I need some sort of icon or whatever for “while I don’t necessarily like what you’re doing, I like the way you’re doing it.” Last week, that went to Speakeasy for giving excellent notice on its unfortunate decision to block certain phone numbers. This week, my “Tip of My Hat While Wagging My Finger” (yes, the reference Stephen Colbert is obvious) goes Cox Cable and their decision to increase the size of their bandwidth caps (new terms of service here).
I am not happy with bandwidth caps, but don’t have a position yet on regulating them unless they are so obviously limited that they appear designed to protect video revenues and fall into the antitrust/competition zone. I recognize there are advantages and disadvantages to metered pricing. In the short term, it can help bridge the gap where demand for capacity rapidly outpaces available capacity. In the longer term, it works to reduce use and innovation which has negative implications for our economy and overall digital future. It’s also not that clear that there is a good linkage to bandwidth caps and actual capacity limits, and whether bandwidth caps discourage investment in capacity by making it easier and cheaper to cap use rather than build capacity.
Still, if one must have bandwidth caps, then they need periodic review and should get upgraded as “average” use grows and as network operators make needed upgrades. So while I’m not thrilled that Cox has bandwidth caps in the first place, I’m pleased they have now upgraded them. Hopefully Comcast, which has had the same bandwidth capacity cap for a year now, will soon follow suite and upgrade its 250 GB cap.
Stay tuned . . . .
Harold, the caps are not “bandwidth” caps; they are data caps. And they make perfect sense. Many ISPs pay hundreds of dollars per megabit per second per month for their upstream connections. If users saturate those connections, especially during “prime time,” the ISP must buy more bandwidth. It then must raise rates to cover the cost of that bandwidth or go out of business.
ISPs could cap speeds instead of the amount of data uploaded or downloaded, but if they did that it would slow down light users who simply wanted a burst of speed so that a Web page would display quickly. So, some shape traffic, which means they gradually decrease the available bandwidth over time. But this frustrates users as well, because a stream may stop as the bandwidth is lowered. So, the final approach is to cap by total throughput over a long period of time — a day, a week, or a month. The number of bits is just the integral of the bandwidth used over time. This is perfectly reasonable and fair, and allows for peaks in usage.
In any event, meddling lobbyists who fight caps and other sensible restrictions on network usage seem to ignore the fact that BANDWIDTH COSTS MONEY. There’s no “bandwidth fairy” who leaves it under ISPs’ pillows overnight. If users want more, they’ll have to pay more. This isn’t anticompetitive; it’s fair and it makes good sense.
Go ahead and let ISPs place bandwidth caps, monthly byte caps, and per-source filters in place as much as they like — as long as they advertise honestly. Bandwidth must be expressed as worst-case maximum bytes/month divided by seconds/month.
So, if Comcast decides to throttle Google because Microsoft offers better kickbacks they MUST name the service “Comcast 1.7 bit/second Internet” or somesuch.
I recognize there are advantages and disadvantages to metered pricing. In the short term, it can help bridge the gap where demand for capacity rapidly outpaces available capacity. In the longer term, it works to reduce use and innovation which has negative implications for our economy and overall digital future.
What evidence is there that is hampers rather than stimulates innovation? I believe that one reason that wireless was adopted more rapidly in Europe than in the U.S. was that the wired network had metered pricing.
The widespread use of wireless by the poor throughout the world would be impossible if wireless were billed on an average-cost basis rather than on a metered basis.