications. It has become a public necessity and it should not be in the hands of greedy or controlling people.
    • Or, even better, how about deregulating the industry ENTIRELY, giving no subsidies or special benefits to anyone?

      That way, anyone who wants to invest in the infrastructure of running lines, and building CO's all over, can get into the business.

      Communications is NOT a right, my socialist friend.

      It's merely a convenience.

      • Ha! I never said it was, and you're calling the wrong person a socialist.

        I didn't say it should be free either, just that it should not be in the hands of special-interest groups. It is a necessity for our modern economy and a necessity for the future. It's here to stay and it cannot ever go away if we want to continue success.

        Consider roads under your argument. If roads were deregulated and anyone could build roads whever they want and charge for there use, how fast do you think it would become a huge economy-bashing mess?

        Communications should be in the same light. We no longer travel on roads to spread information, but that was one of the principle reasons for their construciton! (See history of the U.S. Postal service and read about how many roads were commissioned by and for their use alone).

        Agreed that when electronic communications were first invented they didn't have this much impact, but now they are as essential as our highway system.
    • I say let's all move for congress to take all communicaitons hardware and make it an independant co-op agency. Make it illegal to have for-profit communications. It has become a public necessity and it should not be in the hands of greedy or controlling people.

      For future reference: Government = greedy AND controlling people.

      Thank you, my work here is done.

    • About my suggestion for a government communications branch:

      I understand this can be abused, but if done right it could be a good thing. It would require careful design. But not all government agencies are evil and corrupt. Look at the BBB. They are a useful government branch that provides a needed service keeping businesses in line.

      I am as wary of government involved in communicaiton as anyone else. Probably more than most people. But I think it could be done right and be a blessing.

      It could also be done wrong and be a curse.

      But it probably wouldn't be much worse than it is right now.
  • If this was aimed at stopping P2P use, then they would be doing things to individual ports, or even better blocking certain ports only for servers. What they are doing here is just going after anyone who does a lot of down-or-uploading, and so is costing them money. As someone who regularly downloads all 3 legal isos of Redhat or Mandrake, and watches plenty of those MPAA-sponsored high bandwidth trailers from I would be being just as hit as someone who downloaded a bunch of mpg files illegally instead.

    This is plain and simple charging people for use, rather than a flat rate that they can't stand you exploiting. Personally, I think its much fairer that way, but its got nothing to do with the legality of the information moving around.
  • I'm the last person to feel sorry for the cable companies. It's a generally sleazy industry, IMHO. But it's also clear that the companies are losing their shirts given the current pricing schemes, and something's going to have to change.

    I'd have no problem at all paying a reasonable market cost for my bandwidth, and then tacking on X dollars each month for my cable hookup charge. In fact, I'd prefer it that way. I don't want something for nothing, and I have no problem paying for what I use. I'd actually prefer to be able to access a webpage and see how many megabytes of data transfer I've done this month.

    The one obvious pitfall to this pricing scheme is that it's likely to destroy the current concept of P2P filesharing. After all, few people would have problems paying, say, 3 bucks to download (steal) ten CD's worth of music. But how many people would enable their file sharing, thus paying significant money for sharing their files with other users? And once the number of uploaders online crashes to near zero, P2P as we know it will be dead.

    But anyway, this problem will have to be dealt with, and I suppose people will come up with imaginitive solutions. I think paying for the bandwidth you use is both fair and inevitable. So this leads me to my question: does anyone have a clear idea what the cable companies pay for a gigabyte of bandwidth?
  • by Hooya ( 518216 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:42AM (#3686583) Homepage
    well, apart from the convinience of having an always-on connection, i can't think of anything that i'd need to fork over ~$40/mo to access. i stopped 'file-sharing' a while ago and my connection from home is starting to collect dust. i'm starting to realize that there's nothing on the internet that compelling (mind you -- not talking about graphics/flash heavy sites that i avoid anyways) that would warrent such bandwidth. except for slashdot and a few other news sites that update frequently, a cron-ed wget to 'mirror' the site is a very viable solution for me. and that can happen over a dial-up in the middle of the night.

