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That's a Bannin'
July 14, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Use more than 250GB of data in a month twice within the first six months of your contract, and you will be banned for year. A first hand account, per Andre Vrignaud. Wired's analysis. Is Comcast simply trying to provide a better quality of service for its customers by regulating traffic? Or, as some suggest, is Comcast making moves to protect its core video cable interests in the face of growing media streaming services, like hulu and Netflix? Critics have speculated about the motives of this move in 2008, when the cap was enacted. Additionally, some, including Vrignaud, have criticized Comcast for removing essential household services, akin to water and electricity. It may seem a bit overstated, until you consider that these days the internet is used for more than convenience and entertainment, but also for full-time work from home and as a phone replacement. Should shutting it off be this easy? Ongoing discussion here.
posted by SpacemanStix (118 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
If there was actual local competition, a ban might not be that bad, but there's plenty of places where there's only one or two broadband service providers.

Who wants to bet they'll start giving exemptions for nbc.com streaming or something like that?

Of course, I expect nothing good from the Worst Company in America.
posted by kmz at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


This guy is certainly good at getting press, which is probably going to get his account reopened for good PR, so... bravo.

Even though Comcast is perfectly upfront about the limit, doesn't sell their service as unlimited, and has a dashboard showing your usage on your account web page.
posted by smackfu at 8:52 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


is Comcast making moves to protect its core video cable interests in the face of growing media streaming services, like hulu and Netflix?

Yes. It's pretty simple:

Entrenched infrastructure + lack of competition = evil (or a reasonable simulation thereof)
posted by jcreigh at 8:52 AM on July 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


It wasn't streaming movies that got him banned. According to his own article, it was having to preserve every atom of every piece of media he consumes and expecting Comcast to be cool with that.
posted by Legomancer at 8:53 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


smackfu: "Even though Comcast is perfectly upfront about the limit, doesn't sell their service as unlimited, and has a dashboard showing your usage on your account web page."

They're also upfront about being the only option for broadband in most of the communities that they serve.

Don't like our policies? Tough.
posted by schmod at 8:54 AM on July 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I can't get worked up about this. You hire services from a private company under a contract. You violate that contract. They call you up and say, "Hey, you violated our contract. Please don't do it again or we might terminate it."

Then he goes and does it again. He has "no idea" how he uses that amount of bandwidth per month, and expects the service provider to tell him how he's using it!?! (Umm, dude, check your router's access logs -- it's your responsibility to monitor your own data usage.)

As for competition, well, duh, he should've thought of what might happen if that private company decides to cut off his access when he ignores their warning.

Sorry, no empathy whatsoever for this guy.
posted by docjohn at 8:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


They are trying to use their monopoly powers to increase returns on their business. Real marginal cost for data like this is pretty close to zero for all of the players, and if it was actually competitive they'd never be able to price it like this. Its a regulatory failure more than anything else.

Best way to do this is regulate the wire to your house on an asset base/RoR sort of thing they way we regulate distribution of electricity, and then let comcast or whomever bundle the services you want to buy together.
posted by JPD at 8:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


According to this, that means you can Netflix roughly two HD movies and one HD TV show a day.

Considering that Netflix doesn't let you choose whether you watch something in HD or SD (or does it?), I can see how this can encourage piracy in search of a lower-bandwidth version of a film.
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Comcast business accounts have no monthly data cap. When my BF moved in last month we upgraded because he works from home and we're both heavy internet users. When I lived alone I was hitting 150GB a month and I don't provide an open access point to "guests".

It's ridiculous that Andre Vrignaud is so indignant that they shut down his internets. You know the cap is in place, you can monitor your usage via Comcast's website OR there are plenty of tools out there that can monitor it for you, and you can upgrade to an unlimited account if you are a heavy user. AND they warned you the first time it happened!

I think it sucks that Comcast puts a cap on monthly bandwidth in the first place, but it's not like they surprised you with it. You were the irresponsible one and you violated the contract. Stiff bickies, kid.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


They're also upfront about being the only option for broadband in most of the communities that they serve.

I've had both cable and DSL available at every place I've lived.
posted by smackfu at 8:59 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


(The cable is way better, but still...)
posted by smackfu at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2011


Can someone give a reasonable estimate of how far over the "250 GB cap" this fellow likely was?

As a matter of principle it may not matter, but in trying to understand what happened in this specific case it's useful to know if he was summarily cut off for two months of 250.1 GB of transfer, or two months of substantially more than that.

The reason I ask is that other than the cap in question the only other hard number in the story seems to be that he had a "12 TB" collection of files he was trying to back up online, which unless I'm misunderstanding is ~48x the monthly cap in question. We don't know how far he got, etc., but given the amounts in question I find it seems plausible that Comcast didn't intervene until he was an order of magnitude or more over the cap.
posted by hoople at 9:02 AM on July 14, 2011


I loathe bandwidth caps or Comcast, but this guy is a whiny, entitled dick.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:02 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Considering that Netflix doesn't let you choose whether you watch something in HD or SD (or does it?), I can see how this can encourage piracy in search of a lower-bandwidth version of a film.

I think (not sure) they just started giving that option here in the US. They had it in Canada for a while because of download caps there and now that download caps are becoming more common in the US they've supposedly also implemented it here.

But wait, now I actually read the Andrew Vrignaud article I've pretty much lost all sympathy. (Still hate Comcast, but whatever.) You didn't think upload would count against your cap? Upload is generally considered way more valuable than download. Why do you think almost all home broadband is asymmetric?

Bandwidth caps, BTW, are also why having everything in the "cloud" isn't going to happen anytime soon.
posted by kmz at 9:02 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, as some suggest, is Comcast making moves to protect its core video cable interests in the face of growing media streaming services, like hulu and Netflix?

I've been trying to explain this to some friends for a while; the cable companies have always said that they won't ever support À la carte pricing for channels as bundling allows them to negotiate for cheaper prices across the board, but they are about to be passed by as technology leapfrogs the issue and makes the whole point moot.

Most people don't want to pay for a channel, they want to pay for the programming on a channel, and between Hulu and Netflix (and a couple of the network TV home pages) the average person can keep completely up to date with current TV programming without any kind of cable subscription (exempting live programs like sporting events, those will always remain a draw for the cable/ Dish companies). All their favorite episodes are right there, on demand, and as a bonus, they have the entire back catalog, not just the last two or three that most cable companies air on their on-demand channels.

In order to remain relevant in the face of an exodus of customers once they realize that this is possible, The high-speed-data providers are going to have to change the way they interact with their subscribers and understand that providing the bandwidth is what is keeping them in the television game.

Were I more cynical, I'd guess that the whole bandwidth capping thing is the first salvo in this fight; "Well, you can have 250 gigs a month, or unlimited, but unlimited is going to cost you a premium" where the premium is the same amount that the cable company is losing on lost cable TV revenue.
posted by quin at 9:02 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


It makes zero sense that they wouldn't simply use this as a springboard for more money though.

