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Top US Lobbyist Wants Broadband Data Caps 568

Posted by samzenpus
from the clogging-the-pipes dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "Michael Powell, A former United States FCC chairman, is pushing for 'usage-based internet access' which he says is good for consumers who are 'accustomed to paying for what they use'. Apparently Time Warner and Comcast (maybe others) are already developing plans to set monthly rates based on bandwidth usage. The reasoning on the NCTA website lays out the argument behind Powell's plan."
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Top US Lobbyist Wants Broadband Data Caps

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  • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:15PM (#45218627) Journal

    Seriously the ISPs who get behind metering and capping are just trying to stop the cord cutter movement. They know they are dinosaurs and the end is near. They are the same ones who refuse to take free Netflix CDN boxes to reduce the Netflix backhaul by 90%, and improve the service quality to their customers as well, instead trying to charge Netflix bandwidth fees. There is nothing whatsoever precious about Internet bandwidth. Every few years some new tech lets them put 100x as many bits down the same single mode fiber-optic pipe, and it's burying or stringing that pipe where the lion's share of the cost is.

    Since Google isn't in the TV game really, they have nothing to lose by letting you pass all the data you want.

    • by mfh (56) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:22PM (#45218675) Journal

      Google wants us to have 1gbps so we can pump our information to them faster. The more information Google can get from everyone, the more they know about existence from the perspective of a futurist deity, which could be a very powerful tool in years to come when we're trying to figure out what to do about all the problems our predecessors have left us with.

      • by deathcloset (626704) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:40PM (#45218849) Journal
        Shut up and take my data!
        • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @04:31AM (#45221209) Journal

          Data capping is not only about money

          It is also about restricting the spreading of information

          True, nowadays most of the data flow online are leisure vids (netflix, youtube et all) but ... critical vids, such as the ones that we got from area of conflicts, such as Syria, also consume up lots of data

          Capping of the data could restrict the spread of information as well

          Let's say there is something happening that the power-that-be does not want others to know, and it was an emergency and they did not have time to cut off the net feed ...

          Without data capping anyone with a net-enable smartphone can upload the critical vids and perhaps store it in an online cloud somewhere

          With data capping the power-that-be can, theoretically, get the ISP to stop the flow (even if they can't cut the net feed)

          Never trust the intention of the power-that-be

          • by Cyberdyne (104305) * on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:21AM (#45222001) Journal

            Data capping isn't really relevant to that - a hundred megabytes of, say, LAPD beating up a suspect or university campus police tear-gassing non-violent protesters is no bigger a datastream than a hundred megabytes of my cat chasing his toy mouse round the floor, when it's being uploaded to the likes of YouTube; once it hits there, I don't think Google use cable modems to send it from their datacenters. A hostile power would just cut the connection, whether you have an "unlimited" connection or a pay-as-you-go one - as has happened a few times in recent disturbances (Egypt or Syria?) - they don't bother looking at individual data packages anyway.

            The poster further up had it exactly, I think: it's all about killing off competition from Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Any guesses why else it would be Time Warner and Comcast - i.e. the cable ISPs - pushing this, rather than AT&T and Verizon? (Not that those two would be unhappy either, of course: more money, an easier market for their FiOS and U-verse TV offerings - but it's obviously Comcast and TW who have the most to lose.)

      • But data transfer is essentially free compared to electricity, gas and water. Whether I download 1 megabyte or 500 megabytes it does not cost the ISP any more. Data caps is like air breathing caps or sun solar rays caps, it just doesn't make sense. If anything they need the opposite, minimum viable tranfer speeds, so these ISPs can't lie about the transfer rate. Bandwidth caps only hurt Netflix, YouTube (google), and any other website that uses high bandwidth which means less taxes for the govt. Why
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:29PM (#45219267)

          No, data transfer is NOT free. The datacenters (HVAC/power), equipment (hello depreciation, upgrade cycles, support contracts), lines (installation/repair), peering arrangements (outside of tier 1 backscratching) are all very expensive, and it takes a small army of people to keep all of this low-volume, insane-price junk running.

          Keep in mind that an OC-48 line can only support 2405 megabits of traffic, or enough for about a hundred heavy users @24 megabits each. It costs what, 100K a month? 50k? maybe slightly less by now?

          A typical, medium-sized/30 floor apartment building can have 300 units in it. Are you going to run an OC-192 line to a single building? Or let them run at 8 megabits max once everybody starts going nuts? Keep in mind that IP's answer to link congestion is silently dropping packets.. ...or maybe instead slap them with usage fees to encourage at least some of them to become light users instead?

          If you want an equivalent comparison, the electric company is providing you with the same electrons over and over, just fluctuating back and forth.. soo why are you paying them money? Electrons are everywhere, and they're always moving, after all.

          Also regarding transfer rate - a lot of that is out of the control of the ISP itself. It's not their fault that Level 3 and Cogentco are having a tiff or something, nor the fact that you're downloading content or performing (retarded) speed tests from a site hosted on a T3 with 15,000 other broadband users.

