If You're Going To Meter Broadband, Shouldn't You At Least Make Sure The Meters Work?

from the it's-the-little-things dept

One of the things that's left out of the discussion about all these attempts to move to "metered billing" for broadband is the massive overhead increases it will put on broadband providers. In the past, with straight flat-rate plans, there wasn't much to monitor or adjust by the company (and fewer customer disputes over how much was used). But, as soon as you add in the meters, all that goes out the window -- and I'd bet the expense greatly outweighs any supposed "benefit" to the cable company.

Take, for example, Canadian cable provider Cogeco, who apparently has started offering metered billing, but whose "meters" apparently don't work. Customers are reporting very inaccurate readings on the tool provided by Cogeco for customers to watch their own bandwidth, and they're receiving usage emails from the company that don't match up with what the online tool says at all. So, now Cogeco's going to have a bunch of folks complaining, and will need to spend more time fixing its meter tool. Good decision, huh?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    slacker525600 (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 5:13am

    actually good for virus detection

    one of the best ways to notice that you have something malicious on your computer sending things out is to monitor all your traffic. If an ISP were to provide that service (say an email that shows that any time you fill out a webform all the data is being sent to both that site and russia) along with metered billing I might actually pay something for it (although probably less than I would for an unlimited bandwidth).

    I would wonder about the methodology for meters that dont work, but people arent always particularly bright about putting things in place the first time around.

     

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      batch, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 4:02pm

      Re: actually good for virus detection

      Qwest already sends you a notice if they think you have a virus, just not through email- they cut off your internet connection by forwarding all the traffic to proxy page that says something to the effect of "You might have a virus. Run some AV software and then give us a call"

      Don't know if anyone else does this or not. Just had it happen to a business customer recently who uses Qwest for their internet connectiion.

       

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    CleverName, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 5:23am

    Coming Soon to a neighborhood near you

    blocking ads == stealing the internet

    Just like going to the bathroom during commercials is stealing television

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 5:52am

    Metering blows chunks.

    As a developer, I'd be screwed with metered billing as many of my applications "phone home" to verify the authenticity, checking for updates, and any other behind the scenes internet connecting going on.

    I'm certainly not going to pay for an expensive plan just because Norton, Windows, or Adobe want to download megs of files for update packages.

    And I, for one, will challenge these plans based on my situation. No reason why anyone should have to worry about "low cost" plans only to find out they went over due to updates.

    Vista's SP2 was 350MB alone!

    BrightHouse, I triple dog dare you to install metered pricing on my broadband.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 11:29am

      Re: Metering blows chunks.

      Vista's SP2 was 350MB alone!

      I downloaded the latest patch for a game you may have heard of called World in Conflict. Yea, that patch file download was 971MB.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

      Re: Metering blows chunks.

      "As a developer, I'd be screwed with metered billing..."

      Yeah, I know what you mean. As a trucker, I get screwed with metered fuel.

       

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    Noah Buddy (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:00am

    Irony?

    Anyone else find the irony in "metered billing" paired with usage e-mails and online tools...

    Not to give anyone ideas, but if I were designing those online tools, there may be a little extra "bloat" attached to beef up the profits. Maybe even a real-time stream of how much you have used/using.

     

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    Bradley Stewart, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:07am

    Why Don't They Just Come To All Our Homes,Turn Us

    upside down and shake out all our pockets. I can understand that there are people who spend 24 hours a day downloading. Perhaps these people should be charged more than some eighty year old grandmother in the middle of a desert somewhere who all she does is download a few pictures of her grand children once and a while. But a meter? Why not just set up a simple monthly service plan system?

     

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    Nicholas Overstreet (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:17am

    Wait a minute...

    Maybe I'm confused, but isn't metered bandwidth a giant step BACKWARDS in technology?
    Maybe they should just start selling us minutes of connection time. Yeah, there yah go. 500 minutes of cable modem access time a month!
    And maybe they could use some special software to connect.
    Oh, they could mass market the software with CD's mailed out to anyone and everyone!

     

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    Techn1x, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:32am

    I'm from Australia...