How it went:
"Hey, where'd my internet go?"
"You used too much, we cut it off"
End of Conversation

How it would make sense to go:
"Hey where'd my internet go?"
"You used too much, either cut the crap and use less bandwidth or upgrade to Business"

Why wouldn't they do the latter? They just straight-up cut him off
posted by Riptor at 9:03 AM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Comcast is the devil's ISP. For years they've been awful, particularly all their games with tampering with users' data connections. The current cap policy isn't terrible, exactly, at least it's transparent. It's still a shame and points out why we need competition in US broadband.

The problem is all the ISPs are moving to caps. Partly it's a technical problem, their networks are underprovisioned and really can't handle everyone streaming HD video all the time. (Monthly quotas are a fucking stupid way to solve that problem, though.) And of course it's also about making more money. And let's not even start to talk about wireless network access.

An interesting guy to follow on this topic is Dane Jasper, the CEO of amazing ISP sonic.net. They have a very public policy of not imposing usage caps. I hope they can sustain it.
posted by Nelson at 9:03 AM on July 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, just to make it clear, yeah, the cap is bullshit, but it's not a secret. If the electric company says "don't power an office space on your individual account" or the water company says "don't start filling pools with your individual account," and you do so, they'll either bill you like a business or cut you off.

Why wouldn't they do the latter?

I bet if he called and upgraded when it went down, it would come right back up, but that's speculation on my end.
posted by griphus at 9:05 AM on July 14, 2011


Can someone give a reasonable estimate of how far over the "250 GB cap" this fellow likely was?

I accidentally used 400 GB one month, and never got a notice. (You can use a surprising amount of bandwidth just uploading on uncapped torrents.)
posted by smackfu at 9:07 AM on July 14, 2011


You hire services from a private company unrestrained monopoly under a contract.

FTFY.

They can get away with those restrictions only because they have regulatory capture on an essential service - they have a monopoly in residential high speed internet. Other countries don't have to put up with this bullshit, there's tons of competition to your doorstep. American high speed internet providers are so backwards and primitive, it's shameful.

Having a half dozen or so companies colluding to carve up territory is not competition, it's cartel behavior, and needs to be squashed. Now.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:07 AM on July 14, 2011 [31 favorites]


One problem is allowing a single company to own an entire media chain. For example, when you watch a Blue Jays game in Canada, Rogers Corporation owns the cable TV or cable internet distribution channel, the broadcast network, the production facilities, the baseball team, and the stadium they play in. There used to be government safeguards against that kind of saturation.
posted by rocket88 at 9:08 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can someone give a reasonable estimate of how far over the "250 GB cap" this fellow likely was?

I accidentally used 400 GB one month, and never got a notice. (You can use a surprising amount of bandwidth just uploading on uncapped torrents.)


There is an ongoing rumor that you need to clear 500GB to get the nastygram.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2011


I've had both cable and DSL available at every place I've lived.

How would you feel if you only had two gas stations, or two grocery stores, or two doctors to pick from? Either you let everyone compete and let them fight it out on price/features, or you make them supply unlimited services in exchange for their monopoly or semi-monopoly.

Giving a company preferred access to a market and then also letting them call the shots is stupid in the extreme.

( Many cable companies are now in the phone business, too. The 911 dilemma that Vrignaud brings up is a very important issue. No cable = no emergency phone strongly supports that cable ISPS are in the utility business, and need to be regulated as utilities.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


It also bears mentioning that when Comcast set up the 250GB cap, Netflix was not yet streaming video (and I don't recall if Hulu was even around).
posted by briank at 9:10 AM on July 14, 2011


Considering that Netflix doesn't let you choose whether you watch something in HD or SD (or does it?), I can see how this can encourage piracy in search of a lower-bandwidth version of a film.

There are three settings for managing Netflix bandwidth in the account settings, only the highest setting enables HD streaming.

Also, Comcast does suck, but they also provide a bandwidth meter on their account page. I couldn't say how accurate it is...
posted by curse at 9:12 AM on July 14, 2011


This is why I'm running 2 isp's at the moment.

Comcast@15 down, and sonic.net with 2X20 adsl2+ lines. Unfortunately the Sonic line is 9300 feet away from the box so I get ~9, hence the second ISP.

I figure I'll clobber the shit out of the comcast line until I hit 250, use the sonic for upstream (s3 backups), and that should keep me covered.

Once I get past the low intro rate on comcast though I'm unsure what to do next...

I agree with this guy though. I do think Internet access is a right. It's another one of those things that the US is going to be ass backwards on for years until doing an about face, just like every other goddamned social issue in the past 50 years.

These caps, both wired and wireless are going to be bad shit for innovation. This level of lockdown is going to further push the US into some 3rd world technological backwater. These next-gen mobile devices, always connected to the internet, able to access cloud data anywhere, stream anywhere, send swathes of information around the aether are going to open up really amazing cutting edge technology.

Which won't mean shit if these government mandated monopoly isp's charge you 10 cents a meg.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:12 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who pays for the infrastructure in other countries? Like who runs the coax to your house?
posted by smackfu at 9:12 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


How would you feel if you only had two gas stations, or two grocery stores, or two doctors to pick from?

When it comes to my location, it's get gas at Station A where I can fill up or Station B where it takes an hour to fill up a tank. Thank you Qwest for offering 1.5M/768K.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:13 AM on July 14, 2011


The bandwidth cap sucks. I can see their reasoning for it, really, but as a consumer that has sometimes bumped up against the cap (I think I hit 230 when I did my initial online backup to Backblaze), it's scary to know that they might cancel my account for just two infractions.

The worst part, though, is that the Comcast account monitoring of your bandwidth usage is not always accessible. It's a glitch in their system, fairly common from what I understand. I've been slowly uploading music to Google Music for the last few weeks, so I've been trying to keep an eye on my usage. The bandwidth meter is just not accessible on my account, despite several calls to the Comcast hotline, a few reprovisioning resets of my modem, and an apparent escalation within customer service.

If they can't give me a reliable tool to monitor my usage, how am I supposed to make sure that I stay within the limit? This wrinkle adds a whole new level of suck, IMO.

(That said, I find this particular story fairly annoying. He didn't know that uploads counted? He forgot that he was doing an online backup of huge amounts of data? Seems to me that you have to take some responsibility for your actions as well.)
posted by gemmy at 9:13 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


As for competition, well, duh, he should've thought of what might happen if that private company decides to cut off his access when he ignores their warning.

What the hell? Yes, it is absolutely the marginalized victim's fault.
posted by azarbayejani at 9:15 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see how this particular individual is a "victim" in any sense of the word. Unless you mean:

A victim of ignoring warnings? Yes.