          • by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:50PM (#45219415) Homepage

            But regardless of whether you have dial-up or OC-48, the data centers need to run, the lines need to be laid, the peering needs to be done. It doesn't cost any more to pass 1MB or 1000MB. Bandwidth costs real money, individual data transfers do not, the hardware is agnostic to whom, what and to an extent even where you are transporting bits.

            In a datacenter you do not buy per MB. You buy per Mbps or Gbps or even simply to terminate a point-to-point fiber connection (where you are yourself responsible as to what hardware hangs on both sides).

            For home and most business connections you can indeed oversell. Even in data centers you can oversell but less than a home connection. Currently ISP's like TWC are overselling 10,000:1. So they are SELLING 10Mbps of bandwidth for each 1 kbps they have peered towards others. This is possible since most consumers only burst data and local caching helps a lot. TWC currently implements DOCSIS, you can easily sell 100Mbps or even 10Gbps to a consumer with minimal hardware investments, plenty of headroom over urban coax, they don't NEED to upgrade their lines in the next 2 decades and the current infrastructure has been in place for the last 3. Fiber has virtually infinite bandwidth, once invested you NEVER need to upgrade it anymore.

            • by jxander (2605655) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @09:26PM (#45219613)

              Why not make physical connectivity a municipal service? Aside from the physical lines to my house, what roles do ISPs actually fill? DNS and DHCP? I hear some of them offer email address or cloud storage, but those are optional and available elsewhere for free. Certainly doesn't sound like $50-100 a month worth of effort, especially considering companies like Google would likely offer DNS for (here look at this advertisement) free

              The way ISPs are currently structured, it feels like someone standing at the edge of my driveway, demanding $10 every time I pull my car out onto the road ... and we can't figure out why this is a bad thing.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by demonlapin (527802)
                What does making it a municipal service get you? In return for ditching the profit motive, you get the traditional problems of government-run services: delayed maintenance, DMV-grade service, and political interference. Only this time, it's going to be that the mayor snoops on who's downloading porn, or the cops snooping on who posts under the name fourtwenty4eva, or they'll implement filters on everything "for the children". My water is municipal; the price I pay isn't markedly lower than what people who h
              • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @11:53PM (#45220409) Journal

                The activity of municipal entities is regulated by law. Law is made by legislators who are elected, and desire to be re-elected. And here is the flaw in your plan.

                Maintaining a monopoly on broadband Internet and Cable TV in a municipal area is profitable so far and above the cost of being elected to legislative office that the incumbent monopolies have managed to influence all the elected folks to protect them from competition from municipal entities in the interest of "capitalism and fair play."

                Some are grandfathered in. You can get gigabit in the grand Ephrata, WA [google.com] metroplex (POP 7664) through the local power muni some 15 years now. Or in Aberdeen, WA (POP 16,265) through the local power muni for a decade or so. In Tacoma, WA, the Click network can sell you 100Mbps through the power utility, but even though they serve the greater metropolitan area with power (including me) you have to be within the city limits (not me) to get that Internet deal because: protective legislation protecting incumbent ISPs like Comcast.

                So: Help us Google Fiber. You're our only hope.

              • Some towns have tried to make it a municipal service because no ISP was willing to serve them. In almost every case, they were challenged in court for "government competing with private companies." Yes, the companies that wouldn't serve the town felt insulted that they were being deprived of the opportunity to serve the town in the future should they decide to. They honestly thought that the town should just sit there without high speed Internet until a Big Business decided to grace them with it (for a p

            • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @09:50PM (#45219725)

              In a datacenter you do not buy per MB. You buy per Mbps or Gbps or even simply to terminate a point-to-point fiber connection

              This x 1000. There are a growing number of providers that offer a 1 Gbps dedicated line with a 100TB monthly transfer limit for $200/month. This includes server rental or rack rent, power, and keeping your gear on a UPS with generator backup, and fuel contracts that will keep you running at least two weeks in the event of a severe power outage. There's no way the consumer-level ISPs are going to convince me that it's just too expensive for them to give people more a terabyte on a 50 megabit line for $50/month, even factoring in the last-mile plant costs.

              • by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Thursday October 24, 2013 @12:09AM (#45220465) Homepage

                Actually, if you have ever negotiated peering agreements, you do not pay per TB. Certain data centers do indeed charge per TB over transfer limits but that's merely to increase profits. I have been involved in building data centers and negotiating contracts with the largest peering centers in the world (AMS-IX, NYIIX, ...) if you're large enough, you simply pay per physical plug.

                AMS-IX at one point upgraded to 10Gbps routers (that was years ago, they currently offer up to 100 or 250Gbps if I am not mistaken). They simply notified us it became available and told us that if we wanted in, we just had to upgrade our equipment and instantly we would be peered at 10Gbps with other providers, off course we had large companies like Microsoft in our data centers which others wanted to peer with.

                Peering centers are basically clubs of who's-who in the ISP industry. The largest providers pay a membership fee to participate and get the latest (if they so want), smaller providers pay-per-line, the cost per bandwidth unit is minimal.

