back to article US bandwidth gets new caps

More Americans will soon be fitted with bandwidth caps. Yesterday, Time Warner trumpeted plans to expand its "consumption based billing" brainstorm beyond the tiny Gulf Coast town of Beaumont, Texas and into a few other unnamed cities. And just hours later, fellow cableco Charter Communications confirmed it will soon put caps …


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  1. Edward Lilley



    I hope Obama puts a stop to it.

    Maxing out your connection does *not* deny other people service; if customer A and customer B are both trying to download at a maximum 10 mbps, they will both get 5 mbps. As you'd expect. (Unless you're an eeeevil American ISP, of course)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's call it what it is

    This is just a veiled price increase so the ISP's can grab a percentage from streaming video, internet radio and all the other high bandwidth products that are being developed.

    I was wondering how long it would take before ISPs started jacking up prices again. There was a long period of major price drops and speed increases to suck in new customers. Now that everyone is hooked on high speeds you start charging a lot more. Basically the same business model is used by drug dealers. Free samples until hooked and then charge big prices.

    Once this gets out of hand free "basic" metropolitan broadband will get adopted by cities and start cutting into the windfall profits.

    Amusingly the Media companies should be screaming rape right now because the bandwith cap's are going to kill all the new streaming video and music services. Which I guess is another intent of the Cable Companies. Keep the Media companies from bypassing Cable TV.

    The Satellite TV companies should be cheering.

    What surpirses me is AT&T joining in. They are trying really hard to launch their TV over telephone line services. Bandwidth caps will kill them. Unless they exempt their Video services from the cap. Then they can free data bandwidth to run the premium priced video services. Hmm, Industry wide conspiracy to commit price fixing in violation of anti-trust laws?

    Where is the Federal Trade Commission during all this?

  3. Anthony Bathgate

    Such a shame

    I guess I can stop trying to fight Time Warner about my service being so utterly shit at one of my offsite backups (a girlfriend's house on the other side of the country - they let me hide a server there, I pay their internet bill). I thought the Comcast 250gb cap was restrictive, and that sent me to a Comcast Business account here at home (Don't worry, they failed at upselling - they lost my TV, and the net effect is they lost a couple dozen dollars a month net and now have a QoS agreement to uphold)

    The Time Warner cap, though... That gets blown through in like two days.

    The one with the airline ticket in the pocket. I have a server to go unhome.

  4. James O'Brien

    So damn glad

    Wow so far nothing from Verizon and i hope it stays that way. Though I will say that the 250Gb cap from Comcast is good seeing as I usually dont download near that much in a month.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Tell it like it is

    US Broadband provider to customer: You got your wallet on you?

    Customer: erm....yes

    US Broadband provider to customer: You got any money in your wallet?

    Customer: erm....yes

    US Broadband provider to customer: You can give it to me now.

    Customer: that's like robbery

    US Broadband provider to customer: You sure got your wallet on you?


  6. Anonymous Coward

    Spare a thought for us poor people in AUS

    The Australian Government went through the process of privatising the government run telecommunications sector about 10 to 15 years ago and introduced competition.

    As a result one company Telstra owns nearly all the local loop infrastructure. Yet they have to make it available to their competitors. Which generally means either a wholesale arrangement, or DSLAM's in the local exchange and running, and paying them for access. The wholesale arrangements have, from time to time, actually cost more than you could get them retail from the Telstra's subsidiary Bigpond

    Result EXPENSIVE capped adsl.

    With additional usage charged at $0.15/MB yes that's $150 per gigabyte.

    Last week a client who ignored my warnings on not taking out a plan, that is shaped to oblivion once you reach your cap. Ended up paying over $2K for excessive usage. Why 2 kids, on holidays, watching stuff off you tube. The kids blew it over 4 days. These guys actually had a 5 GB plan that then went into over usage charges, but it gave them a download rate of 8Mb. Oh yes, your uploads are charged the same as down.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I live out in the country

    in Missouri, so I have my internet service via satellite.