A victim of not investigating alternatives before he ignored warnings? Yes.

A victim of companies looking out for their own needs and managing their own network infrastructure? Yes.
posted by docjohn at 9:20 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I couldn't say how accurate it is...

If they're cutting you off rather than charging you more for the bandwidth overage, I'd think they would want to keep it as accurate as they can.
posted by griphus at 9:20 AM on July 14, 2011


250GB a month is a fairly decent cap, especially compared to what people in Canada have to deal with.
posted by Cloud King at 9:20 AM on July 14, 2011


>How it would make sense to go:
"Hey where'd my internet go?"
"You used too much, either cut the crap and use less bandwidth or upgrade to Business"
Why wouldn't they do the latter? They just straight-up cut him off<

I am fairly sure I read on the Comcast site that they said that’s exactly what they’ll do. I’m finding the story suspicious, but too boring to read the whole thing or investigate.

250G is a lot, they’re upfront about it, and have a way to monitor it. And I don’t think a Business plan actually costs that much more, it’s not like it suddenly jumps to $500.
posted by bongo_x at 9:20 AM on July 14, 2011


Even though Comcast is perfectly upfront about the limit, doesn't sell their service as unlimited, and has a dashboard showing your usage on your account web page.

I've been a comcast customer for at least seven years, and I've never seen anything from them saying there was a cap, nor had I heard about an official cap until hearing this story. I remember anecdotal stories about people having it shut off over the years, but never an official "here is the number" from comcast.

/logs into account page to find this "dashboard" - I use billpay so I've never seen this.

Oh look, my bill went up another $3.xx this month for who knows why. Shall I spend the hour or two to get a non-explanation for the increase "every six months we review and adjust...." Really? Why does it increase EVERY OTHER MONTH?

Fuck Comcast and Fuck anyone that defends them.
posted by Big_B at 9:22 AM on July 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


I hate Comcast, but they were the only other choice in town after I left Verizon due to slamming charges and hours of extremely poor customer service spent clearing it up. Comcast does mention the caps, but only in the small print (go to their page where they list the plans and click on "Details and Restrictions"- no mention of caps), and when I asked the installer about the caps he said that he didn't know about it and he didn't think they existed as he "downloads stuff all the time". I've been with them 3 months and have already gone over my cap, at which point they gave me a "warning cutoff"- they called me on the 6th (keep in mind the cap resets on the 1st) with an automated message stating I was approaching the limit at which point I stopped using the internet, two days later I was cut off- no webpage stating "you've gone over", just cut off my access and provided no information (and I had not gone over for that month). It looks like a normal service outage, you then have to call Customer Service, who then transfers you to their "security" team who tells you that the next time is a death penalty for a year.

Security team could not give me a good explanation of 1) why they blacklist people for a year instead of just cutting their service off when they hit 250GB and reinstating it when their bandwidth allocation resets the following month, 2) why they originally tried to upsell me on more bandwidth with the same caps without mentioning the caps- if you go with their fastest plan, you can basically burn through your months worth of data in 3-4 days.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:22 AM on July 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Even though Comcast is perfectly upfront about the limit, doesn't sell their service as unlimited, and has a dashboard showing your usage on your account web page.

Well...yes and no.
Now they don't sell their service as unlimited, but they used to when I signed up.
Moreover, I don't have a comcast account (didn't need one to sign up back when) so couldn't check my bandwidth usage if I wanted to.*

I imagine they sent some sort of fine print notice about the imposition of a usage cap in one of the monthly bills, but they sure didn't go out of their way to call attention to it.

* I suppose I could go through the trouble of creating one, but do I really need another email address I'll never check?
posted by madajb at 9:23 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think a lot of people realize how much of an existential threat it is to telcos and cable companies to have to compete on the merits. Rest assured, though, the telcos and cablecos do.
posted by mhoye at 9:25 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Comcast actually commisioned a pretty interesting independent analysis of their usage meter back when they announced the cap: Comcast Usage Meter Accuracy

And you may not know that there is a cap, but that is why you get a first notice.
posted by smackfu at 9:26 AM on July 14, 2011


A victim of companies looking out for their own needs and managing their own network infrastructure? Yes.

This is what drives me nuts about these arguments - it assumes the world stops at the US borders, or if it does magically continue across the seas, they're all primitive savages, and no-one else could possibly be doing this internet or cell-phone thing. Well, guess what - while your stern-but-fair monopoly daddy is soaking you for baby-piss bandwidth, in South Korea they have gigabit ethernet right to your door. For less than you're paying.

It's the same argument against socialized healthcare - it relies on pig-ignorance and taking the entrenched interests at their word.

Comcast is massively mis-managing their network, or squeezing out unearned profit or an unfair competitive advantage at the expense of their quality of service, if they need to cap you at 250gb.

They have no business running a large-scale home ISP if they need to do this. They're either incompetent, or chiselers, or both.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2011 [23 favorites]


I found it interesting that Vrignaud said that Comcast was not able to tell him the source of his data overage on his first call, although their policy says this: When we call you, we try to help you identify the source of excessive use and ask you to moderate your usage, which the vast majority of our customers do voluntarily. If it's true that they were unable to do this, per his request, the cut-off seems a bit heavy handed. If Vrignaud's accounting is not correct, it seems strange that Comcast did not address this at some point; i.e., we informed him of the source of his overage, and he still did not comply. I tend to think that Vrignaud's account is correct, and Comcast was not appropriately helpful. You can argue that he still had a responsibility to know his usage, but Comcast also seems to think that they should be in a position to help customer's figure this out, if they request assistance.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:34 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


They have no business running a large-scale home ISP if they need to do this. They're either incompetent, or chiselers, or both.

The network side of comcast seems relatively competent. They have ipv6 initiatives, have presented on dnssec among other things.
The business side, however, seems to be bent on being completely evil.
posted by madajb at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2011


This is actually yet another example of "socialize the cost and privatize the profits". Much, if not most, of the internet infrastructure was built by telcos with taxpayer-backed loans. We the people have a lot of skin in this game, yet we still have to grovel at the feet of the corporations who profit from our investment. There is no other way to put it other than this fucked up and completely backwards.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:42 AM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, guess what - while your stern-but-fair monopoly daddy is soaking you for baby-piss bandwidth, in South Korea they have gigabit ethernet right to your door. For less than you're paying.

And how physically big is South Korea vs the U.S. ? Do they have the same Universal Access laws that require telco's to subsidize rural phone access? I agree U.S. broadband sucks comparatively, but it's not clear that it's an apples to apples comparison.

When Comcast announced the bandwidth caps, I was worried since I had just started using Mozy to backup 2.5 TB of data. They have not complained about my usage yet, and I'm regularly over the 250gb cap, so it sounds like they are paying attention to what kind of data makes up your usage as well as the size.
posted by nomisxid at 9:44 AM on July 14, 2011


smackfu wrote: "I've had both cable and DSL available at every place I've lived."