          • by Aryden (1872756) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:51PM (#45219417)
            The flaw in your logic is the same flaw that the ISPs try to use to justify these types of things. You are assuming that there are 100 users on an OC48 burning up the bandwidth all day long. The facts do not support this. Just like with electricity, water and gas, there are peak times and there are times where almost no data is being transferred and they rely on that to sell that 2048mb line to not 100, but more like 1000 people. Additionally, they rely on the old guy that uses the tubes for nothing more than checking his email and looking at new pics of his grand kids to compensate for the guys like us that watch netflix, hulu etc. They oversell their services like you wouldnt believe and they are hugely profitable for it. Verizon [engadget.com]
          • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @09:12PM (#45219553) Homepage

            Does it cost less when 0 bytes per second are flowing or if it's at capacity?

            I can tell you, the Same $10.000 a month is charged if it's running at full capacitiy or if it's sitting there unused. Therefore the amount of data transferred HAS NO COST, it is essentially free, the cost is for instantaneous bandwidth availability.

          • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @09:37PM (#45219673)
            We all agree we want these things, so why aren't we working harder to make them available? When we wanted to go to the moon, we did. So here we are and we want free Internet. Seriously, compared to the moon that's nothing. And entire generation of scientists said FU to gravity and we can't even transfer a bit of data without charging an arm and a leg for it like it's the most precious thing in the universe? When did we start giving up so easily? Maybe it was when somebody realized there was money to be made in scarcity...
          • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @10:12PM (#45219851)

            No, data transfer is NOT free. The datacenters (HVAC/power), equipment (hello depreciation, upgrade cycles, support contracts), lines (installation/repair), peering arrangements (outside of tier 1 backscratching) are all very expensive, and it takes a small army of people to keep all of this low-volume, insane-price junk running.

            You've got it wrong. It's not DATA TRANSFER that is expensive. It is CONCURRENT DEMAND that is expensive.

            Suppose I want to download 1 Terabytes of data and upload 1 Terabytes of data.

            It will have A VERY DIFFERENT COST for the service provider, if I insist on fully utilizing my 30 megabit link to demand 100% of its throughput for that transfer during peak hours, than if I Spread out my file transfers over a longer period of time, and I structure my demand for capacity, so that it falls at times other than the peak usage hours for their network.

            Or if I run that 1TB transfer at 5 Megabit per second 24x7 on my 30 megabit link.

            It will take me 20 days worth of time to move that file.

            Now, you can't possibly tell me that this costs the provider just as much as me maxing out my connection 24x7 for 3 days to move all 1TB at 30 Megabits/S down and 30Megabits/S up.

            Which one do you think REALLY matters to the network?

            CAPACITY DEMAND or data usage?

            • by locopuyo (1433631)
              They could do what some Cell phone providers do with regular voice usage. You get a limited number of "anytime" minutes depending on how much you pay. But you get unlimited free usage during non-peak times and unlimited minutes to people on the same network. This is actually the way some satellite internet providers do their pricing.
              This is what an open competitive market created. This sort of pricing seems to be the most fair, but it only makes sense when there are limited amounts of bandwidth and c
          • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @10:48PM (#45220061)

            Sigh. There's so much wrong with your post it's not even funny. It's obvious you can do basic math, but what you can't seem to wrap your head around is that people aren't using 100% of the bandwidth 100% of the time. It's called an oversubscription ratio, and it's typically around 250:1. Which means your "OC-48" line wouldn't support a mere 100 heavy users... it would support 25,000 heavy users. It would very probably support a quarter million normal users at a much more generous bandwidth and latency than they currently get.

            Also, you seem to be laboring under the delusion that fiber optic isn't easy to upgrade. You upgrade it like this: Open rack. Push button. Remove transceiver. Screw in new one. Push button again. Close rack. Do the same thing at the other end. Done. You can take an 'OC-48' line and put in an 'OC-192' line very easily... so if you have heavy bandwidth users, you just need to replace a couple pieces of equipment.

            On the other hand, coaxial cable has some very severe limitations -- you can't just open up a box somewhere and pull out a piece of equipment, a couple repeaters, and call it a day... you have to replace hundreds or thousands of devices to upgrade.

            Which means fiber, once it's in the ground and run out to the customer, has a vastly lower upgrade cost. Vastly. Lower.

          • by Bengie (1121981)

            A typical, medium-sized/30 floor apartment building can have 300 units in it. Are you going to run an OC-192 line to a single building?

            No, you're going to run 300 strands of fiber for about $300/kilometer, for an overall average one time fee of about $3,000 per unit. Then each unit will get it's own 1gb fiber port which will cost about $60 and supply them with a 1gb ONT for another $150, which is all part of the $3,000. Then you pay up-stream bandwidth an electrical costs from there on out. The fiber you laid will last about 40-100 years and the 1gb connection will take about 3 years to earn itself back.

            I don't understand the whole OC-4

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Keep in mind that an OC-48 line can only support 2405 megabits of traffic, or enough for about a hundred heavy users @24 megabits each. It costs what, 100K a month? 50k? maybe slightly less by now?

