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Bandwidth Caps May Be Critical Error For Broadband Companies

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the give-a-little-get-a-little dept.

Networking 317

Technical Writing Geek writes "An Ars Technica article argues that after many years of stagnation, the US broadband landscape is finally 'primed for change'. Companies like Time Warner that decide to cap bandwidth risk being relegated to a 'broadband ghetto. Alternatives to the standard cable modem vs. DSL conundrum will come from technologies like WiMax and (eventually) the 'white space' broadband that might be offered by whoever wins the 700mhz auction. 'All of that is to say that cable and DSL won't always be the only games in town. If wireless solutions are able to deliver on their promises of high speeds with no usage limits, capped cable broadband service like Time Warner has planned is likely to be unattractive, to say the least. Instead of developing plans designed to discourage consumers from feeding at the bandwidth trough, cable companies would be better served in the long run by making investments in new technologies like DOCSIS 3.0 and the kind of infrastructure improvements necessary to meet bandwidth demands.'"

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317 comments

FP? (5, Insightful)

dosius (230542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140012)

Yeah but in these days of corporatocracy, who wants to actually provide better service to their consumers (since it's the shareholders, not the consumers, who they see as their customers), instead of just jacking up the prices and LOWERING service?

-uso.

Re:FP? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140240)

You know, you could have just put "Fr1$t P0st!!1" in the body of your message, instead of bothering to come up with something that looked vaguely like actual content.

Re:FP? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140554)

Why would they see the shareholders as their customers? They don't actually get anything if the stock price goes up unless they issue more stock.

Re:FP? (2, Insightful)

pod (1103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140654)

Au contraire.

The execs see lots of upside when the stock goes up, and lots of downside (and pressure from senior leadership and stock holders) when the stock falls. The stock price and happy share holders are utmost in many executive's minds.

Re:FP? (3, Insightful)

riseoftheindividual (1214958) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140930)

The current situation in corporate America is that management serves shareholders, not customers. Customers are secondary to shareholder needs. This has led to an outbreak of executive leadership that focuses no more than 2 quarters out. This is one of the reasons why US companies aren't as competitive globally as they used to be. Not the workforce, the management. The management goals aren't for strong long term corporate heatlh(which is what serving customers leads to), but rather, making sure they hit the numbers for the current quarter(the customers and customer service be damned).

This isn't true everywhere obviously, and where it is true it's in various degrees. This thinking has become commonplace and leads to decisions that will hurt the company down the line. But since they aren't focusing on anything beyond 2 quarters, they just don't see it.

Re:FP? (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141096)

Why would they see the shareholders as their customers? They don't actually get anything if the stock price goes up unless they issue more stock.
Because CEOs and board members tend to get fired when they screw the shareholders.

My first first post evern?! (1, Interesting)

Demogoblin (249774) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140028)

Let them try it, and let the free market decide.

Re:My first first post evern?! (3, Insightful)

amuro98 (461673) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140098)

What free market? The cable and phone companies have divided the country into their own small kingdoms, where only 1 may exist. If both my DSL and cable provider decide to be jerks and charge $100/mo for dial-up type performance, there's not a whole lot anyone can do, other than go offline. Permanently.

As the article says, wimax may be an alternative...eventually.

Re:My first first post evern?! (1)

kextyn (961845) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140370)

That's one good thing about living in a large metropolitan area. I was on Cox cable but Verizon got FiOS up and running in our apartments so I immediately switched to that. I know for a fact there are at least 3 major DSL providers in this area as well.

Re:My first first post evern?! (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140836)

There is even 3g competition coming up too. Personally, I'd rather not pay $50/month for 3g though. I just downgraded my connection at home to 768Mbps with Time Warner for $15/month. Normal surfing and skype work fine on it. I don't download much or play online games so that's good enough for me.

Re:My first first post evern?! (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141122)

Exactly. I don't think that any ISP could really offer unlimited service for too much longer. Once video on the internet goes more mainstream, and more users start to discover it, then they are going to have to limit it some how, or really start to support multicasting. It's working OK for now, because there's a large number of users who only use a very small fraction of what they could. Also, I don't see how wireless services are going to change any of this. There's way less bandwidth in the air than what can be offered on wired networks.

It's about time! (2, Interesting)

tecmec (870283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140030)

It's funny that wireless internet access would prompt such a thing though. You would think it would be easier to deliver lots of bandwidth over wires than it would be over the air.

Re:It's about time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140156)

Of course, whoever wins the 700mhz auction might decide the same thing. Where is all this change if they also have caps, or institute them after launch?

Re:It's about time! (1)

tecmec (870283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140270)

Yeah, but Sprint (who is basically the biggest player in the WiMax market in the US) is going to be operating at the 2.5GHz frequency, and they have owned that since the 90s. I think the most important influences right now will be Sprint with their "Xohm" WiMax.

Re:It's about time! (4, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140224)

Costs a lot less to toss up a couple of towers than it does to negotiate rights of way, dig trenches or erect poles, maintain a fleet of trucks and techs to go from residence to residence making connections, et al.

Re:It's about time! (2, Informative)

tecmec (870283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140346)

Yeah, but with WiMax (which is what Sprints Xohm is using), your towers only cover like 25 Km or something (sure, you can go longer), so you will need a lot of towers (more than a cellular network). And, unless I'm mistaken, you need wired infrastructure to lead to those towers (and manage all the data). The towers aren't magically connected to the internet.

Re:It's about time! (2, Interesting)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140414)

Use the cell tower model and piggyback on existing structures and existing infrastructure. Rent conduit/pole space from the telco to string a bit of fiber--expensive, sure, but a lot less costly than trying to run thousands of last-mile connections. It's not that it won't be expensive--it'll still cost a lot, but there will be significant savings over the traditional wired model.

Re:It's about time! (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140698)

How do you mean "more than a cellular network"? How far do you think cell towers are generally spaced apart? While both GSM and IS-95/CDMA2000 can use cells larger than 25km in radius, there's a limit to how far your typical half-watt cellphone can usefully transmit, especially in real world conditions with no unblocked line of sight between you and the tower.

Re:It's about time! (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141154)

Yes, but with wires, you can always upgrade to more wires, or wires that can carry more data (eg. copper to fibre optic). With wireless, once you fill up the spectrum, there's very little you can do to get more bandwidth.

Happy after nigger day! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140052)

It's kinda like the day after christmas, except on this you are really happy because the niggers will shut up.

For a few days anyways. :/

Sincerely,
CmdrNigger

Re:Happy after nigger day! (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140806)

I know I shouldn't reply to a troll - it only encourages them. But this one demonstrates what an awesome thing MLK, Jr. did and how far we've come.

