Average American Consumes 34 Gigs Of Data Per Day; Good Thing ISPs Want To Limit You To 5 Gigs/Month

from the unworkable dept

There's a new study that's making the rounds, noting that the average American consumes about 34 gigs worth of data/information each day. That number has been increasing at a pretty fast pace as well. This is, obviously, not just internet data. It includes TV, radio, mobile phones, newspapers, video games, etc. However, what struck me is that more and more of that is moving to the internet, and that seems like a trend that will continue. And, yet, we still hear stories of ISPs looking to put in place broadband caps that are as low as 5 gigs per month. Clearly, something has to give. Even Comcast's relatively generous cap of 250 gigs per month could run into trouble at some point as well.

And, indeed, this is part of what concerns me most about efforts to put in place broadband caps. As we consume more data and a growing amount of that data consumption moves to the internet, more and more people may find themselves butting up against those caps. Even though plenty of studies (and many comments from the technology -- not policy or marketing -- people at ISPs) show that ISPs can easily invest in infrastructure upgrades to keep pace with the traffic, the move to put in place broadband caps may create serious unintended consequences for broadband. They add a mental transaction cost to any kind of internet usage (you have to think if it's worth it) and limit the interest and/or ability to build newer, more powerful internet applications and services that can serve what we need.
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Filed Under: broadband, broadband caps, data usage


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 11 Dec 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Derek, you and I agree on most things -- but on this one we'll continue to disagree it appears.

    When consuming more of something with real costs, one should pay more.

    It's not that simple. First, I'll note that you (as do the telcos) leave out the corresponding point: when consuming less of something with real costs, one should pay less. And that's because no telco is offering that option.

    Why? Because this isn't about actually charging higher users more, it's about raising prices.

    Why that simple argument gets so much opposition, and gets people so pissed off, is beyond me.

    The issue, I still feel, is a combination of factors. First, not all bandwidth you consume is really up to you. Someone sends you a huge file? Should you be stuck with the bill? Second, it's difficult to judge how much bandwidth you really use.

    But the biggest reason of all is the mental transaction processing costs this creates. Suddenly you have to think much more carefully about what you use, and that's a disincentive to use at all. I think that's dangerous for the internet.

    Plenty of technical studies have shown that there is NOT really a huge problem with overwhelming bandwidth -- and actual bandwidth usage growth has been *slowing* over the past couple years. Metered billing isn't necessary and creates serious mental costs for users that they just don't want.

    On one major point we both agree though: the real problem here is the lack of serious competition in the market. Solve that and I think this whole problem goes away.

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