            The flaw in your argument is that you just said that bandwidth costs money because upstream bandwidth costs money. While true, it is, in the most classical sense, begging the question.

            If you want an equivalent comparison, the electric company is providing you with the same electrons over and over, just fluctuati

        • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:34PM (#45219307)

          But data transfer is essentially free compared to electricity, gas and water. Whether I download 1 megabyte or 500 megabytes it does not cost the ISP any more.

          I really hate to dispute this, because I'm very much against bandwidth caps and per-byte pricing models. But the fact is that the more data ISP's handle, the more switches, servers, and cables they need to install, and the more power they consume. So arguably, those who transfer lots of data cost the ISP's more money because there is a causal relationship between increased data volume and increased infrastructure costs.

          I think the better argument to make is that the Internet is like the roads - it benefits everyone in the country, even those who don't directly use it. Someone who doesn't drive nevertheless benefits from, say, a supermarket whose goods got there by road; and there are countless other examples of how someone who never sets foot out of the house benefits from roads. Similarly, even someone who doesn't have an Internet connection benefits from the lower costs of goods, greater efficiencies, more economic activity, etc, that the Internet makes possible.

          • by gregor-e (136142)
            Sure, when people actually use all the bandwidth they're paying for, ISPs have to increase their physical plant. But that bandwidth is already paid for. When I sign up for 10 mbps down / 5 mbps up, that's what I'm buying. I should have a reasonable expectation of being able to receive or send that many bits every second from any data provider I wish, at any time I wish. When an ISP balks at the bandwidth needed to supply its customers with the multiple simultaneous Netflix feeds their contract says they
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Would you really be happier if no ISPs ever oversold their services and they sold you exactly how much you would get?

              Instead of 10/5 you'd get 1/0.5 because that's what they can guarantee if everyone uses their internet at the same time. When almost no one is using it, you still get 1/0.5 because the ISP needs to keep that bandwidth ready for the other people that might us it at any time.

              Yeah I don't like being lied to either. But we all know how it works. We all know that we aren't going to get the adve

            • You CAN buy 10 Mbps dedicated. It costs about $500 / month. The standard model for residential is that you load a page, using the bandwidth for one second, then your neighbor uses it for a second or two, etc. An hour later, you're watching TV and a different neighbor is using the bandwidth. Since you're sharing the bandwidth, you share the cost.

              I have dedicated bandwidth that I don't share. I pay over $1,200 / month. You can do the same.
               

          • by lorenlal (164133)

            Fair enough it's like roads. It's also just like roads in that many of these companies have received subsidies to lay down their infrastructure too right? They're happily taking those payments to string out the last mile to a bunch of people still? I guess I'd be more sympathetic if I felt like us, as users, were using so much bandwidth that they weren't able to make a profit, or pay their workers. I also would be more sympathetic if the pricing they suggested didn't feel like it was a straight cash gra

          • by stox (131684) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @09:22PM (#45219599) Homepage

            I am afraid you are quite wrong, the issue is PEAK volume, not total. All of the infrastructure costs relate to the peak data flow the ISP is handing. The only costs which correlate to total volume are peering relationships. That is such a small fraction of the total cost that it is not worth considering.

    • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:28PM (#45218733)
      The end is near my ass. I'm in Los Angeles and I still only have one option for broadband access at any reasonable speed -- and it's Time Warner Cable. The end is nowhere near until we somehow break the monopolistic (or duopolistic) stranglehold these bastards enjoy in any given market. Apparently this stranglehold is in large part perpetuated by political deals these ISPs have made with local government (e.g., the City of Los Angeles) wherein the city gets kickbacks from the ISP for rights of way, etc. Because local governments are dependent on these kickbacks to support their budget, there is no competition. It's a form of payola.
      • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:45PM (#45218905) Homepage Journal

        I'd say the monopolies need to end. They were granted at the time to encourage investment (ha!) and a return on for the rolling out of services. We are a decade past this in much of the urban landscape, but they actually want caps on these pokey little connections they have deigned to give us. Fibre Optic is nearing doorsteps, finally, in my neighborhood and all they have to offer is 24Mbs... Really. That's the best you can do AT&T? This doesn't sound like investment, it stinks like milking a geriatric cow.

        • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:18PM (#45219181)

          I'd say the monopolies need to end.

          Since the FCC seems to be the source of all these problems, we need to bypass them and form a wireless citizen-based infrastructure. Because the FCC won't take kindly to being shut out and unable to excercise regulatory control over it, it will have to be resistant to triangulation.

          Fortunately, our military has already provided the path to this future; The communications systems onboard our stealth bombers. They use ultra wide band transmitters (UWB) and rapid frequency hopping technology on the order of around 300,000 times a second. By syncronizing a pair of PRNGs (Pseudo Random Number Generator), you can create a symbol matrix that adds +1 or -1 to the digital signal; effectively an XOR mask. The reconstructed signal can then operate at near the noise floor, and without knowing the PRNG seed, you will only get a lot of multiple-source noise -- there's no way to separate out individual very low power emissions and source them out. This is how GPS operates. Combine software defined radio with a bunch of FPGAs for front-end processing and you've got yourself a wireless digital transmitter suitable for use in a citizen-based mesh network.