    Here, in Australia, we have metered internet. It's not so bad, but we have to live with it because of our geography, so we accept it here. In America, most of your content is based within your own borders, and so it should be much cheaper there for Internet, hence you guys *probably* don't need metering.

    However, I would just like to point out that metering software does actually work (for the most part). Stupid ISP's like Telstra screw up their metering big time (and everything else), and yet they happen to be the monopoly in our country. If you choose another ISP, I can guaruntee you that the metering would work. It all just depends on who you're with.

    I really want to stress that you American's should not associate Telstra with our country - their standards are so low, and alot of us tech head's hate the company. It's just that everyone else is so stupid that they pay them money because they don't know any better.

    My 2c

     

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    jonny, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Cogeco

    I used to have Cogeco's internet service, but as soon as they announced moving to metered broadband, I left them for Teksavvy.
    Teksavvy knows how to treat their customers. Not only do they have great customer service, they are cheaper than Cogeco too. Teksavvy's got 2 plans: 200GB, and for $10 more you can get unlimited.
    Why anyone would want to go with Cogeco over Teksavvy is beyond me, but I'm guessing the majority either don't know or prefer one bill for internet and cable tv.

     

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      Adam (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 7:24am

      Re: Cogeco

      I live in the Cogeco area (I'm with Bell right now but really want to leave, probably going to go to Teksavvy based on my own research).
      We had Cogeco at work and it was the most unreliable service I've ever had. The biggest problem is that there is no other cable provider in this area at all. There is *no* competition.

       

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        zellamayzao, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re: Cogeco

        Im down here in America and I have no competition in my area. I have comcast for cable service (actually just cut the cable only have them for broadband internet) Fios isnt out my way and satellite internet is ungodly slow.

        Comcast only has one flat cap (250 gig/ up and down combined) and they have different speed tiers. 6mbs down and 16mbs down. Unless your a business and I think its like 20 or 25mbs down.

        Hopefully they will stick with these plans because they seem to be working and I usually see speeds around the 10 to 15mbs down most of the time anyway.

        Its ashame to see how backwards these companies are thinking in efforts to drive advancement and user enjoyment (read profit gaining and alienating users)

         

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    Nick, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:51am

    Another comment from Australia

    As Techn1x pointed out, metering broadband doesn't mean the world ends. Yes, broadband here is on the expensive side, but that's what you get when you spread 20 million people over a continent the size of the 48 mainland US states.

    For metered broadband that isn't atrocious you just need:
    - unmetered uploads
    - reasonably generous caps (e.g. 100 Gigabytes per month means downloading continuously at 320 kilobits per second to reach the cap, and even then you will only reach it right at the end of the month)
    - speed throttling rather than excess data charges

    That last point is important because it means your worst case scenario is a few days with a low quality internet connection that at least still lets you check email and do a bit of websurfing, even if it is useless for things like online gaming or streaming (due to the way ISP level throttling is implemented).

    So long as the caps are nice and high, metered broadband actually has the advantage of making sure the rules are clear and it eliminates the bandwidth hog problem that appears in the US with unmetered plans that still have a shared oversubscribed uplink to the rest of the internet.

     

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      Whisk33, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 12:23pm

      Re: Another comment from Australia

      "but that's what you get when you spread 20 million people over a continent the size of the 48 mainland US states."
      The population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world, although a great proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline - Wikipedia
      Perhaps I'm missing your point, but it isn't really like you guys spread out too much there... much of the area is undeveloped so it seems.

      "For metered broadband that isn't atrocious..."
      Americans are usually really concerned about our freedoms. It's always been really important to us. I'm not up on the theory and reasoning behind metering/nonmetering but limiting the consumer to only playing games on certain days when the teleco says I can is not only not what I want but definitely regressive in what goods/services are being delivered. That would be like having electric service but you could only have one room on at a time.

       

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    John Duncan Yoyo (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 7:02am

    TOO CHEAP TO METER

    This is like trying to sell water by the drop. You could do it but it isn't really worth the hassle.

    I can't wait for the first big company to walk away from the idea because it was costing them more to meter than adding more bandwidth would cost.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 12:33pm

      Re: TOO CHEAP TO METER

      This is like trying to sell water by the drop. You could do it but it isn't really worth the hassle.

