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Author Topic: Is the end of unlimited Internet near?  (Read 1511 times)
Soldier4Christ
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« on: September 03, 2008, 10:22:24 AM »

Is the end of unlimited Internet near?
Comcast, Frontier, Time Warner Cable moving toward usage caps

Last week, Comcast -- the second-largest Internet service provider in the country -- announced that starting Oct. 1 it would officially set a threshold for monthly Internet usage.

In an online announcement, the service provider said that although it already contacts residential customers who use excessive amounts of bandwidth, it had never provided a specific limit. Now, Comcast said it will amend its user agreement to say that users will be allowed 250 gigabytes of monthly usage.

The company emphasizes that its cap is generous and will only affect about 1 percent of its 14.4 million customers. Experts say these customers might include heavy gamers and those who use a significant amount of bandwidth for creating or uploading video.

But industry watchers note that Comcast's decision is indicative of a trend by Internet service providers to move toward usage-based service plans.

On Aug. 1, Frontier Communications changed its policy to define acceptable use for high-speed Internet as 5 GB per month. In June, Time Warner Cable launched a test program in Beaumont, Texas, that imposes monthly Internet usage limits of 5 GB to 40 GB on subscribers.

Because Comcast is a heavyweight in the industry, its announcement has drawn criticism and questions from broadband and telecommunications researchers.

"The biggest problem I have [is] they haven't given us any data. They've given us no proof," said Om Malik, author of "Broadbandits: Inside the $750 Billion Telecom Heist" and editor of GigaOM, a popular technology Web site. Malik said GigaOm and five other technology news sites managed by his online publishing company, Giga Omni Media, receive about two million visitors each month.

Comcast's limit is substantially higher that those established by other service providers, Malik acknowledges. But he maintains that the company's decision amounts to metered billing and, if that's the case, it should provide a tool so that consumers can monitor their own usage.

"[With] electricity companies -- and water companies -- you have the choice to monitor the electricity you are using," said Malik, drawing comparisons between Comcast and regulated public utilities that maintain the infrastructure for public services.

"If they are going to behave like a utility, shouldn't they be treated like one?" he added.

He also argued that even though a 250 GB bandwidth cap is generous in today's terms, it may not be sufficient in the future, especially as bandwidth-needy, high-definition video becomes more common.

In its announcement, Comcast said its average residential customer uses approximately 2 to 3 GB. To put its monthly limit of 250 GB in perspective, the company said that to consume that much bandwidth a customer would have to send 50 million e-mails, 62,500 songs, download 125 standard-definition movies or upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told ABCNews.com that the company has had an excessive use policy for years but has never disclosed its definition of excessive use.

When the customers would exceed the limit, he said Comcast would call to alert them. In most cases, the customer would voluntarily moderate his or her usage in response. If customers didn't cut back on usage, Comcast reserved the right to suspend service. Douglas said the only difference in the policy is that customers now know that the threshold is 250 GB per month.

He says Comcast does not provide a meter tool because free and fee-based meter tools are readily available and not necessary for 99 percent of their consumers.

Although Douglas says that the company is evaluating usage-based billing models that resemble Time Warner's trial program, he stressed that this cap is different.

"This is about protecting the 99 percent of people who don't use a massive amount of bandwidth from the small percentage that does use an extreme amount," he said.

But industry experts observe that Internet technology is advancing rapidly and the lack of good data make it difficult to prepare for the future.

"Today's bandwidth hog is tomorrow's average user," said Fred Von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit civil liberties group. If a cap had been imposed on the top 10 percent of Internet users in 1997, many Internet innovations of today would likely not exist, he said.

While Von Lohmann said that no one has the right to unlimited Internet access, developments in the industry need to be monitored.

"This is not an emergency, but it is something that needs to be carefully watched," he said.

Like Malik, Von Lohmann said the industry would benefit from increased transparency, in terms of providing data regarding customers' Internet usage. Another major issue he flagged is competition.

Comcast sells high-definition video through other parts of its business off-line. These Internet usage limits essentially handicap competitors who want to deliver similar products online, he said.

Doug Williams, an analyst with media research firm Jupiter Research, told ABCNews.com that cable operators, such as Comcast, have been and will continue to be first movers in imposing bandwidth caps because they have a more immediate need to do so.

Unlike telephone companies that also provide Internet service, cable operators use a shared distribution network. Extremely heavy use by a single connection has a negative and direct impact on other users in that area, he said.

As cable operators continue to impose these caps, telephone companies will be paying close attention to the customer response to determine if they should move in the same direction.

Williams says that for customers accustomed to a world of unlimited Internet access, these caps might not be welcome changes. As cell phone plans, long-distance telephone packages and other services move to flat-rate, unlimited approaches, this is a step in the opposite direction, he said.

"I think that's going to be something that consumers are not going to be particularly happy about. But they might not have many options for recourse," he said. "That's not going to make people happy -- especially in this economic climate."

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David_james
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2008, 11:31:00 AM »

If I understand correctly, they want to limit how long we can use internet? That isn't fair. For some people it is the only connection to the outside world.
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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2008, 11:52:00 AM »

I don't think that they are speaking of time but rather in how much bandwidth is used. In other words the more you download the more bandwidth you use. If a person is on the internet all day long using, just for example, forums and emails they would use much less bandwidth than a person that is on the internet for half a day that downloads a lot of music, videos and plays some of the very large online games. So it's not so much the time that is involved but how much activity is used.

Personally I think it is still not right as we already get charged a significant amount for broadband usage. For example a person that uses a slow dial-up usually pays less than a person that uses cable. A person that uses a slow dial-up cannot download as much as a person that uses cable. Some dial-ups can be as little as $15.00 a month yet cable can cost as much as $88.00 a month.

