Bandwidth Caps Keep Getting Lower And Lower

from the don't-do-anything-useful dept

When Time Warner first announced plans to test out bandwidth caps, there was some talk that it might set the caps exceptionally low, such as 5GB/month for downloads. While Time Warner did eventually put in place a series of tiers, it admits that the 5GB tier is the “lite” tier for very basic usage. Don’t tell that to the folks at Frontier. Reader Shea writes in to point out (via RochesterHDTV) that Frontier is now saying that 5GB of combined upload and download bandwidth is all you can use per month. If you go above that, Frontier reserves the right to “suspend, terminate or apply additional charges” for going over this “reasonable” usage.

See how this works? At first, we’re told that such tiers will only touch on those super high bandwidth users. Then we see tiers put in place where it’s admitted that the 5GB limit is for “lite” users. And now, according to Frontier, it’s “reasonable” usage, and it can kick you off — or add unspecified fees — for going over. Welcome to the world where doing anything cool or useful online is discouraged. ISPs are working hard to make their broadband offerings less and less useful by the day.

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Companies: frontier, time warner

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Comments on “Bandwidth Caps Keep Getting Lower And Lower”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: While at work


When you download using a torrent, it’s considered nice if you keep the torrent running to upload at least as much as you download. Since I have a 15Mbps symmetric connection, I feel I can give back more, so I set my torrent client to share until I am at least at 10:1, and only forcibly shut off the torrent after I am at 30:1.

I download TV shows that I missed recording, and assorted free software.

tim (user link) says:

Re: Re: aus broadband

what speed is your connection? I have a 22mbps with 10G peak/15G off peak, which is $69 a month. and I believe the $300 can occur with providers who charge excess rates if you go over your cap. At least with my provider when I go over I get shaped. Which is lucky, because I go over pretty much every month.

@Derek Kerton – you said ‘You can’t switch from a moped to an Accord and expect to pay the gas station the same amount as before.’

I think it would be more aptly put to say the service providers have sold you a moped or Accord depending on the level of speed you chose, and said you could use as much fuel as you want. But then, they are now putting limits on it, and expecting people to just accept it.

creig speed says:

bandwidth usage

if my ISP starts to restrict bandwidth to unreasonably low limits i will just dicontinue the service.they provide cable tv and cable broadband.i will be just as happy to switch to satelite which may cost a bit more but when enough people discontinue their service after my ISP provider just made a major upgrade in infrastructure after a cat 4 hurricane destroyed most of their existing system they took advantage of upgrading to fiber optic cable rather then just restoring the old coax cable.we were without cable service for a month and they were forced to credit people with all that downtime and not charge for it.i say let them roll the dice on their investment and start limiting and see how people that can will go to satelite and others will go back to dial up.

lucidlunacy says:

Fight back

People should simply move isp’s there are enough competition out there and a good deal still offer reasonable packages. If the strict ISP’s have no clients they will maybe start to think “hey nobody want to be capped at 5gb!” Here in the UK its the same story. Almost all Mobile broadband providers have a 3gb! limit. Now they have added a “fair use policy” so they wont just flat out charge or cancel your broadband if you go over. They just give you a 3 strike warning. Home Broadband varies greatly with enough uncapped high speed options available at very reasonable prices. Support those and the others will fail or follow suit.

Yogi says:

Bad news

This means that the U.S. market will lag behind in terms of use and development of internet technology simply because there will be no use in the U.S. market for applications that use a lot of bandwidth.

This, coupled with the DMCA, clears the field for other countries to take the worldwide lead in IT, and for English speaking developers to move abroad where they can create in freedom and live in a more advanced and interesting technological environment.

I just wonder where that will be?

Damien says:

Re: YouTube files ain't too big

Are you a moron or a troll?

– Windows updates
– Ubuntu distros (or any flavor of linux for that matter)
– Program patches
– Steam
– Itunes
– …etc

You can blow 5GB in a day if you’ve got a lot to do, and you can do it quite easily. This cap is ridiculously and would have been so even at 1990’s levels.

Momo says:

Re: YouTube files ain't too big

You said, “This seems like its only designed to stop people illegally downloading lots of movies apps and games.”

That is very narrow minded thinking. More and more software is being delivered via internet, Microsoft automatic updates, steam video games, LEGALLY BOUGHT MOVIES, ITUNES, EMUSIC, etc.

Movies and apps are downloaded legally.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: YouTube files ain't too big

If you are a software developer or have lots of applications on your pc that require over the net updates you will scream through 5gb easily. Add a few videos in there and you are toast.