Yet the house I have now is only number two out of six where both cable and dsl have been available. Either way, at&t also has data caps now, so that won't leave you any better off. At least U-Verse for Business isn't as outrageously overpriced as Cox's 'business-class' service.

Comcast..aren't they the ones who tried to extort Level 3 into paying them for peering, even after Level 3 offered to reimburse them for the hardware costs of upgrading their peering links? Comcast, the eyeball network, complaining about ratios..that was a laugh and a half.
posted by wierdo at 9:47 AM on July 14, 2011


while your stern-but-fair monopoly daddy is soaking you for baby-piss bandwidth, in South Korea they have gigabit ethernet right to your door. For less than you're paying.

Is the land area and population density of South Korea and the US the same? I'm not defending Comcast or the cable or telcos, but those look like different animals in terms of provisioning.

I've long thought broadband should be a regulated utility just like power and water. Comcast policies look dickish here (just charge overages, force the guy to upgrade to a more expensive plan, or whatever), but Vrignaud looks like a whiner who has little interest in solving his end of it either. The guy said he was running an open access point. If he's allowing anybody in the neighborhood to use his bandwidth, it's no wonder he has no idea how much he's using even apart from the backups already mentioned upthread.
posted by immlass at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2011


Comcast..aren't they the ones who tried to extort Level 3 into paying them for peering, even after Level 3 offered to reimburse them for the hardware costs of upgrading their peering links?

I don't think it was ever resolved who was correct in that one. That is certainly the Level 3 position, but both sides said the other was misrepresenting their position.
posted by smackfu at 9:51 AM on July 14, 2011


The guy said he was running an open access point. If he's allowing anybody in the neighborhood to use his bandwidth, it's no wonder he has no idea how much he's using even apart from the backups already mentioned upthread.

Oh yeah, that part was ridiculous too. Who the fuck runs an open access point? If you want your guests to have Internet, give them your key or run a separate but still locked network.
posted by kmz at 9:54 AM on July 14, 2011


immlass: The guy said he was running an open access point. If he's allowing anybody in the neighborhood to use his bandwidth, it's no wonder he has no idea how much he's using

He says in TFA that after the first warning, he cut that off.
posted by azarbayejani at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And how physically big is South Korea vs the U.S. ? Do they have the same Universal Access laws that require telco's to subsidize rural phone access? I agree U.S. broadband sucks comparatively, but it's not clear that it's an apples to apples comparison.

Using "rural phone access" is not an apples to apples comparison either. Comcast isn't a telco and doesn't run cable to rural areas.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:58 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is the land area and population density of South Korea and the US the same? I'm not defending Comcast or the cable or telcos, but those look like different animals in terms of provisioning.



Only someone who knows nothing about utility regulation would consider this an issue.

You figure out the rate base, you figure out the tariff based on that, and if the end result looks untenable relative to incomes in the area you subsidize - because just like water and power, today telecoms are an essential service that every american is entitled to at a reasonable price.
posted by JPD at 9:59 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


250GB a month is a fairly decent cap, especially compared to what people in Canada have to deal with.

Here on the east coast of Canada I don't have to deal with any cap. Why? Because for all of their moaning about excessive usage and congestion the major incumbents have admitted that the lack of caps in Nova Scotia are because we have a competitive ISP market, thanks mostly to the Bragg family.
posted by papercrane at 9:59 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


kmz: run a separate but still locked network.

That seems to be exactly what he was doing.
"I also have an open access point (in addition to a secured AP that I use to access internal network resources)"
posted by azarbayejani at 9:59 AM on July 14, 2011


The business side, however, seems to be bent on being completely evil.

They're not just evil, but deeply stupid too. My brother works for a company that does entire webpresence deals for mid- to large comapnies. They often resell connectivity as part of the package. He has, on occasion dealt directly with VP level folks at the major Canadian monopolies. They condiser same-week initial call backs on new sales calls (for sales in four or five-figures per month) to be prompt service. They literally can't figure out how to do business faster than that. They've taken years to roll-out their web tools so that these clients can look account details up on line---until very recently everything was paper at months end.

These are old-school utility companies, land phone and tv cable, who are used to a stable, unchangeing customer base and very undemanding level of customer responsiveness. Even years into morphing into ISPs, they still, in many ways, behave as though they were selling landlines or TV cable thirty or forty years ago. It doesn't help that they're all essentially monopolies, either.
posted by bonehead at 10:01 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


That seems to be exactly what he was doing.
"I also have an open access point (in addition to a secured AP that I use to access internal network resources)"


He had an open network and a private network, which is stupid if you just want to give visitors Internet access. You run your usual primary private network and a separate network for guests that's also locked.

What you never ever do unless you just love looking for trouble is run an open access point.
posted by kmz at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2011


Ctrl+F for "satellite" in this thread gives me nothing. You guys have no idea how trivial this issue looks from on the other side of that fence.
posted by byanyothername at 10:24 AM on July 14, 2011


Canada is notorious for this kind of provider abuse, which is even more egregious as the network was put in place using mainly public funds.

I'm a gamer who works from home and streams TV. Even without the occasional piracy, I hit basic service caps in like a week. I used to have an uncapped business account with one of the Big Bads, but then I switched to Teksavvy. They're reselling bandwidth from a major provider in packages that correspond to modern-day Internet needs.

I pay less than half the price for twice the cap of the highest-usage Videotron plan (55$/300gb vs 150$/170gb, with very reasonable overage fees). Awesome savings, but I would pay twice as much with a song in my heart because they actively protect my rights as a consumer (and their market share, win win) and have been a vocal player in the usage-based billing regulation game. Which might be why they're one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada.

I don't know what the lesson is, here. Agility and adaptability beat entrenched but outdated business models? When companies treat customers as allies rather than walking wallets, everybody wins? Support indie providers? Fuck big telcos? Bottom line, I <3 Teksavvy and you should too, fellow Canadians!
posted by Freyja at 10:26 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


smackfu: "I've had both cable and DSL available at every place I've lived."

Where my parents live, you can only get dialup. Not everyone lives in the big city.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:26 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


What you never ever do unless you just love looking for trouble is run an open access point.

Assuming you have a reasonably secure password on the router itself, why? Wardriving spammers?
posted by Challahtronix at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2011


I’m a big believer in storing the original, lossless digital content so that I can access it in full fidelity in the future no matter how technology evolves. In some ways that makes me a bit archaic as I still buy (used) CDs from Amazon for all of my music so I can rip it losslessly – I’m not a fan of the compressed music formats you buy and download. But the ramification is that I have terabytes of storage in my basement RAID server – each music track is duplicated three times, I have all of my original RAW photos, plus processed JPEG versions of those RAW photos, as well as a variety of other miscellaneous content – documents, spreadsheets, that sort of thing.

