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Bandwidth Hogs Don’t Exist

December 5, 2011

(or, A Decade into “Always-On” Internet.)

[This is a cross-post from my blog multicast. –CS]

We’re in a paradoxical situation. broadband Internet networks keep getting better, but service provider limits on them keep getting worse.

As of this fall AT&T U-Verse has joined my cable Internet provider, Comcast, in imposing bandwidth caps of 250 GB per month on broadband Internet customers. Cox, Time Warner, Charter, and many more ISPs are now capping. Wireless or wired (and even on new fiber), the North American broadband landscape is now one where broadband internet means limits on usage.

The caps often come with additional fees. AT&T, for example, charges $10 per 50 GB as an overage charge in addition to the cap. Comcast simply threatens to permanently drop customers who go over the cap. As many commentators have pointed out, the ISPs seem to hate their customers, particularly when the customers like to use the product the ISPs are selling.

The alleged reason for the paradox of faster networks = more use restrictions is that the carriers claim the fat pipes have birthed a mythic beast, the “bandwidth hog.” A small number of “hogs” are taking up the whole Internet, and it just isn’t fair to you, say the carriers. The networks wouldn’t need such restrictions if only people would use the Internet “responsibly.” As the former satire news service Wallstrip put it, apparently the Internet isn’t big enough for everyone. Some of you have to leave.

We know from the research literature that there is a major psychological difference between metered and unmetered service. The initial rapid growth of Internet use in the US back in the days of the dial-up modem has been attributed to our historical preference for flat-fee local telephone service: calls to modem banks in the 1990s largely unmetered, and this left people free to play and experiment.

I was a research assistant for the authors of a key paper in the area eleven years ago.  The paper analyzed the consequences of an “always-on” unmetered broadband Internet–then a new idea. It pointed out that the ways people use unmetered always-on Internet are drastically different from those of metered use. Here’s the cite:

François Bar, Stephen Cohen, Peter Cowhey, Brad Delong, Michael Kleeman, John Zysman. (2000). Access and Innovation Policy for the Third-Generation Internet. Telecommunications Policy 24: 489-518. (Link to full text.)

It’s a decade later and things are going backwards. The new caps and metering are the opposite of our hopes for the Internet eleven years ago. Instead of “always-on” we’re now at “watch your meter” — if you can even find out how to check it.

Now, reporters say that a new study by consultancy Diffraction Analysis using actual ISP user data has found that bandwidth caps don’t work to improve congestion problems and that the mythical “bandwidth hogs” don’t actually exist. (See the excellent coverage at DSLReports.)

A quote from a reader of the DSLReports piece puts the facts in terms of the highway metaphor:

1% of vehicle drivers on the road travel a disproportionate amount of miles compared to the average driver. But they are on the road all the time. Most of the time they are on the road there is no rush hour congestion.The heavy drivers are likely to be involved in rush hour traffic jams, but only represent a small, not terribly relevant, fraction of total drivers in the traffic jam. Limiting the amount of miles a driver can drive does nothing to widen the roads and little to keep people off the roads during traffic jams, thus does not help with congestion.

In other words, given the weak correlation between a person’s bandwidth usage right now and a person’s total bits downloaded in a month, metering obviously targets the wrong thing and is not an effective tool for managing congestion.

To refine the highway metaphor a little bit, I would explain why bandwidth caps don’t work by saying:

Commuters cause traffic jams at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. even if they only drive twice a day. Restricting the career travel of long-haul truckers won’t help.

Why do ISPs do it then? One answer is possibly incompetence. A variety of broadband carriers appear to struggle with the accurate tracking of consumer usage. They advocate metering but when they implement it they are unable to correctly measure how much data their customers use. They just don’t seem to have a grasp of what is going on inside their own networks.

However, surely many ISPs are aware of their own customer’s usage patterns. They know that “bandwidth hogs” don’t exist.  What, then, are they up to?

A much better motive for metering and caps in the case of triple-play operators (those who provide Internet and also provide pay television) is to protect their lucrative market for video from encroachment by Internet video competition.