The civil rights movement had to deal with millions of people with the same attitude as our Anonymous racist here, and yet it prevailed. While at one time you could be a US Senator and publicly espouse the same sentiment as CmdrIdiot here, now the racists number far fewer and can only safely spew their venom from behind a mask of anonymity. Frankly it is amazing when you consider how short a time has passed.

it's not the bandwidth caps stupid, (5, Insightful)

Scudsucker (17617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140062)

it's the lack of competition. Your consumer typically has the choice of either cable internet or DSL, or just one of the above. The FCC change in allowing telecos to lease their lines for more than bulk rates was a big part of this.

I know cable companies are supposed to be evil (2, Interesting)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140306)

but its a mighty big assumption that if they offered tiered pricing and didn't see a significant increase in their churn rate that the other guys won't also jump on the bandwagon. Hell people act as if wireless will be the holy grail of internet connectivity convienently forgetting that it is the holy grail for PHONE companies. Getting people to pay for their minutes was probably the biggest cash cow they came up with in a long time with ring tones coming right behind.

Sorry, if Time Warner puts this out and doesn't lose people you can damn well expect it elsewhere. Besides, we don't know what their real pricing model will be, it might be akin to the various levels of slow dsl I am offered by AT&T which ranges from slower than the 80s to almost tolerable - but for download only.

Re:it's not the bandwidth caps stupid, (1)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140418)

It's also that broadband ISP's didn't engineer their networks for the capacity. As neighbor hoods get more populated, contention rises and performance suffers.

Besides, I have a 20mb FiOS down stream and I *never* touch it now, but that might change in the future.

Re:it's not the bandwidth caps stupid, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140458)

The FCC change in allowing telecos to lease their lines for more than bulk rates was a big part of this.

Actually, the FCC isn't "allowing" anything. Before, they forced the telcos to lease their line at cost. Now, they've deregulated, so the telcos can charge whatever they want, and deregulation is always a good thing, amirite?

lack of competition and false advertising (1)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140748)

Lack of competition creates a slew of superficial problems - lack of choice, poor quality, high cost, little to no accountability, lack of privacy, lack of security, and so on.

One thing in particular that bugs me as when service providers sell a variety of packages, none of which actually perform as claimed. Comcast and AT&T provide broadband in my area, but having seen a variety of the different packages first hand it's clear that none of them live up to their billing. More typically, you can rely on getting service equal to the quality level in the bracket below the one you're actually paying for.

False advertising, which is flagrant in these markets, is an unfortunately common side effect of market failure due to monopolies, oligopolies and cartels.

Uh Huh (5, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140068)

Yeah, because we all know that the backbones have unlimited bandwidth...

Re:Uh Huh (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140178)

The backbone can handle more bandwidth if the providers upgraded their equipment. The media (fiber) is already in place.

Re:Uh Huh (2, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140198)

Mod parent up past the max. This is the only response such a stupid article deserves. Bandwidth doesn't magically exist free for wireless providers.

Re:Uh Huh (5, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140730)

Mod parent up past the max. This is the only response such a stupid article deserves. Bandwidth doesn't magically exist free for wireless providers.

Actually, you are wrong. It does. After all, nothing stops two neighboring wireless networks from exchanging packets directly, without going through the backbone, or relaying each others packets towards third parties. Naturally this is slower in the latency sense than going through the backbone, but that doesn't really matter for BitTorrent, streaming media, or other high bandwidth consumers.

At some point we need to get rid of this silly notation of Internet Service Providers and simply let any device act as a wireless router for any other, forming a worldwide mesh. Then again, this would be a nightmare for the control freaks who want to keep exact logs of who does what online, so it might take some time to happen.

Re:Uh Huh (3, Informative)

trainman (6872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140332)

Yeah, because we all know that the backbones have unlimited bandwidth...

Exactly. As I said in a reply to the previous article on this topic, bandwidth caps have been successfully implemented for years in Canada, and it brings a nice clarity to the product rather than receiving a letter claiming you've surpassed some mysterious "limit."

The key is ensuring the caps and packages are reasonable. I had a plan that allowed me 30GB/month. About a year ago I decided to pay $5 more a month to double my speed (to 3Mbps) and increase the cap to 60GB/month. And even as a heavy user, I'm hard pressed to burn through that entire quota (which is probably a better term than "cap").

And has applications increase the bandwidth usage, I would hope companies invest in technology to help increase these limits. So far it's happened here in Canada, I remember when the quotas first came in a few years ago, my monthly quota was 10GB. Over about a year and a half that increased to 30GB because of market demands.

What you folks need to press for down there is more power for the FCC, and hopefully some independence from Dem/Rep politics and lobby groups. A strong regulatory body to kick some corporate ass when they focus more on profit than customer service will hopefully get the investment you so deserve in network infrastructure. It's time to quit whining on slashdot to those who already agree more network infrastructure is needed and to get out there and say, "We are the people, this is what we want, no excuses, make it happen."

Re:Uh Huh (1)

dasbush (1143709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140864)

Actually, a friend of mine who used to work for Nortel and now for Alcaltel-Lucent (the division he works in was bought) told me that the only limit on bandwidth along fibre is our ability to separate the individual signals traveling along the fibre. After that, the next limitation is the speed of light.

For example, the record for data transfer is 26.5 TB/s [gizmowatch.com].

Re:Uh Huh (2, Informative)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141074)

Well yes, that and speed of switching. Your computer is not physically connected with a single fibre to the other end, there are MANY switches in the way which add latency and impose speed limitations. A *lot* has to be done to increase the capacity of our infrastructure.

Re:Uh Huh (2, Insightful)

Eivind (15695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140914)

Offcourse they don't, but one huge trunk tends to be several orders of magnitude cheaper than the thousands of thin end-subscriber-lines that feeds into it.

What do you figure cost more, wiring up 50.000 dwellings in the municipality of Stavanger with 1mbps or more to a central point, or linking Stavanger to Bergen (next larger city, 150km away) with a single high-capacity fibre-line sufficient to deal with it all?

Keep in mind that the needed capacity will NOT be 50.000 * 1mbps, (50Gbps) not even close, that would only be the case if 100% of all subscribers where using their lines 100% the ENTIRE time, which completely fails to be the case.

In practice a 10Gbps link would do it just splendidly, which is still orders of magnitude within the capacity of a -single- fibre. (yes you'd want to have atleast 2, preferably 3 fibres out of town for redundancy)

Re:Uh Huh (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140928)

yeah, they do too, its just that the government keeps it restricted because they're scared of what the unlimited communication potential could do to their hold over society. That, or something about aliens.

Re:Uh Huh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141156)

'hold over society'?

