Bandwidth Caps Are Deceptive

[truck with the word "Scam" on it]
Data Caps Are A Scam. We paid for big trucks, but we have to drive them nearly empty. (photo by Jean-Etienne Poirrier)
Time to revisit my post, “Dramatically Lower Bandwidth Cap” from May 30. It turns out it sparked a mini debate. I am disappointed with joetron2030’s suggestion to “leave” the offending ISP. It seems that Clear does offer uncapped service (but for how long: “… there is pretty strong language in Clear’s Acceptable Use Policy about not hogging bandwidth …“), but there are no other cap-less broadband providers where I live. And Clear is a wireless broadband which doesn’t reach into every home. But more importantly, Earthlink is the alternative ISP — that’s why I signed up with them instead of using (TimeWarner when I signed up, but now) Comcast.

joetron2030’s suggested that this may lead to tiered service. This could be a step in the right direction–but not with data caps. I understand the ISP wanting to manage the network, but they shouldn’t advertise 10+ Mb/s as the speed when we’re really only allowed 0.761 Mb/s to stay within the cap for the month.

It’s okay with me if they offer different speeds, not different caps (and they better not even think about metering per bit). With the 250 gigabyte cap, that’s a less-than-1-megabit-per-second connection. Advertising 10+ is very deceptive. With a 10-megabit-per-second connection, we’ve paid for over three thousand gigabytes per month (edit 8/3: even if it’s 5-megabit, that’s over 1,500 gigabytes per month). 250 is less than 1% of 3,000.

If ISPs really want to worry about network congestion, then they should limit the speed of the “more than 99% of customers” who stay within the 250 gigabyte cap. Otherwise those customers are bursting at high speed at random intervals. I doubt that’s good for the health of the network. It’d be better to trickle spread their data use evenly through the month. But let them know they are getting a (less than) 1 megabit connection, and charge them far less than you’re charging now.

I think the price now is still too high for the (about) 10-megabit connection, but if ISPs introduced the lower priced 1-megabit connection, then I could see them keeping the current price for the current speed (but repeal the data cap!).

Edit (8/1) with this waking thought: You should make me an ally instead trying to squeeze me out because I am an example of your future customers. Soon we’ll all stream audio and video, back up our media collections to the cloud, download apps, patches, and even OS ISOs, and other yet-to-be-thought-of innovative uses of the internet. If you want us to pick you as our ISP for this (instead of completely abandoning you, so you go out of business), then it’s time to start showing you value all 100% of your customers.

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