    I'm presently using WildBlue (my other choice was HughesNet). After having used WildBlue for a year now, I'm about to unsubscribe because of the poor quality. I have the premium package at $79/month with no caps on usage. However, shopping around has shown I can get a far better deal through Cricket Wireless. 1st month free/$40 a month and unlimited usage. And it works far better than WildBlue.

  8. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Didn't always have caps.

    "In one sense, all this cappage is a good thing. American ISPs have always had caps. They just didn't tell you what they were."

    No they didn't! Even the "secret caps" only began about 3 or 4 years ago, and my ex-cable internet provider STILL doesn't have caps, quite a few US ISPs don't.

    That said.. IMHO... caps where you hit it and are charged cash: BAD. Caps where you hit it and are throttled down (either, throttled period or throttled until you pay for some extra GBs): less bad. Obviously I'd prefer no caps at all, but with a cash cap, I'd be watching that meter like crazy, even if I was nowhere near the cap (which I wouldn't be, except with TWC's absurd caps... 5GB!!! AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint all have a 5GB cap on *wireless* data.. for cable this is absurd.) With a "throttle cap", I'd still look if I was getting towards the cap but it's far less worrying, while doing the job of reigning in people doings 100s of GBs a month.

    256kbps 24/7 for a month is about 80GB... 64kbps is 20GB. So it won't stop anyone dead at the cap, but will serve the purpose of reigning in heavy users, without pissing them off with an unexpected huge bill. They could pay for more GBs, or just wait it out in the slow lane.

  9. Angus
    Thumb Up

    @ Spare a thought for us poor people in AUS

    Personally I don't mind having the caps. At least I know exactly what I have paid for and can use, there is none of this utterly missleading "unlimited" rubbish. Heh and with the pathetic value of the AUD vs the USD our plans are actually costing us less than the ones offered here.

    I will agree that you have to avoid Bigpond like the plague tho. There is no way for me that any of their plans are worth the money they ask. Plus their charging for uploads is just taking the piss. I imagine telstra target the people who really dont know better, or the ones who take out one of those all inclusive plans (mobile, home phone Internet etc) and dont check the fine print.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its the future

    I really do hope this doesn't happen to Verizon's services, as yet there aren't any caps, even on their lowest tier. The 5GB limit on Comcast is ridiculous, just one DVD image or a couple of Netflix movies and you'd be done for the month, why the hell would anyone pay for that? And why would any one want to get internet through a cable company when the entire US cable industry (especially Suddenlink and Comcast) is (in)famous for horrible service and inflated prices?

    Also, @Edward Lilley:

    "I hope Obama puts a stop to it."

    Unfortunately, this isn't communist Russia, so the prez can't just order a private company to change their perfectly legal (albeit annoying) policies.

  11. Ian


    Am I for once glad I live in the UK :D

    fuck you comcast and your cap that you cant tell people what they have used..

    Hello Ian. Here are your latest broadband usage figures as of midnight last night.

    8mb down, 1mb up £45 p/ month. + no port throttling

    Period: 20/01/2009 - 19/02/2009




    Peak download: 13.11 GB

    Off-peak download: 23.44 GB

    Peak upload: 7.74 GB

    Off-peak upload: 12.50 GB




    Peak: 20.85 GB

    Off-peak: 35.94 GB




    Peak: 114.15 GB

    Off-peak: 324.06 GB

    ** Note: This e-mail report is still a work in progress and may have a few bugs, so please don't rely on the accuracy. If you notice anything incorrect please let us know by e-mailing

  12. Slaytanic

    CAPS=license to print money

    I am soooooo glad that I don't live in a western country anymore. Where I am in Taiwan, I know I've UPLOADED more than ONE TERABYTE in a year, and my ISP hasn't said anything to me about it. I doubt it has anything to due with the fact that I'm a foreigner, as I'm sure they could find someone to contact me in English if they really wanted to, as much as that they really don't care how much bandwidth I use. In their terms of service, I've never seen anything about "usage policies". If I was in almost any western country, my ISP would have screamed bloody murder about my usage, cut off my access within 15 days of seeing this kind of usage, and rape me for over-usage charges.