This stuff is valuable to me, and I recently purchased a three-year subscription to Carbonite so I could back all of this content up to the cloud.


I am a big believer in our right to store music files in three different formats in the cloud. Oh wait, no I'm not.

Jesus dude.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:34 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


they don't actually want you to USE the service. they just want you to BUY the service. in their minds, data usage that high has 100% correlation to you stealing intellectual property. they're often right, as well, so they can afford to be wrong once in a while. they gain nothing by having a customer like this.

the business wisdom of not attempting to bump him to the business plan certainly eludes me, but as a consumer customer they have nothing to lose by cutting him off.
posted by radiosilents at 10:34 AM on July 14, 2011


Yeah, satellite is a complete disaster for bandwidth limits (and latents). Wireless in general is a much harder problem than wired; spectrum really is just limited. Remember when the iPhone was introduced in the US and AT&T was muscled into providing unlimited, unmetered bandwidth? That didn't work out very well.
posted by Nelson at 10:37 AM on July 14, 2011


My big problem with cable companies and internet competition in the United States is that the incumbent oligopoly are actively lobbying to stifle competition from municipalities and other internet service providers. Many states have passed laws and regulations that prevent local governments and municipal organizations from offering better and cheaper alternatives. They have purchased other possible competitors, such as local cable companies, that might expand their territory to compete with them. Verizon stopped deploying new FIOS because it might compete with their 4G services, which are much more expensive and bandwidth limited, but they don't want to have to compete with fiber from local utilities.
posted by jefeweiss at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


For example, when you watch a Blue Jays game in Canada

People do this?
posted by Hoopo at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metered billing: it's a lack of competition, not congestion.

I just signed back up with sonic.net Fusion yesterday. It'll be slower than the Uverse I have now due to my distance from the CO, but that's a small price to pay for supporting actual competition in the Internet market here.
posted by zsazsa at 10:42 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anybody have a clue as to what the Comcast business account runs?

With everybody home for the summer, we are running just at or under the 250gb cap. Might have to shut down the modem before the end of the month to avoid hitting the cap.
posted by mygoditsbob at 10:57 AM on July 14, 2011


Only someone who knows nothing about utility regulation would consider this an issue.

wtf, you've got to physically provision a network somehow. The bandwidth fairy is not coming out to make free tubes to folks in the middle of nowhere, as the folks in this thread talking about dialup and satellite are here to tell you. In the US we have arguments about how to provide power and water (costs, environmental aspects, rates, etc.) all the time. Broadband isn't going to be any different.
posted by immlass at 10:59 AM on July 14, 2011


I've had both cable and DSL available at every place I've lived.

Around here, in a lot of areas, dialup is your only option. That, or Hughes satellite, which is just all kinds of terrible.
posted by xedrik at 11:00 AM on July 14, 2011


I was very excited to find out about this usage meter (already heard of the cap from other sources), so I logged into my account to check it out. No such thing. Took forever to find something in their Help section that would clue me in to where I could find it (screenshot on this FAQ page). This is not what my account page looks like (similar, but their image seems to have a lot more options than I have available).

On the plus side, I did find out that they raised prices on me again sometime in the last few months. I guess when you have set up auto-payment, it's no longer necessary to affirmatively inform you of those changes?
posted by SpaceBass at 11:08 AM on July 14, 2011


In the US we have arguments about how to provide power and water (costs, environmental aspects, rates, etc.) all the time. Broadband isn't going to be any different.

And of course a water utility will act like Comcast: Go over 25000 gallons two months in a row and they shut off your service for a year.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:10 AM on July 14, 2011


That's pretty much the exact reason I don't use auto-payment on any of my bills.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:10 AM on July 14, 2011


Comcast's customer service sure is strangely constructed. The usage meter is in the same place as the bill so requires a login each time to check it. I like models like Netflix's where a cookie gets me to watching movies & I only need to log in if I want to mess with my account.

"If you exceed more than 250 GB, you may receive a call from the Customer Security Assurance ("CSA") team to notify you of excessive use." A call? On the phone? I've moved twice this year, so wanted to see if they had my correct phone number. Not on the bill and not viewable or changeable anywhere on the website. However, when I call them to check it, they use my phone, not account, number and it pops up correct billing info, so I guess they have it. Weird.

Comcast AlertsSM— sounds good, can they give me warning when I get close to the cap like my cellular data provider does? Nope, just past due, and payment reminders & confirmation. Guess the wag who said they wanted us to pay for the service but not use it had it right.
posted by morganw at 11:10 AM on July 14, 2011


"And how physically big is South Korea vs the U.S. ? Do they have the same Universal Access laws that require telco's to subsidize rural phone access?"

This is true, BUT a lot of rural areas don't have high speed access anyway, so broadband providers whining about serving rural areas are doing just that: Whining. PHONE service may be mandated, but broadband sure as hell isn't.

On top of that, I pay, in Illinois, a fee for a privilege of having the phone line connected to my house. For urban customers this is like $1.25 or something. For suburban, $3.50ish. For rural customers, $9.50/month. So rural customers ARE paying more for access. However, the phone companies also insist that everything outside Chicago and the collar counties is "rural." My house is THIRTY FEET from the phone pole and I pay as much as someone in the middle of nowhere with three miles of line. In the 135th-ranked MSA in the US. Second-largest metro area in the state. Dense urban lots. The phone company says I'm rural. Because they're a fucking monopoly and they're all about padding their bottom line, not about serving customers.

And the phone company's high-speed is STILL cheaper, even with that $9.50 line charge and all the made-up fees and taxes on top of that, and the DSL subscription cost, than fucking Comcast's broadband.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:14 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time getting outraged by this. I mean, Comcast is pure evil hell-bent on sucking your wallet dry at every opportunity, sure. No surprise there. But the guy starts to lose me the second he starts whining about how he NEEDS to have every bit of his terabytes of data backed up offsite without using a real professional-level service package to do so, and he TOTALLY loses me when he starts bitching about broadband being a RIGHT than CANNOT be denied to anyone.

Look asshole, water is a right too. But if you are using so much that your neighbors can't get a drop down the pipe, the water company is going to cut you off too. Cable is a limited bandwidth medium. They are trying like hell to squeeze every last drop out of that damned thing, which is why some HD channels are actually compressed (even though they won't admit it) and why they limit upload speeds to reserve bandwidth for pushing data down the pipe to consumers.

The only thing worse than living somewhere with only one option for broadband access is living downstream from a heavy user who isn't considering that everyone else on his loop is getting shitty connectivity because he's hogging the line. Even though we're all paying the exact same price. Thanks, asshole. Your neighbors are probably wondering why they just got a speed boost.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess when you have set up auto-payment, it's no longer necessary to affirmatively inform you of those changes?