          Now, is unregulated wireless a good idea? No. It's a very bad idea. But if you weigh out the costs of allowing businesses to dictate terms to the FCC, who has totally lost their way with regard to their primary mission: Serving the people, with the costs of raising the noise floor by a not inconsiderable degree and potentially impacting wireless services worldwide... I think a substantial and growing minority would agree this may be the only way to solve all these problems of internet surveillance, privacy, and corporate control of most of our natural resources (which includes the EM spectrum).

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            Dude you can do a citizen based network with good old consumer routers and gear, we did it a decade ago before the telcos lobbied to make it illegal.

            I had 10mbps links all over town with our community Wifi project before Comcast found out and had the city make it illegal due to the Franchise Agreement calling it "competition" and we would have to pay $25,000 a year in fees. to the city.

            • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @09:33PM (#45219657)

              Dude you can do a citizen based network with good old consumer routers and gear, we did it a decade ago before the telcos lobbied to make it illegal.

              Which is exactly why you need equipment that resists triangulation. And this equipment needs to be expensive. Prohibitively so. Right now, the state of the art is that UWB + rapid frequency shifting and some cryptography is really, really, difficult to triangulate. As a happy side-effect, it's also difficult to jam, and those two factors are why we have poured hundreds of millions into a unified wireless communications system for our military.

              Now, we don't need that level of technology for it to be a sufficient deterrent to all but a high level organization like the NSA. And frankly, the NSA has better things to do than track down tens to hundreds of thousands of pirate radios. The goal wouldn't be to prevent detection, but just to make it so cost prohibitive that it would be impractical to shut down.

              That can be done for only a few million in R&D costs... and the units themselves could be produced for about $350 apiece, lower if you can find someone to mass produce it.

        • How do you propose to end what's a natural monopoly: last-mile utilities to the premises? Let a half-dozen competing companies each dig up the street in front of your house every time they want to lay some cable?

          An alternative could be to have competition at the service level, but turn the last-mile infrastructure into a regulated utility with capped profit margins. That's what many jurisdictions do with power: the lines to your house are owned by a regulated utility, but they are required to sell transit, so to speak, to any comers, and the market to buy power is deregulated.

      • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:51PM (#45218959)

        The end is near my ass. I'm in Los Angeles and I still only have one option for broadband access at any reasonable speed -- and it's Time Warner Cable. The end is nowhere near until we somehow break the monopolistic (or duopolistic) stranglehold these bastards enjoy in any given market. Apparently this stranglehold is in large part perpetuated by political deals these ISPs have made with local government (e.g., the City of Los Angeles) wherein the city gets kickbacks from the ISP for rights of way, etc. Because local governments are dependent on these kickbacks to support their budget, there is no competition. It's a form of payola.

        If you're in a Sonic.net [sonic.net] coverage area, check them out. I'm 6000 feet from the CO, and get 14mbit down, 1.3mbit upstream -- no monthly bandwidth caps, and their pricing includes a real analog phone line (not VoIP) with unlimited long distance. For about double the price, you can get business DSL that bonds 2 lines to give you about double the speed.

        I was getting 50mbit/10mbit from Comcast, but dropped them after moving to Sonic because once a week I'd see latency and packet loss so severe that the line was unusable.

    • by msauve (701917)
      I would have no real problem with usage based pricing, as long as it was relative, not absolute.

      i.e. priced in comparison to other users (you can argue whether median or mean makes more sense) - so maybe there are 4 tiers, <25% of average, 25%-average, average-400%, and 400%+ of average.

      That way, tiers get automatically adjusted to follow average Internet usage. And do it on a rolling average basis, across at least 3 months.

      The unfairness of flat rate pricing is that those who don't suck bandwidth are
    • Bandwidth is the rate at which data is delivered (which can affect the total data transferred in a given time slot if you reach the bandwidth saturation point). E.g. 50Mbits/s offers greater bandwidth than 10Mbits/s.

      Data usage caps is what these ISPs are talking about. This is the default practice in Australia and it works just fine. You pay more money for more data transferred each month. E.g. You pay $50 for 150GB of data transfer each month and another person pays $80 for 300GB data transfer each month.

      I

      • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @10:17PM (#45219879) Journal

        Peak bandwidth is the rate at which data is delivered. Putting a monthly cap on data transfer reduces the average monthly bandwidth but not the peak. Remember the old adage: never understimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of backup tapes. There are 2,419,200 seconds in February. Divide a 50 gigabyte cap by 2,419,200 seconds and you get an average monthly bandwidth of roughly 160kbps. About 3x dialup. Barely even broadband. Before you make fun of this math, I used to pass this much data in the 1980's, buying and aggregating new lines to meet growing real bandwidth needs as an ISP.