Seriously shut your retarded liberal ass up.

Don't worry, it'll get "better" (5, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140092)

Don't worry, it'll get "better". My big worry with something like this is that specific services I use will cause me to go over. Netflix watching, TiVo downloading shows, Apple TV (if I had one), etc.

Which means that they'll probably start adding exceptions. Soon your plan will be:

10 GB per month, except stuff coming from Netflix, TiVo, or Apple... you get 200 GB there. Our site(s) are unmetered, watch our ads all you want. Also, you can add any site you want to the list of exceptions for only $5 per month, but we don't have to honor that.

Re:Don't worry, it'll get "better" (1)

tecmec (870283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140192)

Actually, in the case of Sprints "Xohm", they are not going to achieve that by giving you bandwidth caps, but rather QoS. They will give higher priority to their own VoIP packets, for example. The current speculation is that if, say, Skype wanted a higher priority for its packets too, they would just have to pay Sprint. (source: IEEE Spectrum magazine)

Personaly, I like this idea better than actual caps. (and, yes, I realize that this is mostly applicable to streaming media)

Re:Don't worry, it'll get "better" (3, Interesting)

DonCaballero (960895) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140204)

But why would cable companies want you to not be able to have unlimited access to streaming and downloadable video?

Oooohhhhhhh, I see what they did there.

Re:Don't worry, it'll get "better" (2, Funny)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140206)

Ooh. I just thought of a solution to this problem. They're not talking about capping uploads, right? I'll just use that bandwidth. We'll use my newly invented HLPoIP, or High-Low-Protocol-over-IP. Here is how it works.

  1. Initiate connection as usual
  2. When it is time to download, you tell me how big the file is
  3. I send you 64 KB of data.
  4. You tell me if my guess (taken as a 64k digit binary number) is high or low
    1. If I'm right, we move on to the next block of data
    2. If I'm wrong, I alter my guess based on randomness and binary search (both efficient and crazy at the same time) based on if my guess was too high or low... and I guess again
  5. Done!

There we go. I used very little download bandwidth (assuming my computer can guess right a tiny fraction of a time, which it can't), I got my file, I swamped your server, and I used up the upstream bandwidth of everyone else on my cable link.

Imagine how much fun BitTorrent will be!

Re:Don't worry, it'll get "better" (5, Funny)

Sneftel (15416) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140390)

Hey, let's improve on that a little! We can throw out the randomness and just do deterministic binary search. The advantage of this is, you never have to send your 64k to the server! Since the server already knows what 64k number you were going to send (since it's deterministic), it can just base its answers on that, sending a stream of highs and lows, each taking one bit.

Hmm, some more specifics. The first guess is, of course, halfway through the range, and a "high" answer means "your guess was equal to or greater than the number I was thinking of". A "low" answer means "your guess was less than the number I was thinking of".

Looking good! Let's try it with a sample four bit number... say, 0110. So the server knows that your first guess will be 1000, so it sends a "low". Your next guess will be half that, 0100, which is too high, so it sends a "high". So your next guess will be 0110 (halfway between 1000 and 0100); the server responds "high" because that's equal to or greater than. Finally, your guess will be 0111, and the server sends a "low", thereby reducing the range to the only possible number, 0110. So it sends four bits: low, high, high, low. Encoding a low as 0 and a high as 1, we get... 0110

Whoopsy.

Your introduction to Information Theory has begun. :-)

Re:Don't worry, it'll get "better" (1)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140692)

# I send you 64 Kb of data.
# You tell me if my guess (taken as a 64k digit binary number) is high or low

      1. If I'm right, we move on to the next block of data
      2. If I'm wrong, I alter my guess based on randomness and binary search (both efficient and crazy at the same time) based on if my guess was too high or low... and I guess again

There we go. I used very little download bandwidth

If your guess is right 1/65536 of the time on average, and you download 1 bit to verify the guess, you'll end up downloading 64Kb for every 64Kb of data.

You can't game the system. If you are guessing correctly more often than 1/65536, that means you already know something about the data and you would not need to download the entire 64Kb.

In a nutshell, you can't use upload bandwidth in lieu of download bandwidth.

Re:Don't worry, it'll get "better" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140708)

Geez

That kinda sorta sounds like the old AOL model.

I thought we had moved away from that cr@p

Re:Don't worry, it'll get "better" (1)

Maliron (1026708) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140722)

I work for Time Warner, I'm a network engineer for Road Runner even. I can say the bandwidth capping is just a test, there are no plans at current to spread it beyond Texas. As for services being excluded from the cap (if it happens) I could totally see that. In the LA area we have what are called back bone peer agreements with several companies. YouTube for example has their normal internet access from another provider, but we have made peering agreements allowing them to have an interface that touches our backbone. As you can imagine, this gives our customers, and theirs plenty of bandwidth, without going through "the internet". There are agreements like this all over the place on the web.

They know most of us are boned (5, Insightful)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140104)

Like the RIAA and Oil companies this is the last gasp of a company that can't adapt to the changing market demand with anything that won't screw the customer. Also like the above mentioned you have little choice in the immediate, all the options being talked about are down the road ideas. So, they're going to bend the customer over and get what more money they can before they die a painful death.

Which is more profitable? Innovation or screwing the customer?

Re:They know most of us are boned (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140646)

"Which is more profitable? Innovation or screwing the customer?"

Screwing your customer could be pretty profitable, though in most countries it's also illegal. Not sure there can be much more innovation in this arena than has already taken place over the past few thousand years, but the advent of wireless communications certainly makes for interesting possibilities.

Re:They know most of us are boned (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140762)

Not sure there can be much more innovation in this arena than has already taken place over the past few thousand years, but the advent of wireless communications certainly makes for interesting possibilities.
Nonono! I said Innovation OR screwing the customer... Not innovation FOR screwing the customer

Re:They know most of us are boned (1, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140744)

Which is more profitable? Innovation or screwing the customer?
I dunno. You'd have to ask Microsoft.

Re:They know most of us are boned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141008)

If the New England Patriots have taught me anything this year, it's that you can never go wrong by cheating. (For those of you outside the US, the Patriots are an American football team from Boston that was caught cheating. They received a small fine and were allowed to proceed as normal, and have somehow managed to complete the season undefeated. Hm, I wonder how...)

In any case, the point is that innovation (in the analogy, working hard and playing fair) will never beat flat-out cheating. Why provide a better service when you can instead simply cheat and prevent there from being any competition in the first place?

The RIAA and cable companies aren't "screwing the customer" per se. What they're doing is preventing anyone else from competing. They're doing that by cheating - using various tactics that should be against the law but have instead been declared legal by the very people that are supposed to be watching them.