In other words, Comcast has monopoly power in cable television in many markets. It has set its 250 GB/month cap so that it is impossible to buy television over its Internet service (take that, Netflix!) or to use free Internet video services in lieu of cable TV (take that, YouTube!), thus maintaining its monopoly in video. By the way, that is the definition of a violation of antitrust law. Hello, Justice Department?

The caps often don’t seem to have any connection to bandwidth anyway–at Comcast they were set at 250GB three years ago and have never been raised, despite drastic increases in Comcast service capacity with the adoption of newer DOCSIS 3.0 service and higher speed tiers. They also use the same caps across all of their service areas, which makes no sense if they are related to network capacity (which varies according to their adoption of DOCSIS 3.0, and other things).

It isn’t as though customers haven’t noticed this situation. Did you know that media companies–particularly carriers and networks–are almost all the most hated companies in national surveys of customer satisfaction? In one 2011 study, Internet service providers as a sector almost tied for last place (with newspapers), with Comcast dead last among its competitors at 59% satisfied.

It’s time to call out this farce of the “bandwidth hog” and the irresponsible user. Instead, let’s get some policies in place to control money hogs–the carriers that are exploiting monopoly power at our expense.

 

[This post was cross-posted to the social media collective. –CS]

39 Comments leave one →
  1. lorry driver permalink
    December 7, 2011 7:59 am

    What about looking at it this way?
    You have a battle tank trundling along the highway taking up 2 lanes and going at 5mph at rush hour and not turning off until the end of the highway. Will taking that battle tank off the road help alleviate the congestion? Heavy users use more of the available capacity rather than regular users whose usage is pretty bursty.

    • Christian Sandvig permalink
      December 7, 2011 10:50 am

      As I read it the point of the study was actually the opposite, lorry driver. Congestion is the only period that matters and the authors claim that allocation becomes more fair as traffic increases. Clearly our analogies are failing, but I guess the study would say that your battle tank takes up 1/10000000th of a lane during traffic jams — less than during uncongested driving, and passing an odometer limit on battle tank driving won’t do much to alleviate the traffic jam.

    • thoiness permalink
      December 7, 2011 11:27 am

      Here’s the thing:

      If they sell a 100Mbps service, then they should be technology prepared to offer that speed guaranteed over the course of the month without a cap (within reason, of course).

      They aren’t selling us 100Mbps, they are actually selling us 250Gb / number of seconds in a month (which equates to a ridiculous low number, even if you only count it as 8 hours a day), so whether you are at 3Mbps or 300Mbps, you’re actually getting the same product and an identical level of service.

      I agree that there are people powering way too much on a non-commercial line (like mass-torrent distributors), but they have ways to curb and throttle that as well, they just choose to punish the individuals that are using it for ordinary day to day items. Coincidence? I think not.

      I am a huge fan of Netflix, Vudu, and Steam. How long with these three products do you think it takes me to get to 250GB? And am I a “bandwidth hog” for using the products built into my TV or the defacto standard gaming service for PCs?

      The writer of this blog is spot on. It has nothing to do with congestion or the lack of ability to handle the bandwidth, and it has everything to do with crushing the internet distributed video market in hopes of retaining their rapidly depleting dominance. Their disgusting rates of $80+ per month for near basic services was driving people to Netflix full time in droves. Their enforcement of bandwidth caps was simply mitigation of this fact.

      Let me tell you this, however: They can impose all the bandwidth caps they want, and I will make sure I get my money’s worth by hitting that cap if I’m short at the end of the month, even if it means opening up a torrent buffet at the end of the month. I never used to do these things regularly, but you try to deny me my right to use the bandwidth for normal uses, then I’m going to eat your bandwidth on the month end. I usually check my data usage during the last 10 days of the month for the sole purpose of doing this.

      • Christian Sandvig permalink
        December 7, 2011 11:52 am

        Nicely put. I just checked: at my current cable modem speed tier, given my actual download performance right now (not my advertised speed) I will exhaust my monthly Comcast bandwidth cap in 13 hours of continuous downloading. Christian

  2. Dennis permalink
    December 7, 2011 8:03 am

    I wonder if this applies to Comcast business customers?

    BTW, It’s cheaper to get Comcast business if you do not use their TV channels.

    • thoiness permalink
      December 7, 2011 11:30 am

      It does not apply to Comcast business.

