Please Stop Telling Us How Many Emails Fit Under A Broadband Cap

from the it's-really-avoiding-the-point dept

Earlier this year, we pointed out that if you’re a broadband provider implementing some kind of broadband cap, and you’re hyping it up by showing off just how many emails can be sent under the cap, there’s a problem. Obviously, ISPs are using the number of emails as a criteria because emails use up almost no bandwidth — so no matter what the cap is, the answer is “a lot.” But, of course, the number of emails you can send is meaningless. There’s no big email epidemic that is what has ISPs claiming they need to put in place limits. As Broadband Reports notes, it’s all incredibly demeaning to focus on the number of emails you can send:

Those would all be relevant measurement criteria, were we all idiots.

People don’t care about how many emails they can send. They want to know if they’ll actually be able to download more than half an HD movie. Focusing on emails is like telling someone that a full tank of gas in their car will allow them to travel six hundred million millimeters. That’s meaningless for someone who wants to know if they can actually get from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a single tank of gas. If these ISPs really feel the need to implement caps, at least be honest about what it means for customers.

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Comments on “Please Stop Telling Us How Many Emails Fit Under A Broadband Cap”

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Twinrova says:

I... can't... stop... laughing!

If these ISPs really feel the need to implement caps, at least be honest about what it means for customers.

Luckily, no one’s in the office yet or I’d have to explain what was so funny.

I’m glad you’re an optimist, Mike, but hell will freeze over before this request is granted.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: I... can't... stop... laughing!

Though to be honest I’d rather have my phones/internet go through a 3rd party. Yet another layer the government would have to go through that way.

you mean like AT&T letting the NSA collocate their wiretap operations in their switching facilities? it was totally illegal and congress got retroactive immunity for the telcos that participated in the program.

yeah, third party telco is a great defense against government surveillance.

Todd says:

Sorry, but I have to disagree. People who are downloading HD movies, for the most part, have a pretty good grasp of how much bandwidth that uses. The average person on the other hand, has no idea how much they are using. And the average person uses their internet for surfing the internet and sending emails. So that’s why they put it that way.

prata (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Maybe not for the most part, but in my experience it is a large part. I have several relatives and consult for many other people that use apps to download a mix of HD and SD content regularly, who have no concept of bandwidth at all. To them it all boils down to is it downloading fast? That’s all they can equate to bandwidth lol. Explaining it helps in some cases but in others it’s a lost cause. =-(

The problem is that HD to (at least the users I deal with) means ‘better picture’ for their HD TV, so they of course want HD content that utilizes their tv in a way that appears to get the most bang for their buck. So of course, they download the HD content and follow whatever instructions they’ve found on google to stream it (if they are a console gamer) or to burn it.

It’s important to remember that the same people that do relatively complex things following a set of instructions often can only do that particular thing because they have the instructions. If something goes wrong, they are totally lost. They don’t actually understand what is happening.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re:

A friend of mine learned how to torrent that way. This is the same friend that tried to send me an ISO of a DVD threw his college E-Mail account.

Comcast seems to be the only one with a reasonable cap. 250G will work for now. Give it a year or two and that “less than 1%” stat will rise dramatically, but at least it’s not the 5G cap. I can kill 5G in one day on youtube (and so can my friend and each member of his family).

If I could get Verizon FiOS (no cap) I’d already have it.

johnos says:

The Point of Explaining A Cap

With respect, I think you have it backwards. I’ve written such descriptions for an ISP. The point was not to inform the 10% who will flirt with the limits. They already know what 1GB or 50GB is. The point is to calm down the 90% of customers who will never go anywhere near their limit, but don’t realize it because they don’t know what a GB is. So you tell them something like “your limit is a half a million emails, don’t worry about it”.

The basic idea is that most customers don’t know or care about technology. They’re not stupid or ignorant, just uninterested. The limits have to be explained in a relevant manner. That said, such explanations should be factual and free of spin. Some companies can’t resist the temptation and their spin destroys the credibility of their descriptions. But that’s poor management, not a conspiracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

I work in the tech industry and also part time as a salesperson for a national electronics retailer. I have dealt with thousands of electronics consumers over the past year and I can attest to the fact that the vast majority of these home users are clueless when it comes to downloading ANYTHING much less a multi-step process to get HD content on their TV. Most users don’t have any idea what connections are on the back of their TV, much less how to encode a video stream or burn a DVD. Overwhelmingly these people surf the internet, view you tube videos, and exchange email. The TechDirt community is far more advanced than most home computer users and has lost touch with the fact that most users don’t use large amounts of bandwidth. I know you guys are eating up the bandwidth, and your friends may be as well, but once you get outside of the tech community the usage drops dramatically. I believe ISPs are acting proactively to cap usage by teenagers, the tech elite, and streaming video. Is it fair? NO, but they do not have the bandwidth to support millions of teenagers streaming uber-high bandwidth HD versions of High School Musical 10. Maybe they should at least force teenagers to watch quality entertainment.