From this lack of competition it naturally follows that they'll screw the customer. I mean, why not? Who's preventing them?

Why bother spending money on innovation when you don't have to? Why bother improving service when there's no competition?

Why bother playing fair if the penalty for cheating doesn't outweigh the rewards?

So, take to heart the lesson the Patriots have taught us. In America, cheating is rewarded with accolades. People who are supposed to enforce the rules won't bother. After all, everyone loves a winner - even if they did have to cheat to get there.

Oligopolistic pricing (4, Insightful)

pigiron (104729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140158)

With the choice of high speed providers for most people being limited to 2 or 3 at best, we will see an oligopolistic pricing model much like that in cellular service where all providers passively collude in a price structure that maintains high profits.

totally naive (5, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140182)

Fact is, most users want a fairly modest average bandwidth, with rare bouts of high-bandwidth usage. It's only the few rare addicts and power users that want a big pipe open to their PC all the time. That's why cable has succeeded as well as it has so far -- because the basic bandwidth-sharing paradigm works for most customers, who usually just write e-mail and every two weeks or so download some MP3s from iTunes or watch a video preview of some movie. The fact that jacking the price up for the average-bandwidth power users might drive some of them away (to surely more expensive options) is not going to be a bad business decision for the cable companies, any more than it's a bad business decision for an HMO to drive its sickest patients to other insurers.

The other thing most people want is for their Internet connection to be dirt cheap. Hence the pressure on cable companies from their customers has not been towards higher and higher average capacity, but towards reliability and cheapness. My cable connection costs the same in nominal dollars now, in 2007, as it did the first day I got it, in 1997. That means its real price has fallen steeply. But the bandwidth hasn't budged. If anything, it's worse. That's not because the cable company is stupid, contra this naive article, but because those have been the priorities of my neighbors signing up for the service. The fact that the cable company has made a huge pile of money operating as they have is the surest evidence that they know what they're doing, business-wise.

Will that change in the future? Will people start wanting to stream HD movies over the Internet? Got me. Maybe. But the demand for enormous bandwidth has been predicted to be Right Around The Corner(TM) every year for the last 12 years in my experience. That wouldn't inspire me to invest my retirement funds in any big pipe to every desktop tech.

Re:totally naive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140546)

This is just not true. You have no idea what is going on.

I look at what the up-and-coming generation is doing on the Net and they are using massive amounts of bandwidth because they are used to high-speed connections from the start. Just normal typical usage of the typical teenager can run over the bandwidth caps. I see it happening all the time. I'm not including pirating/warez here; I'm talking about legal stuff.

Re:totally naive (5, Insightful)

div_2n (525075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140714)

the demand for enormous bandwidth has been predicted to be Right Around The Corner(TM) every year for the last 12 years in my experience

I think that if Bittorrent has taught us anything, it's that when content is available (either legal or otherwise) that people want, they WILL saturate their pipe to get it as soon as they can.

I sincerely think that this is a chicken and egg scenario where the demand _would_ be there if the content owners would get over themselves and work with tech companies to meld content and technology in an inexpensive and unrestricted manner.

The past decade has proven so many lessons that organizations like the MPAA and the RIAA are either unable or unwilling to learn. Sadly for them, in trying to be a damn in the path of the river, they are quickly becoming a bump in the road slowly being pound level to the pavement.

The saddest part of all is that we could all be enjoying inexpensive access to music and video content legally _right now_ with those organizations profiting instead of this stalemate we're in where we can last forever while those relying on profit cannot.

There's your corner and while I can't possibly predict how long it will take for us to get around that corner, rest assured that we will and then you will see demand skyrocket.

Re:totally naive (1)

nixman99 (518480) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140758)

Fact is, most users want a fairly modest average bandwidth, with rare bouts of high-bandwidth usage.

Exactly. Here in the UK, my ISP offers three broadband plans, all at 8 Mbps. If you just use the Internet to send email, browse, and occasionally download a movie trailer or MP3s, sign up for 5 Gbyte/month. If you download more, sign up for 8. And if you're addicted to porn, sign up for unlimited.

The point is, you pay more if you use more. "Light" users still get great speeds, and pay less. I'm surprised the US hasn't moved to this strategy before now.

Re:totally naive (0, Flamebait)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141142)

I'll pay my fair share for data transfer, when one-email-a-month granny pays her fair share for health care. [/grumpy]

Re:totally naive (2, Informative)

spotter (5662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140880)

Eh. I don't know what your experience is, but since 2001, my cable modem w/ time warner has been about $42.

However, in that time, the downstream bandwidth cap went from 5Mbps to 7Mbps to 10Mbps (albiet upstream only went from 384Kbps to 512)

However, $42 dollars in 2001, is only about $36-$37 today, that's not a steep fall. (per http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/ [measuringworth.com])

So I would say the average NY'er experience have been the exact opposite of yours (more bandwidth, while prices haven't fallen (in "real" dollars) steeply.

Re:totally naive (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141030)

My cable connection costs the same in nominal dollars now, in 2007, as it did the first day I got it, in 1997. That means its real price has fallen steeply. But the bandwidth hasn't budged. If anything, it's worse.

What a ripoff! My DSL has dropped $10/month in the last six years and gone from 768Kbps to 7Mbps. This is with Qwest, hardly your friendly neighborhood provider.

Re:totally naive (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141052)

By the way, it's 2008. Has it really been that long since you've left the basement?

ARS Technica (0, Offtopic)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140214)

I read it too. why does every front page story there need to be shunted here? Even if the larger majority of /. readers DON'T read ars, then at least we can refrain from linking >50% of the stories there. Ars has some great post-news cycle analysis of technical issues, and those deserve to be linked here (along w/ their product reviews, which are the best in the industry, IMO), but not every column in response to an industry change. There ought to be a soft cap of like 2 links a month to that site.....sigh.

Re:ARS Technica (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140808)

How is this offtopic? ARS provided analysis, we can read it on their front page as easily as we can read it here. It's a meta-commentary.

Missing quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140234)

after "ghetto" in the summary

(please mod up so that someone actually sees this!)

Article is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140254)

WiMax, cable, and DSL all deliver their bandwidth over the same Internet backbone infrastructure, i.e. a pipe to the Internet of a given bandwidth costs roughly the same regardless of how the ISP provides connectivity to the user. All of them are subject to the same bandwidth constraints.

Anybody who says they're not considering caps is a liar. Wonder what the Verizon flack would have said if challenged on their cellular data plan caps?)

Transfer Cap, not bandwidth cap, right? (5, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140264)

Even going with the horrible misdefinition of "bandwidth" to mean "throughput", that isn't what this article is talking about. All high-speed connections have a throughput limit, and that certainly isn't measured in gigabytes (yet, for almost all people). It is more often in the megabits/second range, or kilobits/second for the unlucky.

