Canadian high speed ISP's are putting caps on downloads/uploads.
May 26, 2002 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Canadian high speed ISP's are putting caps on downloads/uploads. Could this spell the beginning of the end of P2P? The "basic" DSL package offered by Bell Canada will now give users 5 gigs up and 5 gigs down. For the average user, this is more than they'll ever use for e-mail, surfing, etc. But for users downloading movies and warez, it could be the end for them unless they're willing to cough up $7.95 CDN / gig - and most won't. Cable modem subscribers in Ontario will also be seeing a similar plan put into place in the next several months.
posted by PWA_BadBoy (30 comments total)
I think most will. $7.95 is fairly reasonable per gig. What the P2P people don't want to realize is that their use is hurting ISPs. $7.95 per get is a lot more reasonable than 20 cents per meg, which is what DSL subscribers are getting hit up for in NZ.

Luckily I am in Japan and have all you can eat 8 meg for thirty bucks a month. That is until Softbank goes bankrupt.

I think it's the way of the future. Bandwidth is less like TV and more like electricity; it makes sense to pay per gig.
posted by dydecker at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2002

Amazingly, you can't sell bandwidth for less than it costs to buy. Really. Price out a T1 to a tier-one ISP and then explain to me how you can resell $700 worth of 1.5 Mbps bandwidth to dsl subscribers for $80/mo. It really doesn't work. You have to oversell and that hurts performance when the kiddies start shoving mp3s around. Then you have to buy more bandwidth and there you go, losing money. By metering throughput (which I hate, BTW) ISPs can keep the demand down to a rational level and websurfing and other services can still have the burstable bandwidth they need.
posted by shagoth at 12:39 PM on May 26, 2002

Are there already similar plans for ISP's in the States? And what are the impacts? Pros and cons? Can we expect to see better network performance now with less traffic from programs like edonkey, Kazaa (I've heard rumors that it's now been shut down? Can someone confirm?), and various other P2P programs.

Then throw in the fact that the warez monkeys won't be sharing their files on IRC or FTP anymore.

What do you guys think? I'm thinking it's partially a matter of improving performance and partially a matter of price gouging.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 12:39 PM on May 26, 2002

Without setting sniffers I'm not sure if we'd break that limit or not...and we don't do any p2p trading stuff. But, I ship digital art to my printers...some of those high-rez poster sized prints can max out at over half a gig, but that's not a daily occurrence by any big concern would be all the online gaming that goes on at our house...I have no idea if we'd push the limits or not...just from the sheer volume of bits that must be flying back and forth from our client software to the game server. Interesting question, really...must go play with the firewall to get an idea of how much traffic we actually push. :)
posted by dejah420 at 1:16 PM on May 26, 2002

Online gaming doesn't actually take that much data transfer, you should be fine.

The problem is that people have come to expect all-you-can-eat, when in reality the biggest cost for many ISP's is their bandwidth (it ain't cheap). If you really expect to be able to do 1.5Mbps 24x7, it's going to cost you because you're costing them. I pay this way (currently at 6GB/month), and it's worth it to me (I download ISO images and install OSes over the Internet on a regular basis). The laws of economics are going to push this -- if you expect to do a lot of data transfer, you should expect to start paying for it. Eventually, everyone will be doing this because they won't be able to turn a profit (or even cover their own costs) otherwise.
posted by elvolio at 1:38 PM on May 26, 2002

I find some of this kind of hard to believe. Yes, the economics of a T1 don't lend to a large number of DSL or cable modem subscribers...

But what about behemonths like AT&T who own their own bandwidth? I don't think they're hurting as much as they or some of you guys seem to say...

They own it.. they're not paying monthly fees for much of it... Yes, there was a big initial investment, this I grant you...

However, I find it increasingly difficult to believe that the bigger companies like AT&T don't have the means...

In fact, I've had cable modem service in multiple locales.. and frankly, it's very much location based... AT&T has a great infrastructure up in the northwest Chicago suburbs, and service is BLAZING even with the suburbanite warez geek kids... and believe me, there's PLENTY of them out there...

Here in Urbana Illinois, on the other hand, service is what I'd call decent... The thing to keep in mind here is that this is a college town where most kids have fat pipes in their dorm rooms, and most apartments are equipped with T1's that are split amongst all the tenants... So there's not some monstrously large demand for cable modem service here.. yet it still lags horribly in comparison to the burbs of chicago...

I am not really of the opinion that people will be restricted to paying for big bandwidth... that's not how our economic system works...