Remember, it isn’t just direct downloads, takes bandwidth for everything you browse on the net and it all counts towards your cap.

Chris says:

Been down this road already

Used to be folks like AT&T charged businesses for “bandwidth on demand” under a similar model. Then Code Red hit and businesses saw their monthly bill increase by a factor of 3 or 4. Every client I had in this boat switched over to a fixed rate service after that to get a handle on cost.

All the metrics I’ve seen on this issue assume that you actually *want* all the traffic heading downstream to your IP. Unless the cable company is going to take responsibility for filtering out worms, spam, etc. (and they will have a financial motivation not to), this is an incorrect assumption. One good mass propagation and cable companies are going to see people freak out over the size of their bill.

Of course there is another side to this coin. I have to wonder how many of their high bandwidth users are actually 0wn3d systems which are part of a spam and/or DoS botnet. Putting the financial screws to people may force them to clean up their systems. It’s amazing to me how often this traffic is mistaken for P2P.

aj says:

Before I switched to broadband in 2002, I used a 33,6k modem connection. My ISP would send me monthly usage report at the end of every month, and it’s never been lower than 900MB in those times.
Nowadays, my monthly traffic (according to my pfSense-based router) is between 300GB and 1TB. I shudder when I read about the US and Canadian ISPs and their bandwidth limits.

Anonymous Coward says:

ISPs Have Us Over a Barrel.

ISPs just want to make more money and this is an easy way for them to do it.

Exceeding a low threshold just means you’ll end up paying them more for using the same facilities that are in place. You may be able to get an unlimited plan for a while, but you’ll just pay more for it. Maybe soon you will be able to a plan of unlimited usage between 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM when there are fewer people on, payment schemes like that are coming.

Switch to a different provider, nope, they’ll all be doing that soon. It’s the new pricing schemes. Get used to it, if you download more than the average person, you will pay more. Simple as that.

Dave says:

Caps are not efficient

Look at the apartment price controls in New York. Nover worked well.

We need a more efficient approach to manage bandwidth. How about usage charges? My Gas, Electric and water providers all charge me per unit. If not, I might set my summer thermostat to 68 degrees and water my lawn continuously.

If folks want more bandwidth, they should pay.

James says:

Re: Caps are not efficient

You talk of usage fees on bandwidth like Gas, Electric, and Water. There is is just one problem with your thinking, Gas, Electric, and Water have tangible limits such as tanks for gas and water and burning fuels for electricity. Bandwidth is used for certain function, once that function is over, the bandwidth is restored to full. Sure, there should be a limit you can use at any one time, for simple fact that the rest of us want to use the internet too.

mslade says:

Next step: marketing ops

If this trend continues, the next thing you can expect is ISPs partnering with website providers in order to determine who you can visit.

“Sign up with Super Blazing ISP today and get unlimited traffic to our Preffered Network for 6 months” — Preferred Netowrk = Amazon, Ebay, MSN, and other mainstream big $ websites.

They will, of course, also not count traffic to the big ad delivering networks as well so as to gain their support.

Grippy says:

Time to Switch to Time Warner!

5 gigs a month means 167 MB PER DAY upload and download. Not very much. Anyone working from home connecting into remote corporate systems, uploading and downloading files could easily reach that limit. LEGALLY downloading full movies or music from places like Netflix or iTunes could easily reach that limit. Anyone with multiple users in a household could easily reach that limit. Combine them all together along with anything and everything else you might do on the Internet and I fail to see how anyone would not reach the limit on a monthly basis.

Unfortunately in Rochester, NY there are 2 choices: CABLE via Time Warner or DSL via Frontier. Looks like it is time for everyone to switch over to Time Warner!

mslade says:

For all of you talking about...

…how streamlining websites (less ads, bulky graphics, Flash) is the solution: it won’t happen. If ISPs try to implement a model that simply limits bandwidth, they’re making enemies of the ad giants and since the two rely on each other, it won’t work.

Instead they will (must) enter a symbiotic relationship wherein ISPs don’t count bandwidth for ads, thus gaining the support of the (select) ad giants. It turns my stomach, but it’s what will happen is bandwidth metering becomes reality.

Shaggy says:

maybe it is true.

There were a few rumors last few weeks about the fact that Bell and others are colluding to create a ‘package style’ Internet. So that a handful of websites that would make it into the ‘basic tier’ would be able to be accessed.

According to Rocky(CEO Teksavvy), not only does Bell want to throttle the wholesale clients, like Teksavvy(TSI), they also want to impart per-byte billing.

the idea that TSI buys a connection to the internet from Cogent and Peer 1. They pay Bell 20$ a month per user, as well some other fees. +BandRate cost.
The wholesalers pay for there connection whether it is half-used or not. If they need more, they buy more.