This article is talking about a transfer cap, or a limit on the number of bits that can be sent in a month. 15GiB [wikipedia.org] a month doesn't have anything to do with the throughput. For example a 28.8Kbits/second modem sending for a solid month can send over 5 Gibibytes of data.

Re:Transfer Cap, not bandwidth cap, right? (1)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140608)

OT I know, but the binary mega/giga/etc have basically never ever been used for telecom throughput metrics, and there's certainly no reason to start.

Re:Transfer Cap, not bandwidth cap, right? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140766)

Yes, and you will note that I never mentioned Kibibytes/second, only Mb/sec and Kb/sec, but I did use gibibytes for the total transfer.

Kibi means 1024, and Kilo means 1000, and anything else is just silly, as that just leads to confusion. (Saying that Mega means "1,048,576" for computers doesn't cut it either, with megaHertz, megaflops, and such meaning 1,000,000 of something)

Re:Transfer Cap, not bandwidth cap, right? (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140826)

Try telling that to most of the ISPs. They say "bandwidth" a lot when they mean "monthly transfer limit" (although some are moving to "monthly transfer limit" now). Same for just about every host I've seen as well. Such are the many joys of letting marketing lose with Tech-speak.

I'm not optimistic. (3, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140276)

That would be nice, but the lack of real competition in television and movie phones doesn't make me particularly optimistic. The mobile phone carriers all charge virtually identical prices. Satellite and cable companies nickel and dime for every little thing.

The problem is that consumers just accept this. They'll complain, but they keep right on paying these companies. So if consumers accept this bandwidth cap all providers will start doing it.

With this general trend to charge people for every little thing how can they not do it? I guess I'm just a pessimist.

There is no 'primed for change'. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22140280)

Change or do not change. There is no 'primed.'

When WiMax or whatever comes along then we will have change. The new whatevers will be good for both the early adopters and those that will get better terms for DSL and cable. If the market doesn't want caps. They won't get caps. As far a I'm concerned a published cap with teirs is better than the double-secret crap people are getting from comcast and others.

As far as primed goes, Wimax and whitespace whatevers are the DNF of networking until they deliver to the street. All the promises mean nothing. When the promises end, the competition can begin.

Wishful thinking (4, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140296)

The power of DOCSIS 3 is not that consumers will be able to utilize all their bandwidth for downloading from the internet at large. Rather, it will be used internally by the cable companies for HD video on demand.

In the DSL arena there is ADSL2+ and VDSL which have lower absolute bandwith but that bandwidth isn't shared with your neighbors as is the case with cable so the end result is a wash aside from the distance issues with DSL.

On the wireless side of things, there is no way any service can compete with the hardwired services on speed. At some point the wireless systems have to connect to the hardwired network and that is the point where the bandwidth will be severely restricted. The telcos will treat these new providers the way they do the current CLECs.

Usage fees but not caps (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140300)

Caps would be a very poor business decision for all the reasons mentioned in the summary and more.

However metered billing on some sort of sliding scale (the more you use, the less each byte costs because the fixed costs of supporting a customer don't vary by bandwidth consumed) has the potential to be better for both the customers and the ISPs.

When ISPs charge by the byte their business interest becomes aligned with their clients' interests - the more bandwidth the clients use, the more money the ISP makes and thus the more money they can afford to invest in infrastructure which means even greater amounts of even cheaper bandwidth becomes available due to economies of scale, technology improvements, etc.

I know there are plenty of cynics out there (I am one too) who think that the ISPs would just use metered billing as a way to gouge customers rather than improve service and reduce costs - they do tend to be monopolies after all. But I don't see the current situation being sustainable (which is one reason things like network neutrality are so hot right now, with fixed pricing the only way for the ISP to make more money per customer is via tricky back-door schemes that conflict, rather than align with their customers' interests).

What is it people have against bandwidth caps? (0, Troll)

Tridus (79566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140322)

People sure do mind bandwidth caps, don't they?

They seem to mind it more then Comcast simply shaping-out certain types of traffic. They mind it more then the infamous "you used too much unlimited bandwidth, so we're cutting you off without warning" letters that used to go out.

Its really not as big a deal as either of these things. Being up front about how much traffic you're actually paying for is good. It means that when this competition appears in the market, they can offer up different pricing models. The current system of everybody paying the same rate no matter what their usage is sucks for everybody except the top 5% of users.

What I'd like to see is straight up metered usage, like power. Pay $10/month for the connection, then $0.50/GB or something. The people running BitTorrent 24/7 downloading every movie in existence will then have to pay their own way instead of paying the same rate as grandma chatting on MSN.

Its time for people to wake up and get realistic. Unlimited connections exist in very few places. What we can get instead is straightforward payment for the traffic we use, or lies and pretending to be unlimited while they actively interfere with traffic they don't like (or simply cut off people who use too much).

Re:What is it people have against bandwidth caps? (2, Interesting)

kextyn (961845) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140486)

Most people who download lots of stuff on bittorrent are already paying more than grandma on MSN. I pay extra for the highest speed I can get. Someone who isn't a geek can get the much cheaper ~$20 DSL or whatever is available. I don't believe bandwidth should be metered and charged like electricity or water. The difference between utilities and bandwidth is bandwidth is not a natural resource that may be non-renewable. If I use 4GB of bandwidth in one day that bandwidth isn't gone, it was just in use for the time I was downloading. That same bandwidth will be available to everybody else as soon as I'm done with it. And how saturated are the backbones anyway? Chances are I can max out my connection all day long and nobody else will notice.

Already an error but not apparently too costly yet (2, Interesting)

Average (648) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140342)

The quite independent cable company in this town has always had caps. 10 GB a month on the mid-range $40+ (even more if you don't want video) plan. No cutoff, but warning and overage of $2 a GB (but you can buy add'l GBs at $1 in advance).

I don't typically go over 10 GB. But, I absolutely *hate* worrying about what I've used. So, I live, just fine, on my 2.5/512 DSL line for $25 or so. I'm not even sure why it bothers me. I have no problem with PAYG cellphones.

Lots of people grumble about the caps. But, the cable company is doing just fine. Most people never hit the cap. Those who do are torn between the much-much-faster cable and the hands-off DSL. If they want cable (I'm in the deep minority who would rather have a rooftop antenna than pay $675 a year for TV that still has ads), they'll probably get a cable modem.

It's not about bandwidth from the headend to the home. They can shape that, price that, and build that out. It's about fiefdoms and petty accountants. People who won't sign off on intra-Tier 2 peering agreements because they can't make a buck on it.