  3. Izzy permalink
    December 7, 2011 8:44 am

    Traffic is such an inadequate bandwidth analog. The metaphor only works if your hypothetical car stretches from the origin to the destination and swells or shrinks based on the amount of data consumed.

    You’re right. I don’t care about your fat car being on the road if I can get around it. If a bunch of fat cars are stretched across my route such that I can’t get through, I’m going to be pissed!

    You are also right that ISPs don’t always know what is going on with every user on their network, but calling this incompetence is hot air from the armchair. It is not as simple as you make out.

    So, what is wrong with a usage discouraging technique that works with the majority of the infrastructure?

    Bandwidth caps are psychological and do work. They are the same everywhere to hold up a veil of fairness and to make accounting easy.

    Judging 2011 Internet usage based on 2001 data is ridiculous. Tha bandwidth hogs article calls the hog a myth after reviewing only one mid size ISP who bothered to respond to his challenge. This boat is full of holes and is only floating because you are telling consumers what they want to hear.

    • Christian Sandvig permalink
      December 7, 2011 11:02 am

      I didn’t say tracking what is going on inside the network is easy to do. I’m sorry if I gave that impression. However, the links I posted were examples of Bell Canada and others insisting on metering, then overcharging based on faulty meters, which I called “incompetence.” You said this was “hot air from the armchair.” I’ll give you another word for it if you like — it’s a “felony” where I live to knowingly operate a measurement device such that it overcharges customers.

      Regarding the age of the data, that certainly could be a fair point — I’d love to see some other data to rebut this study. But there is nothing.

      I completely agree that road traffic is a poor metaphor.

  4. xapp permalink
    December 7, 2011 9:36 am

    Check out OpenMedia.ca. We had a similar thing happen in Canada and it was stopped by a grassroots drive. They have a good set of articles from arguments against metered billing, analysis of corporate statements etc.

    We (supporters of the ‘Stop the meter’ campaign) were successful in stopping (at least for now) the CRTC from legislating mandatory metered billing for all ISPs.

    Good luck!

  5. lm10001 permalink
    December 7, 2011 9:40 am

    Wrong… this is a smokescreen. Cable Providers are loosing money hand over fist. No one buys their bundles any more. Phone service is free over the internet through several VOIP services. But the kicker is … no one’s watching much TV any more. The news is a dose of daily prol-diet and the shows are on hulu a few days later. They just need more cash and they forsee themselves to be the blockbusters of the next decade. This will usher in the rise of the wireless internet providers who seeing an opportunity for market share won’t cap usage.

    • Christian Sandvig permalink
      December 7, 2011 11:07 am

      “Cable providers are losing money hand over fist” — what are you talking about? All of the companies I mentioned are profitable except Charter. Comcast’s profits, the company I mentioned most, are up last quarter.

      “No one’s watching much TV anymore” — the Nielsens continue to show video viewing in the US is increasing (the trend for a few years now), although viewing is still shifting from TV sets onto new platforms, like computers.

  6. Philip Oakley permalink
    December 7, 2011 9:52 am

    The traffic analogy also suffers from not understanding how the effects build up – that is queueing theory – Here in UK the traffic flow so much better when the Schools have a holiday. But that is because the slight reduction in traffic from say 98% capacity to 95% capacity, means that we have more than doubled the spare capacity for clearing queues (from 2% to 5%), so all the bunching and queueing at traffic lights clears so much quicker.

    Within that this is a contention rate issue. I can see our local internet slow in the evenings when many people are trying to share the main trunk’s bandwidth.

    Here in the UK 35GB/month is more of a pay limit, with some providers offering basic service at 10Gb/month limits!

    That’s not to say that the big corporates aren’t managing their investment strategies ;-) !

    • Christian Sandvig permalink
      December 7, 2011 11:11 am

      Philip thank you for this thoughtful post. I am intuitively convinced by Benoit Felten’s claim that it is disingenuous to emphasize that the few hog more bits than the many because monthly total usage is weakly correlated with use at any given moment, like a congestion event. But I wish I had access to the study, or even better — some recent data that speak to this question so that we could sort out what is going on in these networks. Christian

  7. Ralph Mack permalink
    December 7, 2011 10:50 am

    What we’re seeing is a complete shift in their business that the cable companies need to adjust to. Beyond the biological reach of a human voice, communication is the network. Radio, television, telephone, two cans and a string :) are all strategies for various kinds of communication. The network can carry and mingle everything more flexibly than any of them. A cellphone is a 3G/4G terminal with adequate audio.