The people as a whole get what they want... someone will realize that if they find a way to provide this huge bandwidth at a reasonable cost first and/or best, they'll make a killing.. and someone will come up with a solution..

I've read some articles that say the solutions are already there, and that similar to the diamond industry, there could be tons more bandwidth out there for great prices, but introducing that would make the sellers/resellers less money.. I'm not sure about the absolute facts.. but it's intersting that there's a lot of people that firmly believe this...
posted by twiggy at 2:06 PM on May 26, 2002

elvolio's right. the thing about online gaming isn't the volume of transfer but the latency. (faster responses are the thing.) most games have no need to transfer much information even over an extended period of time, since all they do is often transmit positional coordinates or vectors.
posted by moz at 2:07 PM on May 26, 2002

Yes, in fact this quota should really help to make for better online gaming experiences. The days that Kazaa got knocked out, my ping was substantially lower in Counter-strike.

Also, Rogers and Bell are both providing facilities for you to be able to view how much bandwidth you've used for the month.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 2:18 PM on May 26, 2002

"...biggest cost for many ISP's is their bandwidth (it ain't cheap)."

Bandwidth is dirt cheap at the backbones. The problem is, you have to distribute that bandwidth outward, and that costs a screaming pile of cash because of telecom pricing. It's the telecom cost of putting in an OC-48 to the peering point that kills you as an ISP. Once you hit the peering point, the bandwidth is only slightly more expensive than air.

The backbone guys are always complaining about the bandwidth glut but aren't willing to bring down the distribution tariffs to sell it. Thus, for ISPs the major costs are from the telco -- which can be billed from the upstream along with the bandwidth itself in package deals, so it looks like the price of bandwidth.

Check out your electricity bill some time. The power itself is dirt cheap. Some 30 to 50% of the bill is "distribution fee" tacked on above that. Bandwidth is the same, exceped billed differently.
posted by majick at 2:19 PM on May 26, 2002

Another point that needs to be mentioned is that should be a difference between someone downloading an ISO from Iceland at 7PM (peak time) and someone downloading an ISO from the ISP's newsserver at 4AM.

Roadrunner is going to do the same thing only at 30GB a month. Now everytime I turn on the TV I see an ad toting "unlimited internet" when they know they're going to be switching over. What ISPs are doing is trying to raise the bottom line. We're having to subsidize an apparently poorly thought out scheme.

Something else I'm wondering if anyone can answer. For cable especially, everything from the cable company to the user is basically costing the cable company nothing, right? I mean cable tv is constantly pulling down how ever much a channel is in megabytes? Wouldn't it be to the advantage of cable ISPs to encourage usenet and make use of caching popular web pages? I don't know why ISPs constantly cut support of this. It seems like myopic management. Warez kids are going to download things illegally, better it be from something that won't reach a more expensive backbone. Same with things like cnn or msnbc. I'm sure they could cut a lot of cost by having a farm of google like cache machines.
posted by geoff. at 2:33 PM on May 26, 2002

As far as online gaming goes, these measurements and others like it will hurt the servers more than it hurts the clients. Running a populated counter-strike server uses about 40K/sec and upward. This works out to be a little more than 3 gigs a day.

If my bandwidth were rationed, I'd stop running my server.
posted by reishus at 2:37 PM on May 26, 2002

reishus.. your comment is kinda funny.. I liken it to saying that the lack of food will hurt farmers more than people who need to eat.. because the farmers will have nothing to sell...

the people won't eat, either.. so.. it'll affect the clients too ;-)

But I do know what you were trying to say, hehe...
posted by twiggy at 3:14 PM on May 26, 2002

5 gigs down is simply terrible, people buy broadband so they can share files, download ISOs, music, etc. If these companies just want average users who don't cause too much trouble then they should be offering average dial-up service. Essentially what they're doing is doubling their rates for people who use their computers for anything else than light browsing.

Also, its not about pirating and kiddies as some of you assume. Lots of people have perfectly legal video files they share, stream webcams, VPNs for work, etc.

Even then maybe you can get away with 5 gigs but what about the next time they're hurting for dollars? Next year it could be 2.5 gigs to get rid of those relatively few heavy users. Conitinue until you have a nothing more than a glorified 56k always on connection. There will always be a top 10% of heavy users, even if heavy means 1 gig a month.

What they should be offering is slower but non-capped packages. Who really need a T1 download? I'd give up my 1.4down/128kbs up for a nice 600/400 connection. That would probably save an ISP just as much bandwidth and give them something to brag about in their ads.

