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Summary:

It has been a dirty little secret of the broadband business – large access providers cap the bandwidth, especially for their power users. In recent times, we have seen Comcast and Verizon (Wireless) put bandwidth caps, and at times even taking extreme actions, like banning the […]

It has been a dirty little secret of the broadband business – large access providers cap the bandwidth, especially for their power users. In recent times, we have seen Comcast and Verizon (Wireless) put bandwidth caps, and at times even taking extreme actions, like banning the bandwidth hogs.

The problem is not that these bandwidth providers took these actions, but instead it is that they were not upfront about it, making a mockery of the word, ‘unlimited’ and took draconian actions.

Perhaps they should take a cue from UK-based cable-broadband Virgin Media, which has become the first broadband service provider that discloses upfront: unlimited does have limits. In a notice to its customers, Virgin wrote,

“And we’re not talking about just a few video clips. In some cases, the top 5 percent of users were downloading as much as 3 GB, just during peak times. That’s around 750 music tracks in the space of a few hours”

The company will slash speeds of those who hog the network during the peak hours, mostly because the company found that in certain areas, the bandwidth hogs were downloading so much that they were bringing down the network experience for rest of their customers.

While personally, I might find it distasteful that unlimited data users will have to suffer for their habits (after being told and sold they have unlimited data), but at least the punishment is in keeping with the crime – slower speeds for four hours, instead of total disconnect.

  1. I would be happy to have ‘unlimited’ bandwith, even if that came with a certain ‘fair use policy’. Where I live (Belgium) we are still faced with ridiculous limits of 10Gigabytes/month…

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  2. Jesse Kopelman Wednesday, May 9, 2007

    [/sarcasm]Wow, 3 GB in just a few hours! If a few means 3, that works out to a whole GB an hour, or 2.2 Mbps! How dare these people actually use 50% of the advertised speed of their connection?! For that matter, how dare they collude with other users to create peak times!? Don’t they know that companies can make more profit if usage is evenly distributed?![/sarcasm]

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  3. I’m currently with Virgin Media (ISP formally known as NTL) since last September, and the service has been dire. At least five engineers have been sent out to fix disconnections, and it’s obvious from the work they’ve had to carry out that the infrastructure is in terrible shape. Never mind the ‘unlimited’ download caps – let’s get a permanent connection first.

    But it’s not all bad news; I’m on the top tier 10mb connection, and have been promised an upgrade to 20mb near the end of this month. Although I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of sustained transfer rates I actually get. It’s funny how the data transfer rates increase exponentially against the transfer limits – I expect Virgin won’t increase the ‘unlimited’ gigabyte limit post 20mb upgrade, even though they should expect users to be able to download more data in the same time span.

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  4. Yeah they offer 10 meg broadband, but to be honest downloading 3GB in 2 hours is quite a lot. I would think most poeple would do their downloading overnight anyway as it would slow up their own browsing, but 3GB is about 4 xvid movies or 8 tv shows.

    I don’t know anyone that downloads that much per day nevermind regularly at peak time.

    -Tim

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  5. I find these caps are a measure of bad planning on the ISP’s behalf. If they truly cannot model useage and consumer behaviour what did they base their monetisation plan on ?? 5% of a user base consuming the most bandwidth seems to be about right, with the majority actually underusing their ‘quota’ due to surfing habits, not everyone is sharing their Itunes library ;). A couple of consumer class actions should straighten this out.

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  6. Read your contract Thursday, May 10, 2007

    OM, it’s in your contract dude. Read it.

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  7. Jeffrey W. Baker Thursday, May 10, 2007

    3GB is not even an entire Red Hat Linux DVD. If I had one of these “high-speed” connections I’d expect my download of the new Red Hat to finish as swiftly as possible, peak hours be damned.

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  8. im a 4mb virgin customer and i dont download masses of data just web surfing and games.

    So my cap will be 750mb theres demos that are bigger than that on xbox live so im going to be punished for downloading a single file

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  9. Argh bandwidth caps, I’m with Virgin Media and I’ve just recently upgraded from the 4MB to the 10MB. I usually download a film once every 2-3days, the rest of the time I just game or surf the web. Tonight when I’ve downloaded 700MB+ of data, I got my bandwidth cut from 9MB+ to 1MB+ WTH! I’m paying for my 10MB that’s what I should get to be honest, the 4hours they dock me for should lower my monthly broadband bill.

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  10. Ha! That’s hilarious, I haven’t downloaded nothing today/tonight and still my bandwidth get’s cut. They really are raking it in.

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