Well, they do send you a bill, right? And it's a pay-in-advance bill, so as soon as you get it and read it, you can change things and you get credit back fro the upcoming month. I'm not sure what level of notification would even work, if you are aggressively not paying attention.
posted by smackfu at 11:17 AM on July 14, 2011


Comcast is still better than AT&T.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:17 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And of course a water utility will act like Comcast: Go over 25000 gallons two months in a row and they shut off your service for a year.

That reminds me of something I'm curious about: if/when Internet access becomes treated like a utility, will "all you can eat" plans even exist anymore? For all current utilities like water and electricity, there's some base maintenance rate you pay and then you pay additional for every unit of usage. Are there any ISPs that currently run on this model?
posted by kmz at 11:24 AM on July 14, 2011


wtf, you've got to physically provision a network somehow.

Of course. That doesn't mean you can't slice and dice the units you regulate together. You create units that make geographic sense, you allow the pipe provider to earn a reasonable return on capital (you know, like how electricity works), and in those areas where a reasonable return on capital would result in unreasonable tariffs relative to incomes, the government steps in with subsidies (you know, like how traditional telecoms & rural electricity already work)
posted by JPD at 11:25 AM on July 14, 2011


smackfu: No, they send me an email telling me that my bill is available if I log in to their website (had to reset my pass today because I had no clue what it was - they let me reset it onsite just by answering my security question, that was weird). I just remember they used to give you a heads-up like a couple of months in advance when the cable company was raising rates. Seems like it had something to do with the local monopoly rules and they had to get permission to raise rates like some other utilities. Your point is perfectly valid about me aggressively not paying attention though, not arguing that one. ;)
posted by SpaceBass at 11:26 AM on July 14, 2011


Anybody have a clue as to what the Comcast business account runs?

We're paying $105 a month for 22Mbps/5Mbps. Previously I was paying $65 a month for 15/2.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:26 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


For all current utilities like water and electricity, there's some base maintenance rate you pay and then you pay additional for every unit of usage. Are there any ISPs that currently run on this model?


The difference between electricity and water vs data is there are real marginal costs for the later. The marginal cost of providing data is compared to traditional utilities extrememly low.

That's why you see such weird competition between the RBOCs and the Cable providers. They understand the current math is basically MAD unless they can exercise oligopolistic powers.
posted by JPD at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excuse me there are real marginal costs for the later former
posted by JPD at 11:29 AM on July 14, 2011


Caps are bullshit. The linked article makes are really legitimate point about using the cloud to backup your computer. More and more people are doing that now and more and more will soon as Apple opens up it's iCloud service.

I get all of my television, movies or news videos (Maddow, PBS reports, etc) over the net. I don't even own a TV. I know that I am already exceeding or pretty close to exceeding the 100GB a month cap that AT&T allows.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:32 AM on July 14, 2011


Eyebrows McGee :And the phone company's high-speed is STILL cheaper, even with that $9.50 line charge and all the made-up fees and taxes on top of that, and the DSL subscription cost, than fucking Comcast's broadband.

Go to your DSL company ans ask for a "dry-loop" connection. Voila! No more 9.50 phone line charge .
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:36 AM on July 14, 2011


The marginal cost of providing data is compared to traditional utilities extrememly low.

Ah, that's true. I guess really what you're paying for is the bandwidth (i.e. 25Mbps), not the amount of transfer. Of course for most residential broadband customers, traditionally there's relatively few times of the day (if ever) when they saturate their pipe, so providers have always underprovisioned. And now that's biting them in the ass as streaming of all kinds becomes more and more popular.
posted by kmz at 11:39 AM on July 14, 2011


"I'm not sure what level of notification would even work, if you are aggressively not paying attention.
posted by smackfu"


AT&T introduced caps this year in my area, and did not notify us of the caps until they'd been in place for two months. Which we read about in the national news. (Local news didn't cover it.) So we knew they were there, but they didn't get around to informing consumers until two months after implementing them. And they didn't provide a way to track your usage until FOUR months after implementing caps. (and it's arcane and obnoxious to get to, of course.)

We don't really come close to bumping the caps so I'm not real worried about it as a general thing, but no, the necessary communication is NOT there.


@kmz: "That reminds me of something I'm curious about: if/when Internet access becomes treated like a utility, will "all you can eat" plans even exist anymore? For all current utilities like water and electricity, there's some base maintenance rate you pay and then you pay additional for every unit of usage. Are there any ISPs that currently run on this model?"

Our new AT&T plan is something like this. We pay a base rate for up to whatever the cap is (I think $24.95 for 150 GB), and then if you go over that, you pay $10 for the next 50 GB and $10 for the next 50 GB. At a certain point they get shirty with you about total use, but there are several $10 increments first, I understand. We also pay a base rate for the privilege of having a line, of $9.50, plus around $10 more in various taxes and fees, so our "base rate" is $20ish, our subscription is $25, and then $10 per 50GB unit once we're over the basic limit. So whichever model your plan would be, that's sort-of what we have now. (BTW, I don't pay a base rate for water or electric or natural gas, it's all rolled into the use.)

Although I think the prices are too high as a general thing (and the taxes and fees are FUCKING ABSURD), and the increment may be too large, I don't find this an unreasonable way to manage data use, particularly as they (in theory) send you e-mails when you're at 50% of your cap, 75%, and then like 95%. The way they rolled it out sucked balls and there was virtually no communication with consumers and most of the information we got about it came from the national media, not AT&T, but I don't disagree with the way the plan functions as a whole.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2011


In 2009, Time Warner Cable tried to institute draconian bandwidth caps. They backed away from the idea once they realized how they had outraged their customers.

We use a Roku box for Netflix and Hulu Plus. Even without using HD, I suspect we'd hit a 100GB or 250GB cap way before the end of each month.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on July 14, 2011


Go to your DSL company ans ask for a "dry-loop" connection. Voila! No more 9.50 phone line charge .

It's not that simple. AT&T charges more for dry-loop DSL than they do for bundled DSL with phone service, plus the service is piss poorand most of the reason I switched to Comcast in the first place.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:01 PM on July 14, 2011


It's not that simple. AT&T charges more for dry-loop DSL than they do for bundled DSL with phone service, plus the service is piss poorand most of the reason I switched to Comcast in the first place.

Really? We have AT&T dry-loop DSL and it was definitely cheaper than DSL + phone. And the service hasn't been too bad. Not stellar, but not horrid either.
posted by kmz at 12:03 PM on July 14, 2011


Of course. That doesn't mean you can't slice and dice the units you regulate together. You create units that make geographic sense, you allow the pipe provider to earn a reasonable return on capital (you know, like how electricity works), and in those areas where a reasonable return on capital would result in unreasonable tariffs relative to incomes, the government steps in with subsidies (you know, like how traditional telecoms & rural electricity already work)

If you're familiar with the history of rural electrification, then you should understand why I don't think this is as simple of a process politically or technologically as you seem to believe it would be. YMM and clearly does V.
posted by immlass at 12:33 PM on July 14, 2011


It was cheaper than DSL+phone, but not by a lot. The dry-loop cost more than the DSL service line item would have in the bundled bill, so they don't just take away your phone service and that's that, they also make the remaining DSL service a bit more expensive (of course this is sold as "the bundled services are discounted").

