Well, That's One Argument Against Metered Broadband

from the grasping-at-straws dept

There’s been quite a bit of uproar over some ISPs’ boneheaded plans to introduce broadband traffic caps and charge customers based on the amount of data that travels across their broadband connection. Already, the pushback against Time Warner’s plans to expand its use of the caps has led another ISP, Frontier Communications, to reconsider its plans to introduce them, illustrating how competition could take care of this issue. Still, some politicians see it as a chance to wade in and drum up some publicity, such as a New York congressman, who (among other things) says the caps raise “broad and sweeping First Amendment issues.” Erm, well, these caps aren’t so impressive, but to imply they’re unconstitutional seems like a bit of a stretch. But the rhetoric is — unfortunately — typical of politicians’ positions on these issues. The rep says he’ll take “a leadership role in stopping this outrageous, job killing initiative”, which is nice and sure to grab some headlines in his hometown paper, but it ignores the real issue at play: a lack of true competition in the broadband market. Politicians jump on whatever hot internet issue pops up, whether it’s these caps, or something like net neutrality, talking about the need for new laws and rules. If they’d do more to engender actual, meaningful competition in the broadband market, all of these issues would take care of themselves. But that doesn’t make for nearly as great a sound bite, apparently.

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Comments on “Well, That's One Argument Against Metered Broadband”

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Dana King says:


At least one politician is seeing how this could stop innovation.

It is a shame that they are being allowed to put in plans like the wireless phone companies do, where you don’t know your bill total until the end of the month, and then it is too late to go back. Not going to pay extra for bandwidth that they have for years pushed us to use, just to take it away and now charge us for.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Finally

I agree that I, too, can see a link between broadband caps and innovation, I don’t think bringing in The Constitution will help anything. The real threat to innovation here is the lack of competition in the broadband market.

As I’ve said before, the *true* cost of the data usage will come about only with a healthy market. If Warner wants to charge $80/month for 250GB/month, and it really only costs $45/month to break even regardless of a cap, you’d be safe assuming that the competition would see the negative reaction and push out uncapped access for $75/month, and wait as the flood of users to come in.

Without competition, they can (and apparently will) fleece their customers for more and more without fear of losing them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Finally

Could bait-and-switch laws be applicable here? IANAL, but they seem more applicable than this politician’s First Amendment grandstanding.

The real impetus for these caps is an intersection of two issues. First, the lack of significant broadband competition in most markets. Second, these caps are mostly coming from cable companies, which have a vested interest in wanting people to watch TV and movies on cable rather than downloading/streaming them (whether Bittorrent, Hulu, iTunes, or Netflix). The first point’s been beaten to death by others, so I’ll let it be.

The problem with trying to cap bandwidth to limit piracy is that legitimate downloads of the same material won’t be any smaller. Sure, the pirates are the ones with most of the bandwidth usage now. But as legitimate services take off, and people get more used to using them over cable/satellite TV, the rest of the users will approach the same bandwidth levels. And who benefits the most from slowing the uptake of online video services? The incumbent TV providers, i.e. the cable companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Often, it seems people who are acclimated to a particular subject will pull from some firsthand experience.

Others lacking firsthand subject matter will often try to put themselves into the mindset of the subject matter they had in the past.

Off the cuff suggestions such as “toke, toke, pass it to the left” should provide insight to Harold Hill’s source of information.


JJ says:

Re: Re:

I am trying to figure out how people here could argue against an artist right to get paid for their work (if they so choose), but somehow think they have some sort of constitutional right to unlimited unternet bandwidth.

Keep figuring then, because that’s basically the opposite of what was said. Reading comprehension is your friend… and it appears you have no friends.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re:

I am trying to figure out how people here could argue against an artist right to get paid for their work (if they so choose)

Still so confused, I see. An artist makes art. More specifically, a musician makes music. Furthermore, the mp3s on my iphone are not music, they are recordings of music. Who makes recordings of music? Why, the record industry.

I am all for musicians getting paid for their work: making music. I, however, don’t feel that recording of said music are worth purchasing, so I don’t buy it. However, since I want to pay musicians for their work (making music) I need a way to determine with musicians to support. The only way I can do this is by listening to music they have once made, in the form of a recording. I’m sure even you can see the problem. I need to listen to their past music to know if I want to get out of my apartment, drive to their show, and pay them to make music for me.

Think of it this way: When I go to see a musician play, I’m not paying them for music they made weeks ago, I’m paying them so they can go make *new* music. To know if my investment in their trade is a wise one, I need to know what their trade was like so far. (via recordings)

It makes so much sense I can’t understand how you don’t get it.