    I think the cable providers are just shooting themselves in the foot. or at least the pinky-toe...

    isn't napster what fueled the demand for broadband in the first place? as soon as the market shrinks even a little, economies of scale will take hold and the whole broadband thing will be in the shitter. 'twas good while it lasted i guess.

  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) <jhummel@joh[ ] ['nhu' in gap]> on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:42AM (#3686588) Homepage
    *Note: This assumes that All You Can Eat Bandwidth goes away, and all Internet traffic becomes "metered" much like electricity, water, etc.

    The Good News: Spam cuts down as companies realize they can't afford the bandwidth costs compared to the income.

    The Bad News: There's still enough out there that you're charged an extra $5 just to download your mail. Oh, and that time you friend who uses Outlook got that virus? Yup - another $5.

    The Good News: With bandwidth metering, idiot people who only only posts trolls stop since their hobby of annoying people for fun is now costing them.

    The Bad News: The opinions of many are cut off as they weight their voice against their speech.

    The Good News: Sites with way too many graphics, Flash animations, bangs and whistles become less popular, and become nice, clean, quick interfaces. True HTML 4.0 compliance becomes key since you can't just program client side "if browser==this display this".

    The Bad News: So much for seeing new screenshots of Star Wars Episode III: Portman Naked and Petrified

    The Good News: The Demo Disk industry truly takes off, since to be able to just download 200 - 300 MB demo's of games, software, etc costs too much. Game demos that used to be 400 MB in size are cut down to just 25 MB - just about downloadable.

    The Bad News: Now you have to wait at least a week to try out Doom III: Demons in Love.

    The Good News: The RIAA and MPAA shut the fuck up about how people are stealing music and videos. The whole CD protection bandwagon is killed off since there's no more fear that people will download music over the Internet, since that would cost as much as the CD anyway.

    The Bad News: The whole idea of a legal MP3 music sale system for both established and new artists dies out. We are doomed to forever listen to Britney Spear's latest song, "Knock me around because I did it again".
    • Hillarious!

      My only comment is that people will just move to something else. For these changes to happen, DSL, Cable, and all other internet providers will have to do this metering system, and that will piss way too many people off.
  • I have no doubt that this will lead to a smaller, faster, more efficient P2P, one that doesn't 'waste' lots of time and bits searching.

    This happens all the time, BTW. Classic RIAA. Bring out new tech to make copying unpossible. CDs to kill cassettes, DVDs to kill CDs, and on and on and on. The RIAA relies on sheer size to combat piracy. Count on them to constantly increase the bitrate far beyond what anyone can hear, just to keep wanton copying down! I would not be surprised if this is a reason behind software bloat, as well. (If we can make it require 2 cd's, they'll never be able to share it. haHA!)

    My guess is that wireless networks will figure prominently in the p2p 'problem'. These wireless networks will be small, limited to neighborhoods at first, but pick up size and strength with the release of new tech. The internet of the future will be wireless and pervasive. The p2p app will follow.

  • If broadband companies would just block ports of the major P2P programs, it should curb the bandwidth usage greatly. Some of us do some work from home, run X apps remotely, etc., and bandwidth caps would hurt more than having to uninstall Kazaa.
  • Riiiight. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EnVisiCrypt ( 178985 ) <groovetheorist@hotmail. c o m> on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @11:46AM (#3686638)
    And if my bandwidth gets capped, I'll get my cable modem using neighbors to go in on a T1 with me. No big deal.

    Piss on the cable companies if they want to cap my downloads. That's why I'm paying twice the dial-up rate. They're within their rights to raise prices, but I'm well within mine when I go out of my way to avoid them.

