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Zeugma's SmartMeter and the End of Unlimited Broadband

Telecommunications equipment provider Zeugma Systems today released software called SmartMeter that helps carriers manage broadband traffic. It’s not alone in offering such a product, but with SmartMeter Zeugma is trying to ride a change in the way broadband providers price their services — moving from buffet-style to a menu of tailored service packages. The switch is coming because broadband caps and metered broadband, complete with overage fees, are a fairly unsophisticated way of encouraging certain use patterns (such as limiting online video), and capturing additional revenue as broadband becomes more valuable to subscribers.

Zeugma is marketing its software as a way for carriers to manage their network without pissing off consumers the way heavy-handed schemes such as Comcast’s ( s cmcsa) P2P blocking did or Cox’s traffic prioritization plan does. Instead, providers can use SmartMeter to get more detailed traffic stats, set very granular limits on certain types of files, or slow speeds during a certain time of day, in order to offer service packages tailored to certain types of customers — from those who use the web for VoIP to those who game. (We probably won’t see a Torrent Freak package coming anytime soon, though.)

These types of plans exist in the UK, and I’ve warned that they’re a likely next step in the U.S., but it will still hurt to give up on all-you-can-eat broadband in exchange for tailored packages. Such plans offer more flexibility than a rigid cap and could cost less than paying overage fees, but will still raise the total price paid by consumers for web-based services like streaming video. Maybe I’m feeling defeated, but I have to ask myself, did I really think I could get away with paying $45 a month for broadband, voice (using VoIP) and video (using Hulu)? Although, if carriers can goose their revenue with well-planned packages perhaps they won’t need to spy on our surfing in order to sell ads.

12 Responses to “Zeugma's SmartMeter and the End of Unlimited Broadband”

  1. Right, Hulu is not international yet… But with more than 100 channels (they are not all in French :) you should find something to watch. And you know, if the content is not legally available (like with Hulu) people just download the episodes few hours after they were on air in US. I am amazed to see how many of my friends in France watch US TV series, and they are more up-to-date than me !

  2. Stacey Higginbotham

    DeShawn — the $45 is for my broadband connection, so a single play with triple services :)

    Loic — I like France — even speak some French. Perhaps it’s time to open a GigaOM Europe office :) Has Hulu gone international yet?

  3. Jesse Kopelman

    You know, instead of spending money on stuff to manage the network, carriers could just keep that money as profit for continuing to sell unmanaged access . . .

  4. You can get away with paying 30 euros/month for broadband (ADSL2+), voice (using VoIP, for unlimited local, national, and international (more than 90 countries)) and video (using Hulu), and IPTV (hundred of channels, including HD ones), but you will have to cross the channel, and move to France…. I know… there is a catch here too :)
    But lots of ISPs, in different countries, offer decent services without capping. Usually it happens in countries that are invested in the infrastructure. The 21st century IP network compares to the last century rail roads network, or highway system… I guess it works better (and faster) when the state builds the core infrastructure first, and let private companies innovate on top of it.
    If the state does not step up, all those ISPs with their broadband caps will sacrifice innovation to satisfy their own short term profitability.

    Don’t give up !