    Most of the ISP's seem to be working out a way of being able to get money for nothing. If one looks at the structure of the internet, the actual cost of sending 1byte or 1,000,000 bytes is the same, in regards to the amount of electricity and maintenance spent, as I doubt routers are made to go into power savings mode when not being used. And how much can maintenace really cost? It's not like routers need to be serviced over X amount of bytes have gone through it, like a car does after it's gone X amount of KM's, and nor do the lines that the bytes go through. Sure, it costs money to buy the equipment, and have people around to keep things running and fix problems, but these are fixed costs.

    This does not include the "peering" arrangements made by the "tier 1" backbones, which is the start of this "license to print money" scam. I say it's a scam, because if you look at my explanation above, it really doesn't cost anything to send data from one network to another, other than the fixed costs. I'm sure by now someone is asking "Ya, but how do they make money if they don't charge for the data?". Isn't that what a service contract with a customer gives, which is money to the company who provides the line for a monthly fee?

    The ISP's have set themselves up to be the next "vampire bill", meaning that they'll take their "blood money" to provide you your internet, that most people will feel that they can not do without, much like TV cable or telephone/cell phone service. And these "vampires" take as much blood from you as they think they can get without completely killing you. Sure one can decide not to "feed the vampire", but most choose to do so because life would be "too hard" by not feeding the vampire.

    - for those of you who think this is too crazy, it's because you are used to being fucked over and over in the ass like this and know of no other way of life. You may as well ask for your monthly air usage bill for breathing right now, because that's where we'll be headed if we as a people keep accepting this corporate greed controlling our lives.

  13. Steve Lubman
    Thumb Down

    Goodbye TW

    When this rolls out here Ill cancel TW cable. Sod those guys.

  14. Dave Bell

    It's thedodgy media downloads

    Isn't it ironic that Time-Warner are going to be making money from dodgy downloads of audio and video.

    Any one told the RIAA?

  15. Frank

    Sensible Self-Management

    I'm in the UK on Virgin-Media's 2Mb/s cable service. It has caps that throttle me to 1Mb/s at certain times of the day. Yesterday I downloaded over 5GB of data with no throttling. It's easy, you run the big downloads at night, as you sleep. Set the Bittorrent bandwidth limit to 40KB/s each for five downloads and you've got five 'Linux ISO images' waiting for you as you eat breakfast. At those speeds I can still read The Register with reasonable page load speeds as the torrents are downloading.

    We do have a situation with ISPs and bandwidth capability and it is a situation of the ISPs making, with their false early advertising of bandwidth capability delivered to the home. However, if more people learned how to control the download apps on their PCs then we'd all have a better time of it.

  16. Danny

    Another happy adsl24 customer

    Ive been with adsl24 for a few years too. They're quite decent and actually read and participate on their forums too.

    30 peak 300 offpeak is good enough for me at £20 a month. (I think peak is 8am till 10pm so I schedule all your downloading till then)

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Caps are baad

    If I find I'm getting capped, I'll be submitting firewall drop and abort records and start insinuating that they are wasting my bandwith by allowing scans and exploit attempts against my network. In reality I know that they cant do anything about it, but it goes to point that unless I turn off my dsl modem, I'm getting an avalanche of trash traffic all the time. I won't stand for capped or metered internet as long as they don't guarentee all the traffic is mine and only mine.

  18. null
    Thumb Down

    This is absurd.