    The obvious conclusion for the cable companies should be that they offer only one service that really matters – the most reliable delivery of generalized packet-switched data – and that they will be in competition – on reliability, bandwidth, and latency – with every other channel that can carry it. Yet in my experience with them over the past decade, they have been resistant to the notion that their business has transformed from an entertainment service to a public utility, “the other wire” as vital to life as electricity.

    Electricity is metered but not restricted. You pay by the kilowatt-hour. Your limits are determined by the size of the “pipe” coming into your home. You have peak and off-peak rates. I don’t see why this model would work any worse for data. (Of course, the corollary involves public regulation of rates, close public scrutiny of infrastructure, and the expectation of near-perfect service levels under nearly all environmental conditions.)

    What the cable companies are doing is an entirely different sort of metering, though. It is designed to be punitive, to produce fear of certain kinds of usage. The notion that they are protecting their television service may or may not be true but it isn’t implausible. When Enron played games with the supply of electricity in California for corporate advantage, we were shocked. In a public utility, allowing business strategy to interfere with service is a breach of social contract. It isn’t acceptable.

    • David I. McIntosh permalink
      December 7, 2011 10:26 pm

      Ralph: Electricity is NOT an analogous commodity. There is a huge, vital difference: when you buy electricity from your utility, it costs your utility to produce the power. When you buy “bandwidth” from your ISP, it costs your ISP nothing to produce the data you get.

      Christian: there IS a very good analogy that you can present, an analogy which is correct. Suppose we all lived beside a large lake, and everyone needed a supply of untreated water from the lake, say for cooling or irrigation. Suppose there was a company whose service was to provide piping from the lake to households, so that households could draw untreated water from the lake. This company would just provide the pipes to the lake, not the pumps to pump the water, nothing but interconnected pipes to the lake. This is the correct analogy. “Bandwidth” is then the SIZE of the pipe you get this company to provide you, the “total data” is then the total volume of water you use. The analogy is almost exact. With this in mind, we see that “bandwidth caps”, or more specifically, charging for data above a certain limit, is analogous to this water company now metering your water intake and charging you for the amount of water you draw through the pipe they provide you with, even though they do not own the water, do not produce the water, and there is little increase in cost to them if you draw a lot of water. The only cost to the company is in the SIZE of the pipe they give you, NOT in the amount of water you draw through the pipe. This is NOT the same as paying for municipal water. Again, the difference is that municipal water is treated – there is a cost to produce the product you are buying, the treated water, so it is reasonable to meter the water and charge you on the volume of water you use. These are the key ideas that people don’t seem to understand: bandwidth is the size of the pipe, data volume is the amount of untreated, no-cost water you draw through the pipe.

      (To get in to nitty-gritty detail, there is SOME cost to the company providing the pipes dependent on the amount of water you draw: if the company provides piping to 100 houses, and if the 100 houses do not draw continuously, then the company’s main trunk pipe, off which individual house pipes are drawn, does not have to be 100 times the size of the individual house pipes. The main trunk pipe only has to be large enough to supply full flow to the average total number of pipes that are on at peak usage hours, plus some extra room for error. But the analogy here holds up perfectly.)

      In essence then, the owners of the “last mile” of copper, have a monopoly on providing you with these pipes, and because of this monopoly, they want to meter the water you draw and charge you for the amount of water you draw, with the charges being completely out of proportion to the actual cost to them resulting from your total water usage. That is, don’t forget that they do not produce the water, the water does not cost them even one penny. The only thing that costs them is the piping, its size, its interconnecting joints, etc.

  8. John Oxley permalink
    December 7, 2011 11:23 am

    Your traffic analogy is quite a good one! I like it. Where metering can help is for peak and off peak times. I used to work for an ISP in Zimbabwe, 5 years ago and they implemented bandwidth caps during business hours. The reason was they had very little international bandwidth and it was very very expensive. The traffic graphs showed that usage dropped off sharply at 5pm. At 7pm, the caps were removed totally and the “hogs” could do what they do. This did cause an increase in bandwidth, but nowhere near levels during peak hours.