    I can see it now:
    "Earthlink 56K, up to twice as fast as your cable modem! Upgrade today!"
    • For me it's the same as the dial-up rate. It's $40 for cable modem, or $20 for the ISP plus $20 for the phone line for dial-up. Both are $40, but cable is faster.
    • Re:Riiiight. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MeNeXT ( 200840 )
      Not as simple or as inexpensive as you might think. First you should price a T1 it will come out around $1,000 to $1,500 per month. Now how many neighbors would be willing to share the cost 10, 15, 20. For this point I will give you the benefit and say it's only 10. That would be 150kbps if you all decide to use it at the same time. Total bandwidth in a given month (assuming 24h operation) aprox: 440G that would represent 44G per user based on 24 hours. Now we all know that most will use it between 6:00pm when they get home from work and 12:00am midnight since most people work the next day and need to sleep. This is only 6h but I will give you 8h. That is 1/3 of the total bandwidth available to you wich gives you a total of 147G. divide this by 10 and all you have is 15G per user at 1/10th the speed of DSL at more than twice the cost.

      Don't get me wrong I do not agree with the cable/telcos but unlimited bandwidth was a carrot that helped them sell the service. In most cases you probably sold more for them than all their marketing. Now they do NOT need your marketing any more they have the idiots who do not need hog speed Internet and who use less that 1G per month. Since you probably transfered (and took your friends with you)from a mom and pop ISP who did not have the $$$ to compete in the high speed game you no longer have them to turn to because they have gone belly up.

      "You just cant fit 10 pounds of SH1T in a 5 pound bag." Now that the mom and pops have gone out of business cabel/telcos can no longer afford to give it away and are starting to charge a $$$$$ rate.

  • This seems like a money scheeme more than anything legal. I thought a good network admin would be able to tell if people are using common p2p networks. Why don't they just track down these people and charge them extra? Oh, because then if they had a list, the RIAA would make them cut them off. So why don't they impose an RIAA tax on these people. I don't mind them disciplining people doing illegal things. I just don't want them coming after me because I download gnu/linux iso's, get (legal ( music from ftp servers, connect from work with ssh/vnc, and update kde3 from cvs every week. And I know there are a lot of you who do things like I do, and we're going to get hit.
  • I don't agree. My gut instinct tells me these measures aren't going to stop "sharing". Regardless, a pricing scheme based on bandwidth usage is going to have other effects depending on how ridiculous these pricing schemes become:

    1. Penalization for legitimate uses, such as downloading RedHat .ISOs for example.

    2. Broadband customers faced with penalization for bandwidth usage may stop using streaming audio and video, thus hurting the already ailing internet radio industry.

    3. The price of broadband is unattractive to some. I doubt this type of pricing scheme will help to put broadband in more homes.

    When the rates go up, there will be less demand on these companies. I think people will seek alternative ISPs. Maybe this is a good thing for smaller ISPs the truly serve customers interests, because they stand a good chance of undercutting the competition when "big broadband" customers start jumping ship. If demand does indeed decrease, then the supply of bandwidth will effectively increase upsetting the balance. They're going to have a hard time justifying screwy price arrangements with too much supply and not enough demand.
  • Something that's been bugging the crap out of me-Time Warner's radio commercials in the Milwaukee area center on Video and MP3 downloads and how amazingly fast they are with cable. Meanwhile they are trying to stop their subscribers from doing that and at the same time they're in DC whinning about these same people. What happened to truth in advertising? (rhetorical)
    • You will be happy to notice that Time Warner is not on the list of companies in the article that are planning on implementing this. I know it makes me happy to know that my sweet-ass 3 mbps downstream speeds aren't going away anytime soon.

      In the past 5 days I've had 1.5 Gb downstream (728 Mb upstream) received from my cable connection. That includes running a counter-strike server on it (which handles about 10 people very nicely,) As well as downloading Office XP from school (legally, mind you.)

      I'm curious how much the average person transmits/receives over their cable connection in an average month if you don't include P2P traffic? There's absolutely no P2P over my connection.
  • The cable companies are planning to give the RIAA's case a hand and limit P2P file swapping.