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nChrist
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2008, 12:19:30 AM »

I just noticed this discussion, so I'm late in getting involved. I do know that my ISP has a limit on bandwidth each month, and your choice is either to upgrade your service or lower your access speed. I haven't found a way to determine how much I use, but I doubt that I come anywhere close to their limit. I just don't do a bunch of things that result in heavy usage.

Examples:

1 - I understand that you can sign up for Internet television, and something like that would eat up a ton of bandwidth in a short period of time. I've never tried Internet television and have no desire to experiment with it. The only thing that would convince me to try this would be some kind of outstanding Christian programming that was only available on the Internet. Otherwise, I'm not interested.

2 - I know that some people do spend hours every day playing various kinds of games over the Internet. I've never tried it, so I don't have a clue about what they do. My son said that he tried a space game over the Internet once where you played the Captain of a ship. I'm sure that one would be talking about heavy sound and video, so playing games could eat up a lot of bandwidth. Again, I have no desire to try it, and I wouldn't have a clue about how this impacts other users. However, I do know that many companies make money by providing services like this.

I don't know how they define a typical (average) user these days, but I would guess that I represent a low user since text is the main thing I do. I have started collecting some audio sermons, but those file sizes are small compared to video files I've seen on GODTube. I could see where some extremely heavy users could impact available services to average or low users. They probably have to add equipment when the number of heavy users goes up, so there is obviously money involved. If the number of people using Internet Television increased dramatically, I can only assume that the ISPs would have to add equipment..

Just for curiosity, I think that I'll look for one of those meter programs to see how much bandwidth I use in a month. I do know that just being on the Internet and typing a message on a forum takes up almost nothing. If there is going to be higher prices, I would think that the heavy users should be charged extra first. I'll guess that many heavy users use 10 to 100 or more times what I use. They should pay the price increases first - not the folks at the bottom of the scale. Frankly, I don't understand why some services like television are even offered on the Internet. This doesn't sound practical, but there's a lot I don't know about. I'm probably a naive low-power user who is happy using low amounts of bandwidths.

Brother David, I doubt you would be considered a heavy bandwidth user, but I don't know what all you do on the Internet. If you play the games with the fancy audio and video hours every day, you might be getting close to heavy use. If I find a good way to measure this, I'll post about it.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2008, 12:23:15 AM by blackeyedpeas » Logged

Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2008, 08:58:24 AM »

If I find a good way to measure this, I'll post about it.

I would be interested in seeing what you find out on this.

A lot of people seem to be interested in the TV over the internet. One person told me they like it because they only have one bill as they also have there phone service that way. My oldest son had just about everything there is on the internet also. He's one that has to at least check out all the new technology for himself. His home has looked like a Best Buy store crammed into a living room at times. It usually takes a 500 page "How To Operate" just to watch TV with his system.

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nChrist
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2008, 10:30:25 AM »

Good Morning Pastor Roger!

I'll have to plead ignorance and say that I don't understand how they do things like television over the Internet. That would represent a huge transmission, and I'm sure there would be some timing issues in either storage or doing things real time. Part of my understanding problem is probably due to not having a super fast connection or one that maintains a fairly constant speed. My connection speed goes up and down, so my system uses a buffer on even the small videos at GODTube. I know that a tiny video lasting about 10 minutes might use 75 meg., so constant television would be huge. I guess that I would understand better if I had more modern equipment and the super fast connection speeds. I think that some of this stuff will have to remain a mystery to me, BUT we do have indoor plumbing.  Grin
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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2008, 10:46:36 AM »

Good morning!

Yes, that indoor plumbing is handy especially during bad and cold weather.

Even though I have fast internet and a moderately fast computer I still have problems watching TV over it. I sampled Skyangel a while back without much success. It kept cutting out on me.

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nChrist
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2008, 11:26:57 AM »

Good morning!

Yes, that indoor plumbing is handy especially during bad and cold weather.

Even though I have fast internet and a moderately fast computer I still have problems watching TV over it. I sampled Skyangel a while back without much success. It kept cutting out on me.



 Grin   Grin   YES - we love the indoor plumbing. If budgets require us giving something up, the indoor plumbing will be the last to go.

My current setup has something in Firefox or a plugin for Firefox that guesses the size of the file, tries to apply connection speed, and downloads so many seconds before starting to show the videos on GODTube. It hasn't gotten it right yet, so I have to push the replay button after all of the video is downloaded. Most of my stuff is considered to be old, slow, and obsolete now, but I plan to keep using it until it's worn out. I have looked at some computers, and it's hard to believe how much things have changed. The prices have also come way down since I bought this one. I found it hard to believe that most of the mid-range computers these days have 4 GB of ram and a 500 GB hard drive, and that includes the laptops. Someone would have to educate me about how to use this much ram, but I'm sure there are applications that use it all - maybe fancy games. It's just hard to imagine for someone like me who used DOS for many years on machines with tiny amounts of memory. I looked at the list of features on the new machines, and I honestly don't know what half of the stuff is or what it's used for. I do have a son who can explain things to me if I need to buy a computer. I do think this one is getting close to being worn out. Just think:  what comes in a modern laptop used to take up an entire building.
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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2008, 11:45:22 AM »

Just think:  what comes in a modern laptop used to take up an entire building.

Yep, I used to operate one of those in the Navy. It was a monster and didn't do all that much. Before my time with them was up we already had a smaller one that only took up a small walk-in closet to hold it and still have room for an operator to sit down.

My computer is a 2.4Ghz Celeron with 512MB of Ram compared to many that are out now it is already a dinosaur and I got it brand new about 2 yrs ago.

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