        90% of users never get anywhere near even this cap. So what they're trying to do is to keep the actual utilization of broadband down even below saturation of dialup would do. There are two possible reasons for this:

        • They choose not to invest in the backhaul to support the actual evolution of usage over the last 15 years, even though that backhaul is fiber and it costs them only a few hundred thousand dollars a city to upgrade their endpoints and switching to adapt to the improvements in technology that move data 100,000x faster over their backhaul.
        • They are invested in content providers who sell and deliver their streaming video time-fixed content over coax, and the content itself, advertising networks and agencies, and the established relationships involved. A transition to an all IP-based TV would be a disaster to their other assets.

        I'm willing to bet the answer is the latter, not the former.

  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:17PM (#45218641) Homepage
    Doesn't say anything about things being different for uploading, but if you are running an Internet facing video camera (or three as seen here) [komar.org] you will easily blow through that 5GByte/month bandwidth cap.

    NCTA calls is "Fair Broadband Pricing" ... for the industry perhaps?!? ;-)
  • eh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:19PM (#45218653)
    I could get behind a hybrid plan. Base cost for a base level of bandwidth. Base should cover the "long tail" of the usage curve, i.e. the least-consuming ~90% of users. Then charge per unit over that threshold. If this over comes to pass it should be paired with a requirement that providers treat all packets the same, regardless of source and destination.
    • "I could get behind a hybrid plan. Base cost for a base level of bandwidth. Base should cover the "long tail" of the usage curve, i.e. the least-consuming ~90% of users. Then charge per unit over that threshold. If this over comes to pass it should be paired with a requirement that providers treat all packets the same, regardless of source and destination."

      Bandwidth has nothing to do with usage caps. I'm already paying an outrageous premium for bandwidth that people in other "western" nations take for granted.

    • Re:eh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by geoskd (321194) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:16PM (#45219163)

      I could get behind a hybrid plan. Base cost for a base level of bandwidth. Base should cover the "long tail" of the usage curve, i.e. the least-consuming ~90% of users. Then charge per unit over that threshold. If this over comes to pass it should be paired with a requirement that providers treat all packets the same, regardless of source and destination.

      Actually, the solution is even simpler. Cut all regulation altogether, and implement a national broadband rollout whose prices are set automatically as a function of cost. Any company that complains they cant compete against government should be laughed out, and the government option guarantees a backstop against the deliberate price gouging that exists now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:26PM (#45218721)

    This is not going to work. Most software and games are moving to online distribution and many of these titles alone are over 10GB in size.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:27PM (#45218727)

    Some things never change.

    It's past time for municipalities throughout the country - and whole states, even - to reclaim the easements that telecommunications companies rely on unless they can start meeting some very strict (and escalating) service quality targets. Practically nobody else in the West pays as much as we do for service as poor as ours when it comes to phone, television, and Internet access. Threatening to replace them with municipal and state-run companies should put their feet to the fire. We already know that they don't compete, and in fact collude.

    The greed of these companies is boundless and they control access to infrastructure which our present and future prosperity relies on. No more games. They will continue to tighten the screws until they are forced to stop.

    • "It's past time for municipalities throughout the country - and whole states, even - to reclaim the easements that telecommunications companies rely on unless they can start meeting some very strict (and escalating) service quality targets."

      I wouldn't even say "unless". Do it anyway.

      We used to have unlimited telephone service -- locally, anyway, but that was before fiber backbones -- for a fixed low fee. And the company behind that -- Ma Bell -- made money hand over fist.

      We now have unlimited phone data plans for prices that are getting into the reasonable range.

      And now the cable companies want to start charging more? They're committing suicide if they do.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:28PM (#45218735)
    nothing about if it was the right thing to do, just: "If you don't do it soon people will won't let you do it because they'll expect unlimited Internet". No discussion of the technical need. It's pretty clear there is none, and this is just a money grab.
  • He's an idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MetricT (128876) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:30PM (#45218747) Homepage

    Bandwidth is a time sensitive commodity. It's going to be sending either a 0 or a 1 100% of the time. Instead of caps, they should think about allowing customers to volunteer to be throttled for a reduced fee.

    It's similar to an airplane ticket, in that it's worth full price, right up until the point the gate is about to close, at which point they will take any price over the marginal cost of fuel. I know many people that would be happy to let "full price" guy go first if it saved them a few bucks.

  • Typical media (Score:4, Insightful)

    by transporter_ii (986545) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:31PM (#45218757) Homepage

    It's kind of like the MP3, which was one of the first formats that the *consumer* picked out, and media companies hated. I can kind of see both sides of the metering argument, but it would be nice if the market had a say in it, rather than it being just a bunch of bastards trying to pay off congress to ram it down our throats.

  • by deathcloset (626704) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:32PM (#45218769) Journal
    To me "Bandwidth caps" means "Internet limits". To me "Internet" means "freedom of information": Anyone who can hold sand in their hand can see what I'm inferring.

    Artificial scarcity may be my least favorite of all the artificial things.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:33PM (#45218783)

    Even if you take them at their word, bandwidth is not the highest cost component of an ISP's business. It is all in the infrastructure and that is basically fixed whether you use one 1 byte or 10 terabytes.