    I am still with this ISP and my “peak hours” cap (7am to 7pm) is 1 gig per month. However if I queue my downloads (*cough* steam games) for after 7pm I get about 3 gigs per night. Overall I’m happy with it for my home connection

    • Christian Sandvig permalink
      December 7, 2011 6:33 pm

      Moving to a peak hours model makes sense and yet that is not what carriers are doing in North America. As I wrote, I suspect the problem is the attempt to prevent their existing customer base from switching to online video.

  9. Not a Tool permalink
    December 7, 2011 12:39 pm

    WTF… not only do “bandwidth hogs” not exist, but “internet congestion” in and of itself is a myth. The fact is that congestion only exists at the ISP level where companies like Comcast refuse to add or upgrade networking equipment as their user base grows.

    For example… ISP sets up networking equipment designed to handle say 1024 simultaneous connections at say 1/3 the ISPs advertised speed to provide services to a particular area. Congestion only appears after the ISP continues routing its growing customer base through the same equipment even long after completely exceeding the capacity of the equipments design. In other words, the user base grows 2, 3 maybe even 5 times the peek capacity of the network equipment, but rather than adding new equipment or replacing old equipment with higher capacity equipment, ISPs create the myth of “internet congestion” and then use the power of media to convince the world that it must be so (after all, we heard it on the news or read about it on stupid.com). ISPs then use that so called “public knowledge” along with the power of politics, to make up excuses for throttling bandwidth speed or instituting usage limits to control what customers do over their networks, and to get laws and regulations passed that turn fiction into reality.

  10. December 7, 2011 2:11 pm

    Capping your usage is yet another profit center that the ISPs are trying to use to make money. This is all part of a very logical and predicable conclusion.

    15 years ago there were literally hundreds of smaller local ISP providers that could afford to make some great money and margins from their customer base and the demand was rapidly increasing. This meant easy access to capital because the investors all saw great growth figures, but as the market became saturated and the growth levels started to mature and level off, then the ISP playground started to get crowded.

    The first reaction was to start lowering the prices and increasing the benefits. But what more could an ISP offer being only one step away from a utility? The short-term answer came in terms of consolidation and we have gone from hundreds of ISPs down to only a handful. There were early attempts to put caps on broadband, but there were larger competitors willing to give no-cap service since they saw that as a means of growing their customer base. Now all the ISPs have essentially hit market saturation, have essentially become utility companies offering a commodity at rock-bottom prices and need now to find new revenue streams to meet the growth demands of their investors.

    Enter the the re-introduction of the cap and the excuse of bandwidth hogs.

    This is no different than the major banks wanting to introduce ATM usage charges a couple months back. They got a lot of flak from their customers, consumer rights groups, and the media and quickly did a 180 decision. If you don’t want caps, you need to do the same.

  11. Australian Coder permalink
    December 7, 2011 3:40 pm

    Wow … I need to move to the states. Australia has usage caps for the past 10 years, I personally pay $80 / month for 100GB and with the kids at home for holidays they’ve suck down 10GB / day in the first 7 days, so I’ve put the throttle on. We pay ATM usage fees too but only if we use another banks ATM.

  12. Daniel permalink
    December 7, 2011 3:52 pm

    Here in New Zealand, broadband data caps have always been a way of life – except they are typically much lower: 10GB/month to 100GB/month (where you’d be paying top dollar). If you go over that amount, you can either pay a fixed amount for every 10GB you go over, or you get throttled back to dial-up speed.

    Some plans (like the one in my flat) has a 1GB/day limit, with any excess causing the speed to drop back to 56kbps dial-up (if that). This makes one think twice before running software updates & downloads (involving 100s of MB), downloading games via Steam or similar, or streaming/downloading high-quality video. Netflix would be unthinkable. This is also the reason why the arrogance of software companies to force-feed large software updates by default (I’m looking at you, Steam) is so infuriating.