Bell wants the Wholesalers now to pay per use, in there central office as well. So now the ”radical internet’ that everyone relies on, now is now longer that. Would Googlebe a big if they had to deal with Usage based billing?

The video explains this:

The end of the video there is an Interview with Sir Tim Berners Lee(the gentleman who invented the Web). He has a few choice things to say as well.

This is the homepage that you need to register to get in.Its free. Relatively painless.

This image explains it well.
I assume you need there permission to re-use??

If this at all is true, this would explain the ridiculous capping that they are starting.
according to this article at techdirt:

A company in the USA that has decided to institute a 5GB a month cap.

“See how this works? At first, we’re told that such tiers will only touch on those super high bandwidth users. Then we see tiers put in place where it’s admitted that the 5GB limit is for “lite” users. And now, according to Frontier, it’s “reasonable” usage, and it can kick you off — or add unspecified fees — for going over. Welcome to the world where doing anything cool or useful online is discouraged. ISP’s are working hard to make their broadband offerings less and less useful by the day.”

kevjohn (user link) says:


I don’t know what everyone’s complaining about. A 5GB limit seems very reasonable to me. There are very few days when I exceed that, and then it’s not by much. I could cut back on the video downloads or uploading so many photos to various sites and all will be well. There’s no reason to pani… Wha… you say that’s per month?!? That’s it! ANARCHY!! Down with the Overlords! Overthrow The Man!!

The really great part is “Frontier reserves the right to ‘…apply additional charges” for going over this “reasonable” usage”. So you could be sitting at home enjoying your day, reach into your mailbox and pull out a bill for $10,000. And that’s when the fun begins, because then it’s Lawyer Time.

Emilio says:

Once a market is saturated, and growth slows down, how do you maintain your all-important (to the stock price) growth in profits? You make your product cheaper to manufacture. If your product is a monthly subscription to bandwidth, with little or no possible competition (due to the cost and legal hassles over right-of-way, etc.) then you simply reduce the amount of bandwidth you provide for a given monthly cost. And you play games with penalties for “excessive use”.

WiMax and such was supposed to break the hard-wire bandwidth monopoly, but gee, it seems to be floundering for some reason…

known coward says:

it would be OK

for the ISP’s to charge whatever they want, if and only if, there were true competition in the area. Then folks who used the net for other things than email would scoff at the limets and go elsewhere for their services. If there is no competition in the area, the gov’t has to step in and allow other providers access to the homes.

Liz R says:

The really amusing part is that if you call Frontier customer service, they don’t know anything about the change yet, and they tell you stuff like “Don’t worry, you have DSL, not dialup, and your time is completely unlimited.”

I said hello, it’s not about time, it’s about data transfer caps in your new Acceptable Usage policy. She said “Hold on” and then her supervisor came on and said frankly he didn’t know anything about it but would look into it and get back to me.

5Gb per month is insanely small if you rent or purchase any video. One movie is easily 1.2 or 1.5 Gb or more. Think about Gandhi or Lawrence of Arabia! One TV show is easily half a Gb. If you buy an old season of TV shows and download the whole thing in one or a couple sessions, you’re looking at plenty more than this new 5Gb MONTHLY cap.

So how am I to know when I’ve hit my limit? My billing cycle was a week old when I bumped into the policy change information accidentally. I asked Frontier how I’m supposed to track my usage, are they providing special user tools or we have to fish around in the router pages? Or I’m just supposed to walk to the snailmailbox some morning and find out they’re ditching me or have billed me some (so far unannounced) surcharge?

While this Frontier supervisor is “looking into it” I have time to a) revive my old dialup account with another provider and b) shop around for satellite. When my Frontier package is over, my only link with Frontier will be local landline service, period. If I didn’t live in a deadzone for cells, I’d drop my landline as well.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Nothing Wrong With Caps

Mike, you are attacking the wrong target in your article. There is nothing wrong with throughput caps. They are just a way for a provider to offer different levels of service to different types of consumers.

Why do you suggest that a granny who uses email to write to 12 friends and family, and check once a day should be required to buy the same Internet package as Johnny McFacebook, who is a Skype supernode and spends his days watching movies which he then seeds on Bittorrent? There are definitely different types of customers, and they should be treated differently. Granny should pay less for less.

A sensible way to offer both of these consumers what they need is to sell granny a 1GB/mo capped service, and sell Johnny something bigger.