Bob Frapples says:

Re: Re:

The internet is not choking because people like me utilize 100% of the connection we’re paying for. Why do we have the right to unlimited bandwidth? Grandfather clause sir. You can’t provide a service with a certain round-the-clock bandwidth availability promised in an open-ended contract and then adjust the terms when you see fit to take away that service. That’s called a bait and switch technique, and while it may not be unconstitutional it is certainly still illegal and considered a damning move for any company.

Artists rights? Like people haven’t been recording live tv or hbo or what-have-you for 30 years to get copies of movies they like or would like to see but don’t really feel are necessarily worth cash up front sight unseen. Like people didn’t record the radio for 20 years before mp3s. Music and movie sales have more than tripled in annual growth in the years since broadband became available to the household and the RIAA and MPAA should both take a few moments and recognize the fact that people that have been exposed to quality material for free are more likely to want to pay for that material in the future.

Personally I went 25 years only buying roughly 20 albums and a dozen movies, but in this era of broadband file sharing I’ve downloaded thousands of episodes of tv shows and hundreds of movies and in turn have found reasons to go out and buy the box set to get the dvd commentaries now that I care about the show, or go out and get the movie because I like it so much and want a permanent copy.

You and the thousands like you need to review facts and ask for actual proof of a problem before jumping on board with major corporations that are of the belief that less piracy equals more sales while in truth the moment they get their way they’ll see sales figures plummet. I hope you wake up and realize you’re not helping yourself or anyone else by pushing for more control and less freedom.

NIck (profile) says:


No one here is supporting “constitutional right to unlimited internet bandwidth.” I guess you missed the part where Mike says “unconstitutional seems like a bit of a stretch.” The point is that dumb politicians are grandstanding, and it is on topics they are not even worthy of their opinion one way or the other because they are not informed enough.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re:

No, I didn’t miss the point. I would say more that you missed mine. If this story is outrageous (and it is) why isn’t Mike in the usual huff he is for things like artists actually wanting their rights respected?

I think maybe because while he terms it a “bit of a stretch” he knows that forced uncapped bandwidth would play into his “FREE!” agenda. He probably just doesn’t want this nutty politician to screw it up by asking for it too early or something.

TheStuipdOne says:

Metered Broadband makes some sense

Metered broadband, pay for what you use, would be good for some poeple. If you really just use it to check your email and read the news then you might just pay a small amount each month and still have nice high speed connections.

Personally I’d avoid any metered plan because I do a lot of downloading

TPBer says:

Time Warner is starting here soon..

I live in between SA and Austin, with Time Warner as my provider. I cannot verify this as true but a co-worker’s wife working for TWC says that June 1 this year they are going to cap ALL plans, with a per gig penalty above the limit.

He said the rates would go up to $80/month for 250GB. It’s only $35/month (part of a bundle) now for the turbo (10Mb) and that all current customers even those locked in as I am will be forced into this new pay scheme.

ToySouljah says:

Re: Time Warner is starting here soon..

I’m in SA and have had Road Runner since 1999 and have rather enjoyed the unlimited deal and recently switched to their 22mbps connection, but if they decide to cap it then they will lose a long time customer. There are other options that are not nearly as fast, but at least they will be unlimited. Sucks that I might have to leave, but oh well hopefully they will see people leaving and change their minds or leave us under a grand daddy clause to retain some people.

Anonymous Coward says:

What competition?

The problem with bandwidth caps is the limited selection of providers for most of the country. You can choose your cable provider, or your telco. period. In most areas nobody else can put cable on the poles.

I would love to see Condo arrangements for fiber in the last mile.

Imagine a home owner with the option of buying dialtone, or internet at a local peering point. Suddenly it’s economical to have quite a few service providers competing for that business. The owner just coordinates with the service provider and the condo management company for new service.

Tealium MIke (user link) says:

Have at it...

I guarantee for every 1 excessive downloader there are 100 users that just use the net for email and basic surfing. If they choose to make it metered, then while users that are very active may see their rates go 2x, it has to be logical that users that don’t download should see a reduction in cost, unless the ISP’s can raise the bills on the big downloaders and leave the bills at the same level on the non-downloaders…

Fine with me, as a result my parents, in-laws, sister, and aunt & uncle may notice an increase in remote connections coming into their homes, and I’ll just distribute my downloads across all the connections and collect the data via a portable drive when I visit them…

So suck it…

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re: Re: Dumb politicians :p

I personally have no issue with a capped system, as long as it’s reasonably priced. Unfortunately, judging by my current bill, and the lack of real competition, I don’t trust them to make it anything resembling reasonably priced.