    The tragedy is that advocates for ‘improving NZ broadband’ look to the unmetred USA and South Korea as an example of what we should aim for. Suddenly introducing the data caps in the USA takes the wind out of that argument and provides the “they’re doing it too” excuse.

  13. Dennis permalink
    December 7, 2011 4:08 pm

    After the hardware is installed, what does it cost an ISP per GB? I’m thinking the cost is fixed no matter what the GB’s used.

    • Not a Tool permalink
      December 7, 2011 5:20 pm

      I get 2TB to 4TB of bandwidth per month for under $100 on servers I lease in various data-centers around the US. Surely big ISPs like Comcast get a better deal on traffic that a limited data-center

  14. December 7, 2011 5:04 pm

    I think the whole highway analogy as presented, really breaks down with the internet.

    Good internet requires both Bandwidth and Latency. Both pieces cost money.

    “Bandwidth Hogs” are really only half of the mythical beast. You can also have “Latency Hogs”, using things like Skype or on-line games. These don’t necessarily need lots of data, but moderate amounts of low-latency data.

    I don’t agree that Bandwidth Caps are “completely wrong”, but I think they are incomplete.

    I have no moral or personal objections to a reasonable “pay for use”, but that “use” needs to include both Bandwidth and Latency. Of course, there is insufficient competition for both right now, but we need to include both in the discussion.

  15. Karl permalink
    December 7, 2011 5:42 pm

    Since connecting to broadband coming back to Australia in the past 3+year all the fixed cable home service plans have had caps. The caps have grown significantly in this short period, circa 10x for the same monthly service fee, e.g. 50GB to 500GB per month.

    Interestingly, what does not seem to be discussed in this article are time based quotas. The quota has alway been split, nominally 50:50 into peak and off peak, after which bandwidth is throttled on the period where the quota is exceeded. Off peak being the period 6 – 8 hours after around midnight. Many of the torrent and data service repositories apps (or as we used to call them software packages…) facilitate off peak useage with scheduleing features.

    Even the bandwidth throttling has improved over the described period from circa 50kB/s to 128 kB/s to 256 kB/s. The 256kB/s limit presumably allows services such as VoIP to still operate.

    I can see no fundamental reason why the ISPs could not band allowances on bandwitdth further, to take into account the peaks presumably occuring at 17:00 – 21:00. I expect this is probably unnecessary as to some degree the data supply system is probably bandwidth self limiting, as there is only some much shared data that can fit through the common data pipelines.

    I suspect the North American complaints are primarily based upon lossing some earlier flexibilities. However, is not user pay and supply and demand not a key principle in this matter. After all Internet service and bandwidth is not free.

    • thoiness permalink
      December 7, 2011 5:59 pm

      We don’t experience shortages in the U.S. (at least I don’t). As a matter of fact, on average, I pay for 25Mbps and I get 37Mbps. The caps are not due to a technological shortage out here, but rather due to the increasing popularity of internet HD video (threat to the cable industry).

      So my question would be: how can an ISP solicit 100Mbps if they cap it at 13 hours continuous use. Now I’m not saying someone should max out their speed for 13 hours straight, what I am saying is think for a minute exactly what 13 hours over the course of an entire month is.

      On top of that, bandwidth caps are done by monitoring traffic either hitting your address or leaving your address (it’s a combination of inward facing traffic as well as outward facing traffic), and the ISPs measure this based on the packets being passed and sent. What does this mean? Even if you’re not using the packets (i.e. in a DOS attack), you are being dinged with those hits.

      There is so much wrong with bandwidth capping, it’s insane. I almost doubt it would hold up in court unless they could prove the intent of individuals packets (ridiculous).

      The crux of the problem is that here in America, our requirement for internet is going up, our prices are going up, and likewise the speed is going up (albeit slower than many other parts of the world), but our allowances stand still or go down.

      The demand for the internet was brought about by the cable companies that raised their cable rates through the roof in the first place, and now they want to remove that for fear internet video will cut into their already enormous profit margins?