    Over the last few years, wholesale IP transit costs have dropped 50% per year. Nowadays big ISPs are probably paying roughly $6 per terabyte. With pricing so cheap it is obvious that usage is not the driving cost.

    Source: http://www.dslprime.com/dslprime/42-d/4830-internet-transit-costs-down-50-in-last-year [dslprime.com]
    (I realize that ip transit is priced by data rate not total bytes, but all of these usage-based billing schemes are priced in bytes per month, so I did a rough conversion of the units in the source to the units comcast would use for pricing.)

    • It is all in the infrastructure and that is basically fixed whether you use one 1 byte or 10 terabytes.

      It depends.

      What you have in reality is a situation of stepped costs. Extra usage costs nothing UNTIL it reaches the point that it leaves a link in the provider's network congested. The provider than has a few choices.

      1: Try and reroute the traffic, this may help initially but it's likely just going to put the problem off into the future.
      2: Try and push the heaviest users to cut back either through throttling measures or by introducing charges for data use.
      3: Spend money on upgrading the network either by ad

  • by themushroom (197365) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:34PM (#45218795) Homepage

    which he says is good for consumers who are 'accustomed to paying for what they use'

    Such as paying $72 per month for cable despite never turning on the TV? No, sorry, my issue with this statement is that while they mean those who use more will pay more, they do not mean that those who use less will pay less.

  • by ka9dgx (72702)

    I would welcome limiting Comcast's ability to upload content to the internet. This would allow all the other content providers to blossom. 8)

  • AT&T currently caps us at 150 GB a month, so that'd lower our ISP bill to $15/month! I'm game.

    And the people who watch Netflix at full HD for 5-6 hours a day will be paying ten times as much, but hey, screw them.
  • So whenever you hear / read a press release from a corporation/industry body saying they're doing something for the best interest of the customer, just replace "customer" with "ourselves". The fact that our regulatory bodies have allowed ISP's to purchase media companies shows how broken / toothless they are. The fact that Michael Powell went from the FCC to lobbying for the very god damn companies his former office was supposed to regulate is baffling.
  • by MpVpRb (1423381) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:47PM (#45218921)

    ..as long as it's purely based on quantity used and cost to provide

    It sucks when it's used as a weapon to kill competition (Netflix) or when it's based on the type of content

  • They might put in metered usage. I was a bit surprised really when it wasn't part of the deal at the outset of broadband services.

    But then again, they might not. It's only going to take one of them to give the rest the finger and say "Unlimited internet!" and the rest will follow.

    With so much moving to internet infrastructure, I think the entire idea of metered bandwidth for home users is a little absurd. I think it would cast a very dark cloud over the internet for Americans as we all go to metered and

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:53PM (#45218963)

    What was that line you Yanks sing about "owing your soul to the company store" or something like that? Funny how the rest of the civilised world has ZERO issue with the provision of broadband without data caps. And yet, you Yanks suffer the dribble from endless shills 'proving' that unlimited Internet services can never be financially viable.

    Here's a clue, Americans. Look at other lands. If THEY can do something, so can you. The rest of us have no need to mass medicate our children, no need to mass mutilate the genitals of our male children, no need to DENY appropriate medical treatment on the basis of illness rather than wealth, and no need to allow depravities to control effective telecom monopolies so they can provide the crappiest possible service at the highest possible cost.

    Wasn't always thus. We Brits used to look upon your 'free' local telephone calls with envy, as we got stung for every minute used regardless of destination. We'd watch depictions of YOUR kids sitting on the phone for hours in the evening, thinking of how no-one could ever afford to do that in the UK. How low you Americans have sunk.

    You allow the worst kind of evil filth to place your senior politicians in their pockets. You are cretinous enough to CLAIM you have 'democracy', while formally recognising lobbyists as a legitimate class of political operatives. Only a Yank could be so spineless as to allow a 'lobbyist' to proudly bribe your President IN THE OPEN. Other nations have these filth too, that is true, but they have to operate in the shadows. Only a Yank could claim a 'lobbyist' is an acceptable part of a true democracy.

    Your media companies (including the owners of Slashdot) do NOT want the competition a free Internet offers. Unlike in other nations, the USA has a tradition of allowing criminal business cartels to create the laws under which you live. Criminality exists all over the planet, and so does bribery. Only America perverts the definition of capitalism, and formalises the process.

    The best model for the Internet is the one that has grown it to the unthinkable success it has today. And I mean UNTHINKABLE. Go look at ALL the commentary when us enthusiasts first jumped into the new web-based version of the Internet. EVERYONE said "this is a nerd paradise that is going nowhere". Microsoft was the LOUDEST critic, sinking its fortune into CDROM instead (and I know that doesn't seem to make sense- but it is absolutely true). Obviously, a few years later, MS did a 180, but only when they could no longer deny how wrong they had been.

    The Internet is unique because it is people driven. The usual filth played no part in its success at all. Now, this same filth sees the Internet like the Spanish saw the New World- as an undefended land of riches to be plundered. In America, Data Caps = 'rape', 'pillage', 'enslavement' and 'genocide'. But filth like Powell don't care, any more than the Spanish did, so long as his side gets some short term gain. To continue the analogy, it is notable that South America went historically to hell, compared to North America.