How Much Is "Enough"? (4, Insightful)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140384)

Instead of developing plans designed to discourage consumers from feeding at the bandwidth trough, cable companies would be better served in the long run by making investments in new technologies like DOCSIS 3.0 and the kind of infrastructure improvements necessary to meet bandwidth demands.
When my connection could manage text, I sucked down all the text I could get. When my connection could manage images, I sucked down all the images I could get. When my connection could manage audio... OK, I'm one of the few that still buys audio. When my connection could manage 320x240 video, I sucked down all I could get of that too. Now I'm downloading HD movie trailers and full CD at a time OS images and game demos.

If the content were available, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be stopping at 1920x1080 HD video. Monitors can already handle 2560x1600 fairly commonly and all we're waiting for is someone to come up with a way to put multi-angle video in a single steam.

What's been the limiting factor throughout? Bandwidth availability. As soon as it's available (or just becoming available), someone releases their next great idea that just hadn't taken off so far because the files were too slow to download.

Cable companies can release 100mbps lines... They can up to 1gbps, 10gbp, 100gbps... And we'll come up with cool ways to use them.

That's not to imply they shouldn't invest in new technologies and keep moving forward... but "just give people more" isn't a real solution either. That more will never be enough and you'll be back in the same position.

Realizing I'm going to be mocked as the "the intertubes are a series of roads" guy... It does have a lot of parallels to the road construction argument.

To many people, most even, the answer's simple: If there's congestion, build more and bigger roads.

The thing is, all the research demonstrates that people will drive up to a given pain threshold. You reduce the amount of pain they feel... they drive more until they're back up to it. You spend a whole load of money, destroy the environment, and everyone complains just as much about how sucky traffic is.

Of course, refuse to build more roads and you very quickly get voted out of office by angry commuters who "know" the system far better than any researchers with their numbers ever could. On the internets, we call them discussion boards.

Unfortunately this sounds reasonable (2, Insightful)

trulore (1120811) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140398)

Time Warner already has caps on bandwidth where you have to pay extra to get their "Turbo" speed. Capping the total volume used per month is the next logical step. The majority of the American people (i.e. not tech-savvy Slashdot readers) only need 5gb per month and would be very happy to have a lower bill. The wireless carriers will never come close to the raw speed of modern cable. Geeks will hate wireless and the wireless companies will soon learn to hate geeks for hogging bandwidth. The wireless companies will eventually have to cap their service as well.

What is really the problem with per MB charges? (3, Insightful)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140488)

I have been on mixed line + per-MB charges since I moved to cellular broadband and my costs have gone _down_ not up. This is compared to fixed line DSL!

In a commercial environment the best way to make sure that you aren't being screwed is that the cost model reflects the services provided. E.g. if you have the services of line+bandwidth then paying something for the line and something for the bandwidth:

* Increases the incentive for the line to always be working and fast.
* Decreases the pressure to keep bit torrent queued up 25 hours a day to 'get your money's worth'.

Any sort of unlimited bandwidth plan encourages a sort of game where supplier and customer repeatedly try and screw each other over by abusing the wording of the T&Cs. So, if you manage to arrange a contract where cost and incentive are equally shared it's much harder for everyone to end up unhappy.

After all price = cost + markup. If the markup isn't acceptable then expect something to give - businesses that run at a loss can't survive for long.

As someone who has used Wireless... (3, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140498)

I spent four years on Sprint Broadband [sprintbroadband.com] a somewhat decent time ago... the neighborhood I lived in didn't have Cable Internet at the time, and Qwest recoiled in horror when I mentioned my neighborhood phone circuit was using the (then incompatible) "Integrated Pair Gain" tech. So, I wound up with Wireless.

The pluses:

  • unmetered bandwidth
  • I got my own sideband slice, so my speeds were constant (1Mbps up and down)
  • $55.00 USD per month, constant. No contract extensions were tacked on when I later added a static IP
  • lag was present enough to hamper game play in an FPS (my antenna was 33 miles away from the tower), but still fairly usable
  • when cable finally did arrive, everyone else whined about speeds bogging down at certain times of the day, while I never suffered any of that
  • Sprint stopped taking on new customers when things got full (IOW, they couldn't quite 'oversell the modems' as easily as a typical ISP could)
The minuses:
  • lag in FPS gaming. It was still playable, but tended to grate at times
  • rainstorms would degrade things a LOT (fortunately, at that time I lived in Utah, where rain was a rare thing). Sometimes an appalling mass of packets would drop during a thunderstorm, occasionally breaking connections
  • I had a 4 meter tall antenna mast on the roof with a somewhat ugly square antenna package parked atop it
  • the initial cost was $300 USD for equipment and installation

Overall though, I'd say I was very satisfied. I experienced exactly one outage the whole time, IIRC... and it was back up in less than an hour. I'm in Oregon now, so it would be kind of impractical to use it here (it tends to rain a lot), but if they can overcome the limitations that I saw as late as 2005, then more power to 'em. It was one of the most pleasant experiences overall that I ever had with any ISP. Plus, I had the exquisite pleasure of telling a Qwest sales droid to fuck off when they finally did get DSL into the neighborhood three years later (really... 256Kpbs DSL, when I already had 1Mbps both ways? Pfft! whatever...)

/P

What about ... (2)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140500)

Optical network? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiber_to_the_premises [wikipedia.org] Some countries in Asia, Europe, South America, Ocenia, Middle East and Canada already have them available in some major cities. It seems like the U.S. carriers are fairly behind in that regards. I am not sure how the regulations are setup in the U.S. and whether it allows new companies to offer FTTH (fiber to the home). Because when this is available, who is going to care about some broadband service cap?

A little perspective... (5, Informative)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140528)

You know, never fails to amaze me how people are not looking at the larger picture of "services" offered by any provider, but especially by the cable companies. FTR, I used to work in business broadband sales for a major cable player, so I've seen the industry from just after the days where cable modems got installed until the dot-com boom from the inside.

The cable companies, as we speak, are caught in a precarious situation. Several factors came into play at the same time, which has limited their ability to make huge improvements, but, if they're lucky, they might come out on top.

So history: when cable modems first arrived on the scene, in the early-to-mid 90's, the technology was largely unproven and had tremendous issues, both technically and from a service delivery perspective. Much like the early days of DSL, the cable companies were essentially forced to re-wire infrastructure that had been in place for over a decade, sometimes up to 2 decades. Because of the technical issues, many cable executives didn't see the cost-benefit ratio of rewiring tens of thousands of miles of cities to be able to provide the service.

Plus, if you know anything about cost, doing so was a multi-million dollar effort, cumulatively probably costing in the billions.