Its really gonna suck when your connection stops and you realize that if you weren't constantly downloading security patches, flash ads, banner ads, etc you would have had a few extra days of normal usage. Maybe Rogers and Bell will be kind enough to bundle Lynx with their new terms of service.
posted by skallas at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2002

What happens when the majority of the "normal" content you see in your browser is high-bandwidth material (live newsfeeds from CNN and MSNBC, for example)? It's not that far off. This is like asking people to go from a word processor back to a pencil--it ain't gonna fly (though there will no doubt be some high profile crash-and-burn attempts to force the rabbit back into the hat). When the customer absolutely balks, the provider, as greedy as he is, panics and backpedals.

Technology is coming that will make most current measures of bandwidth obsolete, in any case.
posted by rushmc at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2002

This shouldn't be a concern. Honestly, I am a very high bandwidth user, and I don't even come to close to bringing down 5gb of content a month. Unless you're building a movie library on your computer, no one, for any practical purpose, uses this much bandwidth.
posted by Kevs at 4:01 PM on May 26, 2002

A few points:

Anyone that tries to tell you gaming isn't bandwidth intensive is either lying or has never analyzed a network hosting a popular Counter Strike server. It eats bandwidth, lots of it, constantly. You can easily use the majority of a T1's bandwidth with a single 16-player CS server.

Second, there's no cost reason to cap intraISP traffic. IntraISP traffic includes hitting your ISP's mail, Usenet and game servers and any transfers between an ISP's customers that don't have to cross over to another carrier. This means that in addition to letting users trade files with local users, the ISP's should host local servers for the listed services. It will save them bandwidth and improve the experience of everyone using the services by improving connections.
posted by NortonDC at 4:05 PM on May 26, 2002

It's easy to use that kind of bandwidth. Even more so when you have say oh, 5 people sharing a modem.

The early word about cable caps are that they might be more reasonable, at least with my ISP anyway.

As it is, there are numerous other DSL companies using Bell's lines or course but many are already pledging never to implement caps. We'll see how long that lasts.
posted by yupislyr at 4:12 PM on May 26, 2002

I guess Bell users will have to wait till the 30th or 31st of each month and then download any ISOs and pirate stuff on IRC if they're under 5 gigs.

I'm sure the ISP could save bandwidth by mirroring stuff like linux iso's and game demos on their own ftp servers and not counting it towards the users 5 gigs a month, but then they wouldn't make extra money so there is no real incentive for the ISP to do this.
posted by bobo123 at 5:27 PM on May 26, 2002

No-one's mentioned this, which I thought they would have done:-

What if some script kiddie takes a dislike to you and decides to pingflood the hell out of you?

A rogue kiddie in control of a fat pipe could easily cost you a hefty packet.

On another point, I work for an small-to-medium sized ISP over here in the UK, and even at our size I'd like to see us monitor every single user for their bandwidth usage.
posted by robzster1977 at 6:12 PM on May 26, 2002

"I don't know why ISPs constantly cut support of [news and caching HTTP traffic]."

I'll tell you why: because they do it wrong, and then the users complain. Many, many times I have seen users on particular networks have problems using a web application because the ISP is transparently caching traffic with misconfigured cache devices. Typically they buy some commercial cache system and stick it inline, without any idea of how to keep it working. While they would get better results with less-crummy cache software, most big ISPs can't be bothered to do anything so competently.

As to why ISPs don't encourage more intranetwork NNTP, it's mainly because they don't have good news admins. They're rare and expensive -- or at least a news infrastructure that a decent admin will spec is expensive. I haven't been with an ISP that took news seriously for years, probably some time in the eary 90s.

" one, for any practical purpose, uses this much bandwidth."

If I keep one Debian box tracking the unstable distribution updated once per week, I'm probably clocking a gig a month right there. My VPN traffic probably comes close to the second gig. I get probably another half in spam and Microsoft script virus messages that slip past my fairly aggressive filtering.

And that's just infrastructure, before I've even started using the web, fetching downloads, or playing games. If I grab a Slackware ISO for a friend or do a couple of big downloads for work because the proxies there are hosed, I'm close to butting up against a hypothetical 5GB limit without even trying.

I do my part to keep traffic reasonable. I run the entire household through two gigs of Squid cache and an ad-filtering proxy. I keep traffic inside if at all possible. I don't leave gnutella up and running continuously for more than a couple of days out of the month. I don't download VCDs and DivX downconversions. I outsource DNS traffic for my domains.

Five gigs a month is a very, very restrictive level of bandwidth for a large, modern household with a decent network infrastructure and one or two moderate users.