      Umm, every city I've ever lived in has had metered water. Could you perhaps cite some US cities that have flat-rate water service?

       

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    ScytheNoire, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:05am

    Monopoly

    Cogeco has a monopoly in the area they are in. There's no other cable internet providers, as most of Canada has cable monopolies, and where I live, DSL is not an option, I tried. I was with TekSavvy but had to cancel because I was down to 1Mb, which is not acceptable.

    Unfortunately, DSL isn't a good option either in Canada, or at least Southern Ontario, with Bell throttling and shaping traffic for all DSL providers.

    Canada's ISP options are pathetically bad, most area's have monopolies, traffic shaping is out of control, and prices are sky high. The government is just too stupid, or too far up corporations asses, to actually care about the future of Canada.

     

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    RD, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    Error in your favor...NOT!

    "Customers are reporting very inaccurate readings on the tool provided by Cogeco for customers to watch their own bandwidth, and they're receiving usage emails from the company that don't match up with what the online tool says at all."

    and I'll bet in EVERY SINGLE CASE WITHOUT EXCEPTION, this "error" is against the customer. EVERY time, it shows MORE usage by the customer than they used, right?

    G.D. greedy scumbag ISP's

     

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    RD, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Wow!! Really??

    "...means downloading continuously at 320 kilobits per second to reach the cap.."

    320kbits per second! Holy Horseshit Batamn! Thats awesome! Its soooo much like 1997, I cant believe everyone everywhere isnt offering that!

    Seriously, you are DEFENDING this shit? They offer, effectively, 320kbps and you hold them up as some kind of paragon of this crap? This isnt progress, this isnt pro-consumer, this isnt good business. Offering speeds that would make satellite look like a viable option is NOT a good thing, sheesh.

     

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    AnonCow, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    I called Comcast to ask them how much of my 250GB cap I had used. After being transferred around for 15 minutes, I was told by a technical support person (not the standard customer support person) that they don't have any real-time usage meter that is available to any level of CSR.

    Analysis of the exceeding caps is done after the fact or in real-time by their fraud department and the info is not available to CSRs or Comcast customers.

    One simple FCC ruling would kill usage caps: "If there is a usage cap (hard or soft), the customer must be able to see their current usage (current up to last 48 hours) via the ISP website or by automated or CSR call to a ISPs customer service telephone center."

    ISPs would quickly give up their usage caps rather than face the cost and effort of creating a customer-facing near real-time usage monitoring system.

     

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      zellamayzao, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      This is Comcast we are talking about. The Customer Account Executives (CAE's) do not know how to do their job. They look at the same screen of customer info that the Tech Support person did when they looked into your account.

      They just pass you around from dept to dept when they encounter a customer with a question they dont know how to answer. They dont care they cant do their job as long as they get people to not cancel their service. They just pass you around.

      That is just ridiculous they dont make that info available to the broadband customers. I have a 3rd party meter to track my usage but still comcast should be able to tell me what I have used.

       

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    Tree Man, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    Bad Meters

    I know a guy who has been having problems with his electric meter too. He say's there's no way he's using as much as they say he is and has complained to the electric company and challenged his bill several times. They've come out and replaced his meter more than once and then supposedly checked his old meter and found no problems, but he says he's still being over billed. Now the electric company is saying that if he wants them to come out and the replace meter again and if the meter then tests out OK that they're going to actually charge him for it! Well of course the meter's going to check out OK for the electric company. It's their meter, what do you expect? That's the fox guarding the hen house!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 10:27pm

      Re: Bad Meters

      That's why all services should be flat rate. Water, electricity, internet, cell phone, all of it. You just can't trust meters. Besides, who wants to have to worry about how much it costs to leave the lights on or water the yard?

      And have you seen those stories on how the gas stations are rigging their pumps/meters too?

       

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    Archer0911, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 11:12pm

    Unwanted usage

    What about all the unwanted crap with websites, such as ads, flash apps, mouseovers, etc that will rack up more usage than u actually want/intend? granted, u could stop going to such sites, but even mainstream sites nowadays have google ads, or misc flash crap, or mouseover info for certain words. after a month, i can see that adding a noticeable amount to any metered service. may not be much, but it's still there.

     

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