However, with the advent of the dot-com boom and other highly profitable interactive services, the cable company PHB's finally got the picture and started rewiring and running fiber for the new cable plants.

Unfortunately, this was between 95-98, just before the internet boom really got underway, and well before DSL put any pressure on them.

As such, they did a reasonable job of getting the major metropolitan areas wired for a more modern infrastructure.

However, they failed in one major respect: they didn't have a crystal ball, and most, if not all, the cable companies put in the minimum infrastructure to support digital services. They didn't, however, put in overcapacity.

Now, if you swing forward 4-7 years, its pretty obvious that the cost-differential of putting in FTTP (or at least overcapacity of fiber to the neighborhood) would have been the smart thing to do. But at the time, wth DSL being crap, and no other real competition, they missed the boat. This wasn't maliciouos. They just did what they thought would be adequate.

Now, look at cable services today. On most cable infrastructure, the highest percentage of bandwidth (out of the 1000mhz available on the plant) goes to analog TV. Those 30-50 channels take up nearly have the space, each analog channel taking 6mhz of bandwidth.

This log-gain, low-profit bandwidth hog is the biggest impediment to modern services as they reside on the existing cable facilities.

And now there's another problem in the works: how to handle changes in Digital Broadcasting, DOCSIS 3, and PacketCable services, especially with HD programming getting more and more relevant.

While DOCSIS 3 has been out for over a year now, from the insiders I know its still a bit spotty on the internal side, and since many of the operators use Cisco (who fought DOCSIS 3 tooth and nail to get their own standard), they'd love to do it but are still unsure of quality. Not only that, but at least one smaller cable operator where I know the CIO is truly looking at how to deliver everything over PacketCable (TV, Phone, Data, etc.) rather than just make the leap to DOCSIS 3.

These aren't inconsequential issues, as the decisions made now will have some serious impact on the structure of Cable services for a long time.

And finally, when you add in the cost of maintaining hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber and copper plant, along with the huge increases in programming costs to the cable companies, along with the not-insiginificant support and CPE equipment costs of moving to Digital services, DOCSIS 3, or other advanced services, its not much wonder why the cable companies are moving a bit slowly. An error in judgement now could be fatally costly over the long run.

I'd also bet the cable companies are wanting to utilize government funds to subsidize set top-boxes for analog customers in the future, if they can, although that's pure speculation on my part.

Its not as simple as it seems. Any move now would be costly, prohibitively so for many smaller cable operators. Not only that, but with the new FCC cap on market share, the biggest boys probably can't even buy out a smaller cable company that fails, and mergers wouldn't generate enough synergy or cash to buy their way out of a major mistake.

I suspect it will sort itself out over the next few years, and may even benefit consumers when its all said and done.

Bill

Its not about the consumer benefits, its about.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140544)

...how to squeeze as many dollars as they can out of the consumers pocket.

Obviously any company involved in computer technology, be it R&D or application certainly know by now how fast things change. So much so that any decent size to large size company are looking towards the future. But they need money to R&D and implement the new, where the larger the company, the more finance they need.

The way to get such finance is of course to milk what is currently implemented. For example, dialup is still being used by some companies to subsidize broadband, for certainly the bandwidth over the same two wires as DSL, dialup is way overprice. And as a last resort on DSL failure for a DSL plan, you are limited to a small number of hours dialup.

Bandwidth caps on DSL and cable are a way of milking, though its rather false advertising too, just like dialup speed (I rarely get better than 28.8k dialup even with a 56k modem (non-winmodem).

So expect previous applied technology to subsidize newer technology.

Bandwidth isn't free, you idiots (5, Informative)

realmolo (574068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140566)

See, you may be paying $50/month for an "unlimited" connection at 6 megabits/second. But guess what? 6 megabits of bandwidth costs your ISP *at least* twice that. If they aren't in a major metropolitan area, it can cost *50* times that.

Bandwidth is expensive. That's why ALL bandwidth is "shared" and "oversubscribed". There simply isn't any way to provide everyone with gobs and gobs of dedicated bandwidth. That's not how it works.

So, don't blame the cable or DSL providers. Blame the huge telcos that keep the price of bandwidth artificially high.

Re:Bandwidth isn't free, you idiots (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141004)

See, you may be paying $50/month for an "unlimited" connection at 6 megabits/second. But guess what? 6 megabits of bandwidth costs your ISP *at least* twice that.
That depends on what you factor into the costs - in the cheap-side colo datacenters dedicated 1mbps can cost just under $10/month for as much bandwidth as you can afford. That's retail and includes all the data-center overhead. Cable ISPs get to spread their overhead over their television subscription fees too, so while their infrastructure costs are higher, they also have a broader base to recover them from.

Re:Bandwidth isn't free, you idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141100)

See, you may be paying $50/month for an "unlimited" connection at 6 megabits/second. But guess what? 6 megabits of bandwidth costs your ISP *at least* twice that. If they aren't in a major metropolitan area, it can cost *50* times that.

Bandwidth is expensive. That's why ALL bandwidth is "shared" and "oversubscribed". There simply isn't any way to provide everyone with gobs and gobs of dedicated bandwidth. That's not how it works.

So, don't blame the cable or DSL providers. Blame the huge telcos that keep the price of bandwidth artificially high.
If the airline overbooks my seat in economy, I get a free upgrade to first class. I think bandwidth companies should be regulated to work the same way. Don't blame the consumer for lying to them, blame the man in the mirror.

Caps aren't the only problem (1)

rongage (237813) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140598)

Maybe I am old fashioned here, but my problem is more along the lines of the asymetrical nature of home broadband.

Last I checked, bandwidth on the open (business) market is symetrical. A DS-1 is 1.544 megabits up and down, a DS-3 is 45 megabits up and down, an OC-12 is 620 megbits up and down, my home cable internet is 6 meg up and 80 k down (it's advertised at 256k, but I have never seen it exceed 80 k). Yeah, I know - restricted to make home servers inpractical and all that baloney...

It's not like it'll cost the home broadband providers more to provide a symetrical connection!

uh...maybe i'm missing something... (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140682)

If wireless solutions are able to deliver on their promises of high speeds with no usage limits...

Ultimately every connection is a shared connection, since all customers of a given provider are sharing the same gateway to external sites. That's why unlimited usage is an issue. Providers will advertise their endpoint bandwidths, not what's available to external sites, which is what actually matters. Customers will gladly pay a premium for a 20Mbit pipe, then wonder why they still can't transfer anything from an external site at that speed.

I'm all for unlimited bandwidth plans, so long as they include a per-unit data charge. Those who use more pay more.