However, I was referring to the fact that some people say this is “to stop the pirates”, and I was pointing out that there are plenty of completely legal ways to rack up that bandwidth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dumb politicians :p

If the price is reasonable I wouldn’t mind ($1-5/GB range) paying that much money (water/electricity is metered but we do use it, but not waste it).

Regarding file sharing: even it is paid I would share media with my friends and family. But I doubt I will be seeding torrent files helping those who I don’t even know of.

BTW, in a in a hypothetical scenario (due to metering reason) lets say you have to pay some money to share a song. WOuld you share it with strangers if cost is $0.01/song/sharing? $0.10/song/sharing?

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re: Re: Dumb politicians :p

WOuld you share it with strangers if cost is $0.01/song/sharing? $0.10/song/sharing?

That brings an excellent question to mind! Is this a cap on upload + download? If so, wouldn’t sharing a song with a stranger cause them to be paid twice? I’ve always thought of it as a “download” cap.

It’s even worse from this point of view.

B.S.O.D. says:

Already Metered

I live in rural area out of the reach of cable or DSL. My broadband choice is Hughes.net which ALREADY meters its customers – supposedly to prevent me from selling or sharing their signal to neighbors. Lame excuse. It stinks. I’m limited to 250mb per 24 hour period. A few minutes on YouTube and I’m over my limit. I don’t know how they get away with this policy which they term Fair Usage Policy. It’s anything but fair. If the cable people or Ma Bell tried this there’d be a huge outcry. I guess there aren’t enough of us Hughes.net suckers to make a loud enough stink. Gee… I wonder WHY there’s not enough Hughes.net customers?????????

dontask says:

Ha Ha Ha

What people seem to miss is the fact that the decaying infrastructure of our broadband system is due not to customer use, but misuse of funds by the companies in charge. The telecommunications act of 1996, which provided 200 billion in tax credit and stimulus to the various companies, allowed the creation of these monopolies through deregulation. This deregulation, and tax credits, is based on the promise that the companies would provide 45mbps broadband nationwide by 2006. These companies were paid to improve their networks but chose to rely usually on overtaxing their existent lines. The consumers have already footed the bill on this one and most don’t enjoy the idea of being charged again.

femtobeam (profile) says:


Cable buys cross licensing of bandwidth from fiber optic trunk lines that were originally grandfathered as part of railroad and highway rights of way. When rights of way are purchased in an area they are usually purchased as a right of way for a period of time, usually 99 years. Much of the US right of way in major metropolitan areas are now “leased” long term to foreign owned companies, many who have interests in hardware manufacturing, like HDTV displays. Cable currently has a must carry rule to carry broadcasters along with their programming to customers. Besides the profit motive, Cable companies, who do not usually produce their own programming and buy it from the Major Motion Picture Distributors who financed it through agreements with banks and guarantees of exhibition, like theater screens of a certain number for a certain time period. Cable is limited in bandwidth due to the nature of the materials and the ad-hoc network structure. Specifically, this is copper wiring and bus network architecture. The high signal to noise ratio inherent in copper means a bad picture, (snowy image), on larger screen sizes and a high cost in labor to adjust the network during seasonal changes in temperature. This is why your Cable signal to your display is better during the cold winter months. As screen sizes increase and Cable is limited to what they can “squeeze” into their limited lines, they are forced to either upgrade their networks, which they have had plenty of profit to do all this time, or limit their customers’ bandwidth so they have enough to go around, or to try and prevent larger screen sizes from being adopted. They are in trouble and this is why they scramble to get up in the air on satellites and try out new things, like using the power lines. Ever wonder why your computer is so slow even though you have paid for bandwidth? You can’t unplug it either to solve the problem. All of these issues will be fixed with fiber to the home, with the exception of costs. Those will be determined by the new fiber middlemen. The owners of your local and metropolitan rights of way will become the new providers and determine prices. They will already have made a fortune off of your purchases of their affiliated HDTV equipment manufacturers, as well as the US government pushed adoption of their standards and forced buying by distributors of compatible equipment. This is all the result of a lost industry, sold as part of US trade agreements during the 1980’s in exchange for tobacco. It literally went up in smoke.

Grr says:

No Competition

There is absolutely no competition in the broadband market where I live because most places here if you want broadband you don’t have a choice on your provider. Well, maybe you have a choice of DSL or cable, but if you want cable you are stuck with one ISP choice and, for a lack of a better phrase at the moment, that blows.

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