    This isn't helping the RIAA's case. Their case involves copyright law, fair use, royalty payments, etc. All this is doing is putting more money in the pockets of cable companies when people share files (and any files at that, not just the songs of RIAA artists). There is no angle here, currently, for the RIAA. I'd like the see the fight if the RIAA went to cable companies and said "um, can we take some of that new revenue?"
  • Sure, no one wants their heavenly connection to the starry dynamo cut off, but if enough cable and DSL providers move to this kind of pricing plan, it might just be a Good Thing(tm) for the rest of us. Here's why:

    The /. crowd and other Interner/Broadband power users do not represent the typical cable/dsl broadband customer. We don't do what they think we should with broadband, which amounts to looking at, sending hotmail, and participating in other information-consumer activities. Not only are we much higher-end consumers of service, but we're also much more technically savvy. We create the net just as much as they do. We have the technology, and we can do this ourselves if there's enough motivation to get us off our collective asses.

    There are already numerous instances of tech-savvy citizens lobbying their local municipality (and providing advice) into setting up a community-owned broadband network. These networks are far more effienct and cost-effective than the monsterous nationwise Cable and Phone-Company 0wned systems. They offer better service for less money because they are built to suit a community's needs without the (bloat bloat) overhead of a multinational communications behemoth.

    If you're in a metro area where municipal lobbying is ineffective on the individual scale, start your own Community Interest group. Check out distances, lines of sight, etc. If you get 20 geeks together within a square mile, that's enough expertise and purchasing power to buy a fractional T1 and set up your own wifi cloud.

    If you're a rural customer, you're in a bit of a bind at the moment, but hang on. Boosted signals and moddedd antenai are gaining in range all the time. You just have to find enough friends between you and town to get the link happening.

    The internet will remain Cool(tm) only as long as we continue to work at making it so. The collective purchasing power of just the /. community dwarfs that of many corporations (do the math, it's true), but we don't work with eachother. We prefer to bitch when The Man doesn't kowtow to our needs. It's understandable, because up until now The Man has been a pretty good sport about thing, but he's still The Man, and no real friend of a free-thinking geek.

    I'll say it again, we have the technology to build our own nets. It's already happening. Community-owned infrastructure is the future of a free and exciting internet, and that's why the inefficiency and greed of the big cable and DSL companies just might be a good thing: the kick in the butt we need.

    Look, no one said this (the information revolution) was going to be easy. Only by putting in the hours and voting with our dollars can individuals make an impact. But the fantastic thing about this time, as opposed to other massive shifts in the economy (e.g. industrial revolution), is that it's potentially very empowering to individuals and communities. Necessity is the mother of invention, so lets get inventive.
  • Anything other than flat rate pricing will not work simply for the reason that people have become accustomed to unlimited Internet access over the years especially since the reluctant AOL switched to a flat rate a couple of years ago. Any consumer service that has per packet charge will not work. If possible, users will just switch to another high speed service such as DSL, 802.11, etc. If anything, this could encourage more people to set up community networks by getting a couple of access points and hooking them up to a t-1. Nobody will be willing to go back to the old days of staring down the clock while online.
  • was what changing the pricing structure would do to their subscriber base. When the ecconomy took a nose-dive, many people started to get rid of things that were not essencial, broadband access being one of those things. There were a lot of cable modem users who decided that the extra money was worth not having to dial up and tie up their phone line or even deal with the chance of getting busy signals while attempting to dial in. If all of a sudden, they see that there is a chance that some spy-ware that crept onto their system that runs 24/7 could end up sticking them with a massive cable bill, they may either change to DSL or drop it entirely and go back to dial up. Lower speed would be okay for most, but charging per MB over a certain limit will chase away a lot of customers to other services.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <> on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @12:29PM (#3687032)
    Bandwidth isn't free. It isn't expensive, really, but it sure isn't free. So flat rate, while desireable, probably isn't reasonable.

    Problem: Monopolies.
    You can never trust a monopoly to set a fair price.