I'd rather take a 30% hit in data rate than see packet metering, and that's saying a lot. In exchange, maybe the ISP could do something about the fourfold increase in intranetwork latency? I miss seeing 14ms pings within the network and ~ 25ms pings to the front door of any decent ISP.
posted by majick at 8:35 PM on May 26, 2002

Luckily, I don't have Sympatico... but I really dread that Rogers will adopt this policy. I don't use any file sharing, I don't download game demos and movies and what not... but I do listen to a lot of streaming radio, and that goes into the upwards of 200-500 MB PER DAY. 5GB wouldn't last long.

And what really irks me the most is that it's 5GB up and 5 GB down. That's absurd. Rarely does anyone upload as much as they download, unless they are running a server of some sort... and those are generally the people that cost the ISPs the most. Wouldn't 8GB down / 2 GB down make more sense? Not much sense, in my books, but more than 5/5.
posted by mkn at 11:33 PM on May 26, 2002

Erm... I think the point is that if you're using more then 5G a month, you're using more than you're paying for. 5G is more than plenty for reasonable use.
  • Downloading many ISOs is not reasonable; get together with people in your area and swap CDs
  • Running a counterstrike server is not reasonable; just go to a LAN party (it's more fun, honest)
  • Having a live mirror of Debian/unstable is not reasonable; you aren't really using all those packages
  • Listening to streaming mp3 radio all day long is not reasonable; we have free, real-life radio that doesn't even require computers
Just consider: someone has to pay for your bandwidth. Up until this point, it has been the Interwebnet-unsavy masses. Well, the unsavy are wising up and those few who exploit the system are now spoiling it for everyone else.

It's nice that we're finally starting to realise the potential of all this bandwidth, but if you can't afford the associated data quantity, you really shouldn't be using it. Perhaps when the entire system is reworked based on connectivity and bandwidth instead of packet count, we'll be able to do all the wonderful things we can now see in the distance. Until that time, we're stuck paying for what we use.
posted by Lionfire at 2:16 AM on May 27, 2002

As rushmc correctly points out, the rabbit is out of the hat.
It's too late to say "uh sorry we charged you too little, actually we need to charge you more". That is an HORROR story for every consumer, consumer aren't supposed to understand the reasons of a company, they're supposed to buy.

I panicked when I saw my favourite mild drug, Coke Light, go up in price and I frantically looked for an alternative. Wow Pepsi Max is cheaper, I like its taste so it's ok. In a couple of weeks Coke re-adjusted price a little, but not back to the honeymoon relationship we had. Now I think twice when it comes to buy some brand of cola. You screwed me Coke and I left you for ..a less sexy coke !....nuthing new under then sun.

Back to reality, pay-per-gigabyte = BAD BAD , unlimited all you can get = GOOD , I BUY. That's burned into my brain, too late ISPs.
posted by elpapacito at 4:55 AM on May 27, 2002

• Downloading many ISOs is not reasonable; get together with people in your area and swap CDs

I hope that's a joke. The whole point of the Internet is digital delivery. Are we going to have to go back to the days when we prayed that some huge file we desired would be bundled on CD with our favorite computer magazine?
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:23 AM on May 27, 2002

5G is more than plenty for reasonable use.

I cry bull on that. What is reasonable varies from person to person, as we all use the internet differently. Don't try to set the bar at your particular level of usage. It seems to me that the streaming radio argument alone disproves your contention.
posted by rushmc at 6:45 AM on May 27, 2002

Luckily, I don't have Sympatico... but I really dread that Rogers will adopt this policy.

your luck ran out a few months ago when rogers decided behind closed doors to follow bell-sympatico's lead and consider a cap. while it hasn't been decided whether it will be 10 gigs or 5 gigs you should see it some time this summer. last i heard from my insider at rogers the date was july. you may benefit from all the grief that sympatico is getting from it's current and leaving customers and see rogers try to avoid that by implementing the larger 10 gigs cap. 10 gigs is so much more reasonable...

i use 7 gigs per month so i wigged when rumour of the sympatico cap was unleashed in the late winter... i immediately downloaded dumeter so i could monitor my usage and found that the biggest chunk wasn't all the movies and program downloads, it was listening to internet radio. as long as i stop listening then i'll stay under the cap, but you know fuck them for forcing me to pay $5 more a month for the privilege of less access. luckily there are quite a few alternatives so at the end of this month bell can kiss my little ass goodbye.

here are some alternatives:

