We've discussed in the past how broadband bandwidth caps can slow innovation
by adding mental transaction costs to basic internet usage. People don't want to have to think about how much bandwidth any particular usage might take. They don't want to have to consider that if they click a particular link it might eat up a significant portion of their monthly allocation. There are some other issues as well. Mathew Ingram tells of his experience bumping up against bandwidth caps in Canada
, in which he couldn't figure out what had happened:
I have three teenage daughters who also download music, TV shows and so on. I figured someone had just gone a little overboard, and since it was close to the end of the month, I thought it wasn’t anything to be worried about. The next day, however, I went online and checked my usage (Rogers has an online tool that shows daily usage), and it said that I had used 121 GB more than my allotted amount for the month. In other words, I had used more than 100 GB in less than two days.
I just about spit my coffee all over the computer screen. How could I possibly have used that much? According to Rogers, I owed $181 in overage charges. Luckily there is a maximum extra levy of $50 a month (just think what it would cost if I was subject to usage-based billing).
So he felt forced to go track down what the issue was. At first (with prompting from Rogers tech support), he thought the issue might be his open WiFi, so he closed that down. He asked family members about their usage, and they all insisted they weren't doing much. However, just a few days into April, he was told that his connection had already used up the monthly allocation, leading to a second search, and the eventual discovery that one of his daughters had downloaded some TV shows, but left a file sharing program running in the background, which probably accounted for the extra bandwidth usage.
In other words, he had to become his own local area network cop, to figure out how his own network was being used and for what. Now, I'm sure some will argue this is a good thing
. They'll say that you should be responsible for understanding everything that goes through your router. And, of course, those who dislike file sharing will argue that this is a wonderful side benefit to these bandwidth caps. But, it really shows yet another pain in having bandwidth caps. It adds a lot more work to having an internet connection at home -- work that really shouldn't have to be done by someone who just wants to access the internet. Perhaps we'll end up with more sophisticated tools for people to track their home internet usage, but in the meantime, it seems a bit crazy to force everyone to be their own local area network traffic cops.