    No caps mean, if you give people CHOICE for the first time in most American States, that people will pay to use the company whose policies match their usage. No caps mean very cheap monthly services will exist with caps (and NO, that is NOT a contradiction), and somewhat more expensive services will exist where 'unlimited' means customers own level of usage, along with sane traffic management policies, will define the quality of the service. New companies will arise if existing companies become lax offering what customers want/need/expect/can be given with state-of-the-art network tech.

    More importantly, no caps mean that the tremendous level of innovation on the Internet (creating new services with new revenue streams) will continue unabated. This innovation is LOATHED by the filth by the filth that currently bribes your politicians, because it represents COMPETITION.

  • by bobstreo (1320787) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:56PM (#45218993)

    Will there be refunds of cash or bandwidth of for things like:

    1) Cached content in the ISP

    2) Banner Ads/Pop ups

    3) Promoted content by media companies (trailers/promoted music videos/anything on myspace or facebook)

    4) Content served by the Internet provider like cable tv on tablets?

  • Free Market (Score:4, Insightful)

    by emaname (1014225) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:25PM (#45219245)

    This must more of that "free market" behavior we keep hearing about.

    Notice how lobbyists always seem to have a "better idea" about how the "free market" should work.

    This is just more corporate greed. They see what appears to be lots of free activity and just can't stand it. They have to find a way to monetize it.

    This irritates me as much as the phrase "In order to serve you better..."

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @08:31PM (#45219285)

    We like consistent bills. A reliable 50 dollar a month bill is actually a lot better then a variable bill that can double or quadruple unpredictably.

    Further, most people will actually pay more under such a system. Remember, we're netflixing and youtubing etc now. Sure, the people htat just do light webbrowsing and email might pay less. But the same people tend to buy cheap internet policies already. Typically around 20 dollars a month or less. While the higher bandwidth policies are around 50 dollars a month.

    This change will screw consumers. It will mean less reliability for low bandwidth users and much higher costs for higher bandwidth users.

  • by NoKaOi (1415755) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @09:01PM (#45219485)

    Charging for usage isn't necessarily a bad thing, the question is how much they charge for usage. If they charge anywhere near what the cell phone companies are charging, then that's ridiculous. If they can deliver high speeds I can use a ton of bandwidth and get away for less than $100/mo, that seems reasonable, and then if I'm just checking email and browsing the web I should be paying around $25.

    The problem, of course, is that'll never happen. Obviously their prices for going over the caps will be ridiculous, because they want to make as much money as they can without having to spend anything upgrading their infrastructure.

    When is the government going to wise-up (yeah, I couldn't keep a straight face when I typed that) and regulate it like electric and phone?

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @01:54AM (#45220773)

    Ponder this for a moment, dear industry: When I have to pay by the byte that reaches me, I'll monitor CLOSELY what bytes I get. So I will make sure that no ad banner, no ad flash, no navigation flash, no tracking cookie, no ... you name it I won't accept that I get it. You'll see a whole new era of filtering, even and especially from people who didn't mind the ads and the nuisance so far, because until now it only gets on their nerves. With that proposed change, it gets on their wallet. And while people are willing to put up with a lot, as soon as they notice that they could save a nickel by jumping a hoop, they'll do it. And that hoop will probably be filtering software.

    I also foresee how we'll get services that do that for you, from countries that are not on the meter (and that cannot be hit with the near certain ban on such services), where they provide proxies that strip all the "unwanted" information out of the content (so it doesn't clog your pipe, something that would even with the best filters probably be unavoidable). So far such a service isn't viable, considering it would have to charge for something you can do yourself for free (if you bother at all), but with a metered line and being able to provide it fairly cheaply (which is far from impossible), this can easily take off. Not to mention that in this time and age of total surveillance the information where people surf to and when, and how long they stay there and what they do there, is money by itself.

    And now I have to wonder, is that really what you want? Customers you cannot track sensibly anymore, whose browsing habits you cannot sell, because all their traffic is going encrypted to one single IP outside the country?

    Not to mention that then customers will take a closer look at your "overhead" and wonder why 10-20% of their bandwidth is being wasted on ... on whatever the hell those "cable" connections waste it on.

  • by ruir (2709173) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @06:19AM (#45221543)
    Data caps have their places, however they have to be fair. For instance a data cap between lets say 100GB-500GB for residential user is totally fair, in 2013. Despite what people or consumers may claim, Internet, just like water, gas or electricity is a business model where costs are kept down because the global capacity available to the provider is overselled, specially to residencial customers. Both the grid and the facilities don't have the capacity to sustain everyone requesting the full capacity at full times. The capacities sold to residential customers are not guaranteed at all times, and the contract says rightly so. You want it, you pay for it, instead of 20-40 euros per month, you pay 100-1000 Euros and you get what you need if you are a medium-large business, or have specific SLA needs for instance. That is the business model despite how many times you cry and say otherwise in slashdot, don't fool yourself.

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