Nitrous says:

Re: to Anonymous Coward #18

I don’t buy into the fact that they don’t have the bandwidth. The reason for this is because if they didn’t, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that you would notice? In other words, if they didn’t have the bandwidth to support it, wouldn’t I have a lot of trouble streaming my HD content, when in fact I have no trouble EVER. I am not saying I know everything about how an ISP’s bandwidth works, but please correct me if I sound like an idiot. I would think if my ISP had bandwidth problems because of this, I would have problems streaming video myself and I don’t. I am with TWC who has imposed caps on part of Texas. Luckily, not the part I live in, but they still have received mail from me about it stating my opinion. Not that it will do any good, but I had to try something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Problem is those few heavy users impact the bandwidth for all of us. My bandwidth drops noticeably in the late afternoon, right after kids are getting home from school. All that file sharing isn’t helping matters either.

I’m sure that at the heart of this issue is the ISPs not wanting to become common carriers carriers, like telephone companies without compensation. But, now with a dyed-in-the-wool socialist taking over the White House, these limits will go away and private companies will be forced into the role of common carriers.

Can you say Democrat-majority FCC?

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re:

1) “My bandwidth drops noticeably in the late afternoon, right after kids are getting home from school”

You answered your own complaint. It’s not P2P, where the big downloaders are downloading at night, but the school kids on My Space, YouTube, Face Book, iTunes, XBL (you’re going to love the 19th), and their competitive counterparts.

2) to the AC that you were replying to. This isn’t the 1980s or 90s any more. The days of elite knowledge is over. Yes there are a lot of people out there that don’t know what they are doing. Guess what, in the technical support field, that’s who you talk to (I do the same thing). More often than not, people do know what they are doing or know enough to be dangerous. That includes downloading stuff off of the internet.

RabC says:

Re: Re: Socialist??

Obama a socialist? He’s further left than STalin.. Do you know he’s proposing a law to make everyone, yes, everyone equal.. that would never fly under the old confederacy. There is no Bandwidth crunch.. think copper then think Fibre x100 or x1000 times the capacity.. Who pays to lay it down? tax subsidy needed, Mr congressman, please..

DanielS says:

information super highway toll booth

Sorry, the analogy to a gas tank is a bit off, more like a toll road on a highway that isn’t being upgraded or maintained, yet they decide by fiat to make it a toll road. MOST of the internet hardware used is not owned by the ISP’s who wish to charge, so take the analogy to the toll road a step farther, the road is free, but the exit ramps are gonna cost you, and you were charged to get onto the highway as well. This is something that needs lawmakers (wearing pants without pockets, so they won’t be tempted to be a party to those untoward profits) to take a look at.

Rob says:

They have caps in Australia, where I used to live, and I was on a $70 plan to get a mere 20GB a month. And I used to chew through it really quickly? How? Just 1 hour of playing Battlefield 2 ate almost 1GB. So forget emails and stuff… try telling your average parent that allowing their kid play an online game will then result in ISPs in outrageous ‘over the limit fees’.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

The ISPs Are Being Fair


Your criticism would be justified if the ISPs didn’t *also* state their caps in terms of GB. But I’m sure they also do. The # of emails is just added as a convenience for those users who have no idea what a MB or GB is, or how quickly they chew through it.

I agree entirely with comment #13.

So ISPs are being fair by stating GB and also rough email estimates as well. But really, what they should do is raise the information bar and provide real-time data consumption tools. These tools should tell the customer how much they have used of their monthly allotment. Bar or pie charts would be nice. This tool could be a widget (mac or vista), a taskbar applet, a web page, or any other easily checked gauge.

Lastly, ISPs with caps should instigate outbound messages when people use their bandwidth at a higher rate than their cap would support. For example, why not send an email or an SMS to somebody who uses half their monthly allotment in one week. Warnings at 80 and 90% would also be useful.

My prior industry experience in other countries where caps are used indicate that customers are not as stupid as we all assume. Yes, they are uninformed and have no idea what a GB is, but they learn fairly quickly when the tools are provided for them.

Anon Cow says:

Car analogy

The correct car analogy would be something like this:

You decide to take a toll road because they advertise that there is no speed limit. You pay the first toll and then are immediately pulled over and ticketed for speeding. You ask the private security guard how fast you were going and the officer replies, “None of your business”. You say that the advetisement said “Unlimited Speeding”. The private security guard reples that you aren’t driving a Brand X car and that unlimited speeding only applies to Brand X cars because Brand X owns the toll road.

In frustration, you look for an exit to get off the tollway and find that there are no exits. So you keep driving slowly, in hope on not getting another ticket. When you get to the next tollbooth, the person working the booth tells you the toll just went up from $2 to $3. You ask how to get off the tollway, the tollbooth operator says that this is the only road franchise the government has approved, so you are stuck with it.

While in Japan (and most of the world), everyone is driving as fast as they want, anywhere they want, and spending less on their cars and tolls than you.

That has been my broadband to car real-life analogy.

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