The real ball buster for me was the 12-hour M-F installation window. That they won't call and tell you more than 20 minutes ahead of time they are coming for. That they may or may not actually show up for (it happened to me!). Comcast gave me a two hour window Saturday morning and showed up five minutes into it. Thank you for recognizing that I work for a living and don't want to take a day off and be chained to my apartment for the whole day just to get some fucking internet service.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:34 PM on July 14, 2011


250GB a month is a fairly decent cap, especially compared to what people in Canada have to deal with.

I have a 400GB cap with Shaw @ 50mbps for $75/month. Is it fair?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2011


Not simple politically of course. Arguably in the current environment impossible.

From a technology perspective its hard, but all you really do is impute some value to the assets to get a number that makes sense and go from there. That's basically what the UK had to do with water. You sort of figure out a good approximation and then keep track of improvements to the rate base going forward.

However, I don't think that's what your objection was the first time around. It was a much broader "US is too loosely populated and too big to adopt ofther methods of regulation."

Its not like there aren't precendents for rethinking regulation of utilities.
posted by JPD at 12:41 PM on July 14, 2011


We use a Roku box for Netflix and Hulu Plus. Even without using HD, I suspect we'd hit a 100GB or 250GB cap way before the end of each month.

If you reliably watch a lot of HD, like every day for four hours, you could hit it. 250GB / 30 days / 4 hours = 2 GB / hour, which is about HD data rate. SD, doubtful. 250 GB / 30 days / 24 hours = 350 MB / hour, which is about SD data rates.
posted by smackfu at 12:51 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


That would be a better than average deal in Ontario, b_b. For that speed and 175 GB/mo, Rogers wants $100/mo.
posted by bonehead at 1:01 PM on July 14, 2011


However, I don't think that's what your objection was the first time around. It was a much broader "US is too loosely populated and too big to adopt ofther methods of regulation."

No, actually the part of my comment that you quoted was to point out that comparing the US and South Korea in terms of provisioning (putting wires in place) is apples and oranges, in part because of the size and density. nomisxid made the same point about five minutes before I did.

I also mentioned that I think bandwidth should be a regulated utility and made some other points about the thread, like the open access point, but they weren't intended to elaborate on the South Korea example. Sorry for the confusion.
posted by immlass at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2011


smackfu: " If you reliably watch a lot of HD, like every day for four hours, you could hit it. 250GB / 30 days / 4 hours = 2 GB / hour, which is about HD data rate. SD, doubtful. 250 GB / 30 days / 24 hours = 350 MB / hour, which is about SD data rates."

Wow. Yeah, we're not watching that much SD tv. And we don't have an HD screen in the house, so that's moot. But combine the video streaming with our regular online use and the fact that we switch to wifi on our cells whenever we're in the house... I'd be curious to know how much bandwidth we use each month.
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2011


I honestly think that solving the internet providers' monopolistic practices will require intervention by the most innovative internet content providers.

That is, Comcast's monopoly will last exactly until it starts interfering with the porn providers. Then it will be crushed within a matter of months.
posted by happyroach at 1:37 PM on July 14, 2011


I'd use some of my tiny New Zealand (40 Gb! And that's one of the larger plans!) allowance to send him a .flac of the world's tiniest violin but I'm nearly at cap myself so it might get cut o
posted by Sebmojo at 2:45 PM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Look asshole, water is a right too. But if you are using so much that your neighbors can't get a drop down the pipe, the water company is going to cut you off too. Cable is a limited bandwidth medium. They are trying like hell to squeeze every last drop out of that damned thing, which is why some HD channels are actually compressed (even though they won't admit it) and why they limit upload speeds to reserve bandwidth for pushing data down the pipe to consumers.

The difference between cable and water is that the cable limits that many users run into are artificial and put in place specifically to prevent people from using something they're actually paying for. In theory when you get Internet access you pay for bandwidth. This bandwidth is divided among all of the ISP's customers according to their service plans. It doesn't cost the service provider more to send 2N bits over the wire than N bits. It just takes twice as long. This is comparable to water, except that there is hardware in place which prevents you from using too much (per second) and starving your neighbors. This is also not very profitable unless you pass on the cost to your customers.

In reality ISPs provision more bandwidth than they actually have. Most users don't use anywhere near their full bandwidth allowance 24/7, so a good provisioning scheme can allow an ISP to support more users without having to use any more actual bandwidth. This allows them to reduce costs for customers and/or increase profit margins. But if enough people use too much bandwidth then the ISP's provisioning scheme falls apart and customers get angry because they're not getting what they paid for. Some of what they're paying for doesn't actually exist.

Some ISPs want to push their provisioning scheme beyond the user limit where above-average usage starts killing the network. So how do you further over-provision and keep people from using too much bandwidth without apparently degrading their service? Enforce usage caps. Users might be paying for 15 mbps downstream, but tell them that they can only use 250 GB of that each month. If they were using their full bandwidth 24/7 they would be using 5 TB/mo, but the cap effectively limits them to 1/20th of that. Their effective bandwidth allowance just went from 15 mbps to 760 kbps and most people won't notice because their connection runs at full speed until they hit the cap.

While it's true that the cost of upgrading the infrastructure in the US is astronomical compared to smaller countries I think we're seeing something beyond that here. Some ISPs have no problem over-provisioning without caps. The fact that you can pay the same rate somewhere else for a capped connection that effectively has a small fraction of that bandwidth is insane. Too few large and territorial ISPs have created areas where there is little competition with no incentive to upgrade their service. They continue to place arbitrary restrictions on their users without consequence. How does a policy that bans users for going over their usage cap serve as anything other than punishment for people who have crossed the cartel? This kind of behavior is a strong indication that some sort of regulation is necessary.
posted by howlingmonkey at 3:09 PM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


All broadband in Australia is metered. I've got 6 gigs. 250 seems impossibly generous.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:57 PM on July 14, 2011


Ha, this is why I never seed. Take that, pirates!
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:59 PM on July 14, 2011


All broadband in Australia is metered. I've got 6 gigs. 250 seems impossibly generous.