BTW, I disagree with you about 5GB. That IS a heck of a lot. No, not for you or me who work from home and are uber geeks, but for average users, this is much more than they transmit each month.

US ISPs are saying “OK, you pay $40 for the amount of Internet you use *now*, but if you plan on doing all the cool future things Masnick writes about, you may need to pay the piper and bump up your package someday.” That’s fair. You can’t switch from a moped to an Accord and expect to pay the gas station the same amount as before. You use more, you pay more. That seems to be the model for other consumer goods and services: theatres, grocery stores, electric utilities, heating oil, watching a busker on the street, a repair call to your home, a massage parlor, etc. Why do you single out ISPs and say that its wrong for them to do what every other business does?

Oh, and I’m totally with you that they were misleading jerks for ever calling broadband packages “unlimited”. They should always have been upfront about what customers get for how much $. But, of course, ‘being upfront’ is what is starting to happen, yet you are in opposition.

I’m going to tell you something you agree with: the real problem is that there is inadequate competition. The problem isn’t the tiers of service, it’s that as we go to tiers of service, the ISPs are gouging us instead of opening up a range of attractive segmented service options. But there isn’t anything wrong with tiered services in and of themselves.

I liken your opposition with tiers to something which you often write about: abusing copyright law or the DMCA to stop speech which some find offensive. The complainants in these cases state they are opposed to copyright violations, when they are in fact simply opposed to what is being said. They are mis-aiming their wrath. Similarly, you are against ISP gouging of customers, and as such are taking aim at tiered and capped services. But you are missing the target. The tiers and caps are fine, the lack of competition is not.

And yes, I even agree that in our oligopolistic market, carriers will try to abuse capped services by leveraging their market power. But that doesn’t make caps wrong themselves. A car can be abused, drugs can be abused, but cars and drugs arent ‘wrong’ themselves. The abuse is what’s wrong.

Would you suggest we pass rules against caps and tiers as a way to mitigate this uncompetitive market? That’s not like you. You, and I, are idealists who would rather attack the real problem – the lack of competition – and truly fix what ails US broadband.

Last point, you often write that caps will limit the growth of services on the Internet, because people will have to worry about being “nickel and dimed” if they go over their cap. Because of these limits, innovative services that are bandwidth hungry may never get off the ground. To that point, I say: Yes, that’s true. But you can’t take one input into a product (bandwidth) and arbitrarily declare the marginal price zero just because you want it to be thus! There IS a marginal cost to bandwidth, and innovative products and services that hog bandwidth deserve to be pushed back into the lab. The result may be a better version that is more bandwith conscious. We’ve both got econ degrees, so you understand the models here. I think you have just made a mistake in assuming that bandwidth is free.

We really just don’t know the true cost of bandwidth in the US. I know it’s more than zero, but the oligopolists at the helm no doubt are extracting monopoly rents right now. The only way to determine the real cost would be to create a competitive market, where MC = MR. Have a look at countries like France, where there IS ample broadband competition from aggressive new entrants like Free, and see that the price still hasn’t dropped to zero!

France Telecom 30eu for DSL, 40eu for naked DSL offers a package of Net, TV, and Voip for 30eu

Derek Kerton
The Kerton Group.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Nothing Wrong With Caps

Why should I pay for service that is sub par compared to the rest of the world? I get 1.5 Mb for $45 a month while in better networked countries they get 50-100 Mb for the same price. How is what they are doing fair? The government gave them all sorts of kick-backs and encouraged them to improve the U.S. network, but instead they pocketed the money and gave us this crap. 5GB a month is a paltry amount for anyone today. Grandma who just does email is using more than you think. Families are sharing photos and videos through web services that eat tons of bandwidth. I know, my brother-in-law has one of these services and my in-laws can’t view it because they don’t have the bandwidth much less the transfers necessary to get it. Not to mention, the internet is getting very multimedia heavy these days. You Tube, Myspace, Facebook, and so on, are just a indicator of how our network is straining to handle the throughput. We don’t need caps on our service, we need more bandwidth like the government told the telcos to provide.

Abdul says:

OPEC 2.0

This is just the beginning of OPEC 2.O where in future the ISPs will just be like those middle eastern oil nations controlling how we should live. If something sensible is not done to arrest the problem, then i’m afraid it will be bad: Fixing the Internet Traffic Jam, Part I: Larry Roberts(

NaturalChaos (user link) says:

Bad for Business

One can only hope that companies who start imposing these limits start losing the majority of their business. Once they realize that people don’t like having arbitrary limits placed on the service they pay good money for and are willing to go somewhere else we should start to see these “reasonable” limits disappearing rather quickly.

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