      We are suffering from a lack of competition in the United States. Comcast is trying to own the entire entertainment industry, including the online portion of it, and I suppose if they were being reasonable and not playing games and raising rates for the same service year after year while decreasing the benefits of those services, no one would bat an eyelash. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

    • thoiness permalink
      December 7, 2011 6:10 pm

      Chew on this: With the popularity rising of online backup systems, online HD video, and the internet age as we know it making its rise to power being one of the day to day essentials in our lives, don’t you think it’s time the ISPs and phone companies started growing with the community instead of heading down the opposite direction?

      It’s like being told how many pieces of toilet paper you can use per month, even though you were sold 8 rolls.

    • thoiness permalink
      December 7, 2011 6:14 pm

      Actually, a much better analogy would be:

      Imagine you pay for all the premium channels with your cable company, and they suddenly imposed a cap on the number of hours you could watch those channels.

      Oh crap, I’m probably giving them ideas.

  16. Br.Bill permalink
    December 7, 2011 5:59 pm

    One ridiculous behavior on Comcast’s part is that they’re capping me while simultaneously offering me the ability to stream TV from their website. Giant effing hypocrites.

  17. Reed permalink
    December 7, 2011 8:05 pm

    The one part of your supposition about why the caps are really in place (to hamper acceptance of other sources of video streaming) is I think only part of the decision making process. I suspect that the really large users of bandwidth are from people using PTP services to bring down ripped DVDs.

    Many of these people are probably the most valuable potential customers for the cable companies in particular because:
    a) They are passionate consumers of video entertainment (they must be to put in the effort to download and burn the DVDs)
    b) The type of entertainment (Movies) that would be most frequently downloaded overlap with the highest profit margin services (PPV and premium channels) offered by those companies

    Additionally
    c) It goads them to see IP that they and their partners have invested so heavily in being pirated using their own networks
    d) Full fidelity DVD movies take up more bandwidth than their streaming counterparts

    It is in their own best interest to put a stop to these activities, no matter how they rationalize it.

    You would have to do a lot of streaming to run into the 250GB limits (I’d estimate that I consume about 2 hours of streaming video from Netflix or Hulu per night, and my last three months of measured usage varies between 62GB and 72GB per month. I’d need to average about 8 hours/day of streamed video to hit the 250GB limit.

    • Not a Tool permalink
      December 7, 2011 9:09 pm

      Ripped DVDs only weigh in at 200MB to 450MB each. A household would have to download 500 to 1,000 DVDs a month to hit a 250GB limit. My 2 children’s bandwidth usage from playing in virtual worlds like second life are a whole lot higher than the bandwidth they burn through on streaming movies and shows. The two of them can chew through 200GB to 300GB in a month easily. And on the months that I feel like playing… throw in all the other “normal” internet activities, 250GB per month is just not enough bandwidth for modern internet usage.

      PTP services are an excuse that is ritualistically fed to the public and has nothing to do with the real decision making process. It’s all about greed… wanting to give less services for more pay. If it weren’t so, the US wouldn’t have one of the worst internet infrastructures in the modern world and cable companies like Comcast wouldn’t be fighting technologies like FTTH in every city and town across the US that even considers it.

    • Christian Sandvig permalink
      December 8, 2011 4:48 pm

      I think those DVD figures underestimate the bandwidth consumption for video because of the shift to HD.

      I stream HD at all times. (This is possible with Netflix.) The iTunes streaming bandwidth guide estimates that a one hour streaming (MPEG compressed) HD movie is 1.5-2.25 GB. Let’s pick the low end at 1.5GB for a conservative estimate.

      Americans currently watch an average of 5 hours of video per day, according to Neilsen. (I know! FIVE HOURS! and that’s the MEAN!)

      If I am an average american video watcher who wants HD, multiply 1.5 * 5 * 30 days in a month and there’s the cap (225GB).

      And that doesn’t consider the other ways I would use bandwidth, as “Not a Tool” discussed.

  18. December 29, 2011 11:27 am

    Interesting post. The traffic analogy seems well used here. Maybe I missed this discussion already, but the analogy also implies the possibility that bandwidth caps may actually further congest or exacerbate peak time traffic, by leading those few who would use more than the allotted figures in the off-times to fall into regular use patterns, thus making rush hour more congested, not less. Or is this not a considerable possibility?

  19. April 9, 2013 2:30 am

    I’m pretty sure I have check this out exact same form of declaration in other places, it must be gaining interest with the masses.

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