IStop no caps. highly rated by sympatico users who jumped ship back in the winter
IGS no caps. highly rated by sympatico users who jumped ship back in the winter
Primus no caps. they're new to dsl but i used to use them for dial up and they were excellent.
AccessVantage no caps
DSL Communications no caps

current bell-sympatico customers should keep an eye on the highspeed ng for more alternatives and other news... for instance a lot of us are seeing that our bandwidth usage is not showing as accurate on our customer care pages. and of course it's all higher than it should be, so there maybe some huge problems with bell's honesty and or accuracy in this regard. altho' i would chalk it up to incompetence. i mean these are the folks who thought port 25 was a virus when i called regarding the sudden block on it 8-)
posted by t r a c y at 8:04 AM on May 27, 2002

The point I was trying to make, that Lionfire inadvertently helped me reinforce, is that it's pretty silly for a third party to decide what's "reasonable" usage. 5G a month is well below my contractually binding, sustained CIR, and nowhere near my burst rate.

By my definition, "reasonable" certainly doesn't end anywhere below the full, committed rate I pay for, and ought to edge up into the burst rate by anyone's lights. But then, everyone else is talking about cable infrastructure, and as far as I know, cable providers won't sign a piece of paper obligating themselves to a CIR like telcos do.

Oh yeah, and downloading ISOs is not reasonable? Someone has to download them in order to trade them with friends. That someone is me.

Nobody, and I mean *nobody* in 40 foot flaming letters, gets to decide what I do with my bandwidth except me. Don't like the price you're selling it to me at? Then don't contract to provide it to me at that price. You didn't? Then, even more so, you have no business whatsoever telling me what's reasonable.
posted by majick at 8:06 AM on May 27, 2002

Lionfire - Erm... I think the point is that if you're using more then 5G a month, you're using more than you're paying for.

Bullshit. You're paying for bandwidth. If you use every bit of that bandwidth available for the entire month, you're still using only what you paid for.

Downloading many ISOs is not reasonable; get together with people in your area and swap CDs

Bullshit. Metcalfe was wrong. Downloading ISO's is a perfectly legitimate and reasonable use a network. Expecting people sitting on a high speed network use physical media exchange bits is retarded.

Running a counterstrike server is not reasonable; just go to a LAN party (it's more fun, honest)

Fuck off. First of all, you're wrong, it is reasonable. A counterstrike server is specifically intended for consumer operation and use on the internet.

Second, LAN parties are tiny fraction of the playing that frequent online players engage in. What you are saying is "decrease your playing by 90%." Fuck you, not your call to make.

Listening to streaming mp3 radio all day long is not reasonable

Fuck you, not your call to make.

we have free, real-life radio that doesn't even require computers

And it sucks, so people look elswhere.

Just consider: someone has to pay for your bandwidth.

Yeah, there called customers. That's us. We paid for it, now we're gonna use it. Get used to it.

Up until this point, it has been the Interwebnet-unsavy masses. Well, the unsavy are wising up and those few who exploit the system are now spoiling it for everyone else.

Those "exploiters" are the customers that are using the service they paid for. That doesn't make them thieves.

Repeat after me:

The internet is not TV.
The internet is not TV.
The internet is not TV.

Network customers are not consumers, they are exchangers.
posted by NortonDC at 8:25 AM on May 27, 2002

Wait wait wait... so, basically, the stuff that Rogers and Bell advertise as the benefits, and key features, of broadband are not reasonable uses of broadband? Here we have Rogers telling us how great @home is for downloading movies of your new niece or whatever -- but I guess that's not what we're supposed to do with it. Bell and Rogers are quick to point out the "speed" their service provides, which really helps in downloading movies, playing games, music... yet, doesn't say that it will basically cost you more. Well, I say screw them. I'm not going pay 4 times what I'd pay for dial-up just so I can pay extra on top of that for them providing me with something I'm already paying a premium for.

I'd go for an alternate provider... unfortunately, I live in the 'burbs so I'm not sure what options I have (unlike in downtown TO)

BTW, Tracy: DSL Communications is not worth it: they're inept and their service sucks -- we have them at work.
posted by mkn at 6:31 PM on May 27, 2002

mkn - thanks for the heads up, i'll add your opinion of dsl comm to the reference list a bunch of us bell customers are compiling. we're trying to rate each provider as we hear back from their users. you should take a look at the can.internet.highspeed newsgroup and see if someone knows of a dsl provider for your neck o' the woods... if you're in the GTA you'll be able to find someone decent. as far as i know istop and igs are avail to the gta and beyond, and their customers seem pretty darn happy. i'm going with istop myself.

oops, earlier i entered the wrong url for IGS, it should be .net, not .com
posted by t r a c y at 2:47 AM on May 28, 2002

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