    Just about a month ago I was commenting on how great my ISP is. Time Warner was just fine in my experience, with good speeds, decent prices (considering their local monopoly power), and no caps. Well, FUCK them. FOURTY GIG cap for my top tier plan? That's ludicrous. 5g for the lower tier? Unbelievable. Just the other day I was thinking to myself "Ya know, Time Warner owns AOL. I wander when they're gonna pull some shady shit." Well, here it is. Frankly, I don't know what I'm gonna do cause we don't have FIOS in my area. :-\

  19. Peyton

    What kind of cap?

    Do those numbers refer to downstream or total? I know with WildBlue you have caps in both directions (and they're not the same - upload cap is much smaller than d/l).

    They keep saying 1% of users blah blah blah - I bet if they implement a 40GB cap, we're going to find it's a lot more than 1% of their subscribers that cancel their service. I'm sure the telcos are salivating over the new customers they'll get...

  20. Fred Bauer


    Actually, it does cost more to send 1E6 bytes than to send 1 byte (assuming you want to send them in the same amount of time.) A router with 10 Mb of capacity and 10Base-T ports costs orders of magnitude less (both capital and maintanance)than a router with 10Gb ports and a 100Gb+ backplane. Additionally, the costs to get from the ISP's aggregation points to the peering points are based on bandwidth (Priced a 10Gb Metro-E connection lately?) So, as users actually consume more of the bandwidth sold to them, it does increase costs for the ISP.

    Now, I do agree that charging per GB is a scam, because if you use that bandwidth during off hours it doesn't increase costs. A much more consumer-friendly system is to push your heaviest users to using off-peak resources.

  21. Graham
    Thumb Up

    No such thing as a free lunch.

    Download caps and/or pay per usage are the way to go. Low usage customers stop subsidising the heavy downloaders and can probably reduce their bills. The heavy downloaders get to stop worrying about bittorrent or iplayer or whatever being traffic shaped. You want to use more, go right ahead, just be sure to pay your share. The price the ISP charges you is much closer to how they are charged. This reduces the need for them to encourage/discourage particular usage patterns because the customers stop fitting into "profitable" and "cost us a fortune" brackets. You get what you pay for. Simple.

    And if you want net neutrality you should support this. Net neutrality happens when all bits are treated the same. When are all bits the same? When they cost the same.

  22. Suburban Inmate


    "Low usage customers stop subsidising the heavy downloaders and can probably reduce their bills."

    You'll find that happens with a lot of things. Credit cards, mobile phones (PAYG vs. contract free mins), governments. Small-volume high-margin customers get worse value for money than high-volume low-margin clients.

    "...And if you want net neutrality you should support this. Net neutrality happens when all bits are treated the same. When are all bits the same? When they cost the same."

    Market forces should, in theory at least, mean that is what happenes in a free market model. *sigh* OFCOM, lobbyists, politicians and legion other miscreants have put paid to that. "bits" isn't the only way to sell a connection to the Internet. Up/down throughput, up/down GB caps, latency, prioritisation, Constant Information Rate. Let the light users have the lightning page loads, email, VOIP/games latency and reasonably sized downloads during peak periods. Start throttling the connections (NOT just the antichrist app du jour) of the heaviest users when and ONLY when your network is reaching capacity in terms of load or cost of backhaul.

    What is crucial is protocol neutrality. ISPs costs do not vary with the protocol in use, but rather the amount of throughput used relative to the ISPs network load. Don't forget the helldesk and all the other little extras like web space, game servers, etc.

    I'm with BeThere, on the Pro package, and a TB of torrents a month doesn't raise an eyebrow. I'm a techie and they have good forums so it costs next to nothing to support users like me. The inverse is catering to Old Auntie Flo on TalkTalk (non Brits: cheapest crappiest all-in-one UK TV+phone+net deal) checking the Daily Mail forums and emailing family. Wanna be the one to take her bewildered cry for help every time your cheapest crappiest car-boot-sale ADSL kit drops her connection?

    As in nature ISPs will adapt and evolve with their environment, and further specialise in catering to different types of user. In fact I'd love to hear what the helldesk costs as a share of different ISPs subscription rates...

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