Switch to TPG, 200GB for $50 a month and just hope you never need to call technical support, because you won't understand them and they won't understand you. Not everything that exasperates you about Australia should automatically cause you to throw up your hands in anguish and despair, because there are quite a few workarounds. 6GB? What is this, 2002? Hell, even iPrimus has a 1.1TB a month deal for a hundred bucks, or 40GB for $40. Who the fuck are you using that you're capped at 6GB?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:07 PM on July 14, 2011


Oh god are you using mobile broadband? You are, aren't you? Buy a bloody ADSL modem you cheapskate. I've got like nine spare at home, memail me your address and I'll post you one.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:10 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really see a difference between what ISPs are doing versus what land line / mobile phone companies are doing. If you're arguing you deserve unlimited bandwidth because the marginal costs are nearly nil... then you should also be entitled to unlimited text messaging (the marginal costs of that really IS nil) and unlimited phone calls, even overseas ones, for the price of your mobile phone subscription.

I'm predicting internet will join the rest of the utilities in terms of pricing policy, as it will give providers more control over how they want to segment the market to get the best returns.
posted by xdvesper at 4:15 PM on July 14, 2011




Oh god are you using mobile broadband? You are, aren't you? Buy a bloody ADSL modem you cheapskate. I've got like nine spare at home, memail me your address and I'll post you one.


Yeah mobile broadband. I can't get a phone line in, so I'm going to switch to wireless.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:19 PM on July 14, 2011


There has to be a phone line somewhere, get a line splitter and get ADSL ("naked" ADSL if you need to) and charge your housemates access (it's easy to set up passwords that expire after a set time), or say you'll download porn for them at a buck a meg.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:23 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]



There has to be a phone line somewhere, get a line splitter and get ADSL ("naked" ADSL if you need to) and charge your housemates access (it's easy to set up passwords that expire after a set time), or say you'll download porn for them at a buck a meg.


I don't really talk to or know my housemates, and I'd like to keep it that way. Is there a wireless plan that works well?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:31 PM on July 14, 2011


All broadband in Australia is metered

No it isn't.

Any ADSL plan I've had for the last, ooh, six years I suppose, have been limited plans which get slowed down after you hit your limit. I just switched (back) to TPG this month, and thought I'd use up the allowance on the old account. The switchover was so smooth that I didn't notice, and went through the month's allowance in two days. I still have usable, though not ideal, internet (though let's just say that I'm not all that put out by Lion having not been released just yet...)
posted by pompomtom at 5:02 PM on July 14, 2011


in South Korea they have gigabit ethernet right to your door.

Well, gigabit isn't all that common yet (but is growing), but 100Mb downstream is the norm with well over 90% of households with access. I've had uncapped unmetered 100Mb for about 10 years now, for the equivalent of about US$17 a month.

I don't know what I'd do if I had to start paying attention to my data consumption. But I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen, here in Korea at least. Thank goodness.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:58 PM on July 14, 2011


For all current utilities like water and electricity, there's some base maintenance rate you pay and then you pay additional for every unit of usage. Are there any ISPs that currently run on this model?

There are places in the US where water is too cheap to meter, and perhaps likewise with other utilities like sewage or garbage.

The difference between electricity and water vs data is there are real marginal costs for the former. The marginal cost of providing data is compared to traditional utilities extrememly low.

I don't think the cost structure is that different. In many water and some power utilities the cost of service is almost entirely for the infrastructure to get stuff to you at all or to be able to meet peak loads; providing you an additional ccf or kwh has a very low marginal cost, lower than the cost you pay— but customers are billed per-unit as a way of allocating that huge infrastructure cost fairly among the users. Likewise with data.
posted by hattifattener at 6:59 PM on July 14, 2011


You know, after years of using the same off-brand DSL provider in the same location, I took a good look at my related expenditures, and realized I was paying $60 a month for 1.5Mbps download speeds -- $25 for the DSL, $5 for DNS management tools (which I don't use), $20 for the phone line (which I don't use, I'm all abou the cell phone) and $10 in taxes on the phone line. So, I decided to do something about it.

What I discovered:

#1: off-brand DSL providers aren't allowed to provide DSL service on the phone lines in the area I'm in unless I pay for phone service, because the main-brand phone company won't allow it. So dropping my phone service is out.

#2: the local cable company will happily sell me high-speed cable internet without television or phone service for $10 less a month than I'm paying now, but they impose an 8GB monthly cap, and charge $10 per GB overage, so those savings are likely going to be eaten up pretty quickly by overages (I use Netflix streaming, I use Pandora streaming, I download Linux ISO images.)

#3: the local wireless internet company will happily sell me high-speed 4G internet for $15 less a month than I'm paying now, but they impose an 8GB monthly cap, and if you pass it, they throttle your bandwidth for the rest of the month to 0.025Mbps (that's not a typo.) And they call it being "affected by the system" rather than tellin you what's up.

#4: the main-brand phone service will happily sell me high-speed superdUper connectivity for $12 less than I'm paying now, but they'll charge me $150 to install it, and they won't tell me what my minimum speed might be. At least their cap is 160GB instead of 8GB per month.

#5: the main-brand phone service will also sell me the same service I have now, but without the off-brand provider, and without active phone service, for $40 less per month. Fantastic! Except they won't take my order until I've cancelled my current service, so I either have to go without internet for the weeks it will take them to queue me for installation, or I have to pay to install another line so I can have them in parallel for a few hours.

The point of all this is that I felt like venting about it, and this seemed like the thread to do it in. I feel better now. Goodnight.
posted by davejay at 10:09 PM on July 14, 2011


So the consensus on Metafilter is that free market competition increases choice, reduces price and drives innovation then? Good to know!
posted by joannemullen at 1:56 AM on July 15, 2011


There is no such thing as consensus on Metafilter. That is one of the things that makes it great.

Shame on you for suggesting otherwise!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:37 AM on July 15, 2011


Of course. That doesn't mean you can't slice and dice the units you regulate together. You create units that make geographic sense, you allow the pipe provider to earn a reasonable return on capital (you know, like how electricity works), and in those areas where a reasonable return on capital would result in unreasonable tariffs relative to incomes, the government steps in with subsidies (you know, like how traditional telecoms & rural electricity already work)

So the 95% of the neighbourhood that ust the Internet for regular people stuff cross-subsidise the guys who want to backup a few terabytes a day and "leave unlimited bittorrent uploads running all day"? That sounds like a great model.
posted by rodgerd at 3:21 AM on July 15, 2011


So the consensus on Metafilter is that free market competition increases choice, reduces price and drives innovation then? Good to know!

Were you under the impression that this "Metafilter consensus" you speak of supported monopolies?
posted by Challahtronix at 4:59 AM on July 15, 2011


Straw men don't build themselves.
posted by pompomtom at 5:48 AM on July 15, 2011


So the consensus on Metafilter is that free market competition increases choice, reduces price and drives innovation then? Good to know!

I cannot recall a single time that any individual commenter (let alone a "consensus") has argued that an unregulated private monopoly in any industry would have or has had a positive outcome.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:28 AM on July 15, 2011


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