    Problem: Spam
    The cost should be born by the party that initiates the transaction, not the party that receives it. But this can be quite difficult to determine for non-persistent protocols. Mail is easy, bill it back to the sender, and if you can't, you don't forward it. http, ftp, etc. are much more difficult. The user who initiates the transaction is the one who receives most of the data. The sender is essentially reactive. So the sender shouldn't be paying here. Without micropayments, I don't see any reasonable method to handle this.

    Problem: privacy
    If transactions are billed back to the sender of the communication, then it will be possible to trace who sent what message. This has obvious unpleasant implications for privacy of communication.

    But bandwidth isn't free, and I object to paying to receive spam. Perhaps everyone needs two addresses. One where the sender pays for the transmission, and one where the receiver pay. You would use the receiver account for ftp, http, mailing lists, nttp, etc. (oops! that opens you up to spam!) and the sender for normal e-mail.

    This needs careful design. Remember the inherent dangers of any single point of failure. (Look at what mailing lists could to the spam prevention of the separated addresses!)
  • bandwidth hogs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @01:04PM (#3687292) Homepage Journal
    I'm tired of the self-righteous indignation of cable modem companies and even some of their subscribers regarding bandwidth usage. The cable companies made offers to everyone for "unlimited usage" and "T1 speeds" and "always on" connectivity.

    Now that some small percentage of users are actually using the bandwidth that they were sold, the cable companies are demonizing them. They want to charge them extra, calling them "bandwidth hogs" and other such childish names. I don't see the cable companies scrambling to offer lower prices to people who just check e-mail occasionally and maybe move 750K a week through web surfing. I don't see them being called "bandwidth anorexics."

    I'd have a lot more sympathy for the cable companies if they had been honest from the beginning, figured out what kind of bandwidth they could support, and spelled that out in the agreements.

    They remind me of the airlines. Now the airlines have squeezed the seats so close together that they don't have adequate room for carry-ons, they portray passengers with "oversized" carry-on bags as self-centered buffoons -- despite the fact that many of these "oversized" bags met the airline's size requirements at the time that they were purchased.
  • by stienman ( 51024 ) <.adavis. .at.> on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @01:12PM (#3687352) Homepage Journal
    I find that a good portion of the websites I visit can't send me data faster than 1Mbps anyway, so the 2Mbps down I get is only used when more than one person is browsing in my house. It's nice when I find a good server that has an ISO or file I want with a fast connection - I can download Mozilla 1.0 (10MB) in two or three minutes, but the majority of people don't need or use it.

    If they raise my price, then I'll shop around and likely find that it's still the best deal. However DSL and regular dial up will get a shot in the arm, at least for a little while. I may even be motivated to get a T1 (or more) to share with my condo neighbors.

    Either way, they're still raking in a cash. AT&T says 1% of their users use 16% of their bandwidth - well that means that 50% of their users are paying $50/mo for the equivilant of dial up bandwidth. Cash in the bank.

    What they're selling now is bandwidth, not transfer. If they cap my transfer to 5GB per month I'll expect them to leave the bandwidth where it is or higher - it'll only make them more money since I have more oportunity to go over - and those who transfer very little will feel that they are paying less for faster service. Happiness all around.

    At any rate, there'll be options.

  • eMail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adamjaskie ( 310474 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @01:19PM (#3687414) Homepage
    If MY connection gets capped, I will complain every time I get an unwanted email. If I spend 20kiB of my download limit downloading an unwanted email, I better get that 20kiB back, or the sender better PAY me for the bandwidth they used by sending me a message. If each email I get costs me money, it should be illegal for people to send me unsolicited emails. (Hey, unsolicited faxes are illegal IIRC)
  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @01:30PM (#3687505) Homepage

    Jesus people, cut the knee-jerking and think for a second. Having additional charges for those who exceed a certain bandwidth point CAN be a very good thing for most of us. Setting it in the context of "shutting down file swappers" though is a red herring. It comes down to paying for what you use, nothing more or less.