LOLWiMax (1)

RocketScientist (15198) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140686)

OK, so WiMax is being sold by who right now?
Nobody

Who's going to be selling it soon?
Sprint. Through their Xohm company.

So it's gonna be what?
A horrible offering with bad customer service, low availability, and an utterly nonsensical rollout plan.

I live in Kansas City, the home of Sprint. Guess where they rolled out their 1993-new wireless PCS Service? Was it in their hometown, you know, the town that gave them a huge number of tax breaks so they'd locate their world headquarters here and where all their employees live? Nope. It was in Washington DC. You know, DC, where nobody who can pay for a cell phone actually lives, they all live in the Burbs which had no coverage for a long time.

So guess where XOhm's rolling out? Oh wait, it's rolling out mostly in areas that ALREADY HAVE VERIZON FIOS. "let's see, I already have FIOS, the best intenret ever, so let me get this unreliable wireless thing that's less service instead". FAIL.

How'd that ION thing work out? FAIL.

The problem is we're relying on Sprint, a company that could dip into a vat of win and come up with a bucket of pure fail, to provide this service. I doubt you could find 3 people in their executive offices who could pour piss out of a boot with instructions on the heel.

And their marketing will fail. OK, so you know what an MVNO is right? Basically it's a company that buys cell service and resells it under another name? So like Virgin Mobile here in the US actually resells Sprint service. Sprint has the lowest rated network in the US. Virgin has the highest. AND IT'S THE SAME DAMN NETWORK.

Sprint = Fail.

Already available (2, Interesting)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140718)

I live in a rural (slowly becoming suburban) new development that doesn't have any PSTN (Phone)lines nor cable installed yet. Fortunately, my local ISP [foxvalley.net] offers a wireless solution. It works well, although unfortunately it's based on proprietary Motorola technology [wikipedia.org]. For around $60 a month I get 4Mbit down and 1Mbit up. I have a static IP, and they let my run my web/ssh server from home. I have no formal bandwidth cap, although I was told that if I exceeded 75Gigs a month they might want to talk about upgrading to a more expensive business class connection. The ISP will sell you up to 6Mbit (symmetric) connection per antenna/subscription.

I hope cable companies will make better ... (2, Interesting)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140782)

in the long run. Many years ago I worked for BBN and our group was experimenting with the first ever cable modems, that become a "Roadrunner" (still have a t-shirt). At the same time we were looking at DSL (ADSL). Both technologies had their share of problems. In case of cable modem the major issue was the fact that the bandwidth is shared among what's called "Neighborhood Area Network" (NAN), so so protocol had to be in place to insure fair share of bandwidth (as well as user's satisfaction in general). I think at that time that protocol was not the part of DOCSYS, so different vendors had their own protocols (i'm not sure if anything like that is a part of DOCSYS 3.0, or it still leaves the room for competetive advantage). But that was only one showstopper with cable modems. With ADSL things were much worse. Highly sensitive to noise on a line, distance, anything you can think of. Just read about DSL and you'll see why. The best results we had with 'rate-adaptive' modems, those that vary the rate depending on line conditions, so connection was stable, but the throughput was - BLAH. So I remember saying that seems from technical perspective cable modem technology should be more stable vs DSL. Then someone else, more experienced in business of communications that myself said: you may be right, but the cable companies are going to screw it anyway because they have no experience with broadband communications, whereas phone companies do. The guy was right, at least for a while. I still hope cable companies will take advantage of better technology/media they have in place.

(PS. My brother switched from Verizon DSL to COMCAST data over cable a few months ago. He told me the throughput is much better and the connection is stable. He got the whole enchalada from COMCAST: cable, internet connectivity, and voice. Voice is the worst part of the package. He even changed his greetings on answering machine to: "Hello! If you can't get through within the next 30 minutes, call 1-800-COMCAST and complain!")

WiMax is more expensive than standard WiFi (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140790)

In reality, based on license and usage fees, WiMax is an attempt to get people to pay for what increasingly is free Wireless access that most people have with laptops nowadays.

That said, bandwidth caps are also not a smart move, as most modern industrialized nations already have high speed Net access that is typically 2 to 10 times faster than what we have in the USA - even Canada has higher speeds.

A smart policy is to realize that more bandwith (e.g. the Comcast 160 speeds) should be pushed to give the USA a greater competitive advantage, and that bandwidth caps work to cripple our industrial and commercial competitiveness as a nation.

This will last for about 3 months (1)

RojSpencer (900292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140804)

After the first bills come in to people unknowingly hosting part of the bot net, seeing the huge charges they will get for bandwidth when they barely used their PC, and refusing to pay their $3,000 monthly bill, this will go down in the flames it deserves. It's one thing to meter the traffic going to and from a server. Grandma & Grandpa's virus infected PC being used to send thousands of spam letters every night is quite another.

Ars Technica, sloppy (2, Insightful)

Yath (6378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140858)

What a rubbish article.

It isn't a "bandwidth cap". It isn't even about bandwidth. It's about usage (at least they used the term "usage" in the title).

It isn't a "usage cap". It's tiered pricing. Your basic subscription covers a certain amount, and then you pay more. A "cap" would mean you got cut off, which you aren't.

And it isn't even the end of the world! People who use more resources pay more. Sounds pretty efficient. Now you may quibble that the specific prices they set are high due to low competition, and that's one area where Ars may have a point. But god you have to wade through a lot of crap to get there.

Will I have to pay for ads too? (1)

hemp (36945) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140956)

Will I have to pay for ads too? Or will Time Warner block them. That alone may get more people to sign up.

Why shouldn't cable raise rates when oil doubles? (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22140980)

Comca$t disappointed the analysts, but cable is still bulletproof, and with the cost of everything else doubling every year, why shouldn't they raise rates?

Re:Why shouldn't cable raise rates when oil double (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141192)

Comca$t disappointed the analysts, but cable is still bulletproof, and with the cost of everything else doubling every year, why shouldn't they raise rates?

Shhhh! Don't give those bastards any ideas! Although it probably doesn't matter anyway ... it's not like those idiots don't raise their rates several times per year anyways,...

High speed 'unlimited' wireless? (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141040)

If wireless solutions are able to deliver on their promises of high speeds with no usage limits


Okay, so we get shared wired connections and things can go slow because people are trying to use their 'unlimited' broadband. Random maths: 1GB pipe / 1000 customers != actual speed caps on accounts (which can be up to 24MBps now and 1MBps is becoming a rare bottom end).

So instead we'll all move to wireless, because that has no problems with sharing the available bandwidth/airwaves? What? Sorry, but last I checked wireless degrades worse than wired when in mass usage because of collisions. How are we going to get these super-fast speeds if we're getting interference from everyone else using their super fast speeds?
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