    Look at the data. In the linked article, it cites AT&T's data that 1% of users use 16% of the service's bandwidth. Elsewhere, I've seen numbers like 5% of users consuming 30% of available bandwidth. Part of my monthly DSL/cable bill, and yours, goes to supporting these bandwidth hogs. If implemented correctly and regulated as a public utility like the phone / gas / electricity, having the mega-users pay for excess bandwidth can make it less expensive for casual users to access the internet with a fat pipe. At least in CA, electricity consumers like wasteful home owners or power-intensive companies that use more electricity than others pay more for it because, like broadband, it's a limited resource that they're using more of than others. Why should broadband be exempt from similar controls, if implemented and regulated reasonably?

    What sort of guidelines should be in place? Primarily, there should be a mandated minimum amount of bandwidth one gets for the flat rate so that broadband ISPs can't turn it into something analogous to basic cable service -- I would expect regulation such that the per-capita amount of bandwidth used by around 95% of a service's users would set the minimum flat rate. Also, I'd advocate against speed limitations wherever possible - the purpose of broadband is the fat pipe, so why have it if you can't use it?

    I believe such a pricing scheme can be implemented fairly and work as a benefit to both us and the continued implementation of broadband service. There just needs to be adequate rules to prevent the broadband carriers from using it to screw us over. But the people who see everything AT&T or SBC says as part of a sinister plot to double everyone's rates and halve their download speed are just a part of the bloviating tinfoil hat crowd, not really deserving to be listened to.

    • And when they cap down this sinister 1% that's using 16% of their bandwidth, charging exorbitant rates, how long will it be before they decide to clamp down on the next 5% that's using 30% of their bandwidth? And the next 10%? And the next x%?
      Lovely divide and conquer trying to get us to buy the concept, but it's purely political. They know what they want to do (start building in unilateral price hikes to "meet a need") and they just had to find a laughable reason to do it.
      Cable modems/DSL aren't gas or electricity, but thanks for the inept analogy anyway.
      If the per-capita bandwidth was set at what the mean that 95% of the service's users use and speed caps were removed, I'd be the first to jump on that puppy. But since we're talking greedy monopolies here I've no such rosy vision of sensibility here.
  • by mesozoic ( 134277 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @01:59PM (#3687734)
    I realize this probably won't get read too much, since I'm around the 500th person to post, but here goes.

    Cable companies don't compete with each other except at the national level. Anyone who wants to argue with this need only look at any place in the country, even the Northeast, and ask how many cable providers there really are for a given area--a handful at best.

    When companies don't compete, they stagnate; there is less incentive to be efficient, to give good service, and as a whole the companies begin to do stupid things. Right now, these cable companies have caught their nuts in a vice grip because they overestimated how much they could spend on their networks without going in the hole; now they want to backtrack on flat-rate because they're not making money.

    I think the most probable outcome is that in the move from flat-rate to pay-as-you-go, the cable companies screw up. They don't price competitively enough (because they want to recoup their losses) and they alienate a significant portion of their membership, who will turn to other things (like DSL) for connectivity, or just scrap the whole thing and move back to modems. This would happen in a relatively short period of time, and after a short while these companies will start having to either charge MORE for their service (and lose more customers) or sell off their assets. If that happens, you can expect to see a range of smaller cable companies pop up who are better prepared to handle their own service areas.

    These companies have no real incentive to work well, and they're starting to pay for their own ineptitude. Providing they don't get hit first by legislation or by antitrust suits or by new technology, it's only a matter of time before they crumble, and when they do, it won't be long before market forces enable someone else to take the reins.
  • by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @02:20PM (#3687883) Homepage
    Here's a thought: most of the people using the service do so from 6-10pm. Why not make some sort of access available only during the middle of the night, when no-one else uses it? I think it would be a win-win proposition if I tell my computer "download all this, be done by 6am" and walk off. The heavy use doesn't affect any of their normal customers, the bandwidth guys get their bandwidth, happy happy joy joy. Granted, I'd have to find some way to automate what I want to grab, but I could cope.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington