Bandwidth Caps

I have been thinking about the issue of bandwidth caps recently, well thinking more about it since my provider Comcast placed an unofficial 250GB/month cap (as well as others, in all fairness Comcast is one of the less draconian caps out there.)

This thinking was spurred first by Benoit Felten’s post entitled “Is the ‘Bandwidth Hog’ a Myth?” (by way of ArsTechnica) where he challenges the ISPs:

“Here’s a challenge for them: in the next few days, I will specify on this blog a standard dataset that would enable me to do an in-depth data analysis into network usage by individual users. Any telco willing to actually understand what’s happening there and to answer the question on the existence of hogs once and for all can extract that data and send it over to me, I will analyse it for free, on my spare time. All I ask is that they let me publish the results of said research (even though their names need not be mentioned if they don’t wish it to be). Of course, if I find myself to be wrong and if indeed I manage to identify users that systematically degrade the experience for other users, I will say so publicly. If, as I suspect, there are no such users, I will also say so publicly. The data will back either of these assertions.”

And second by a discussion around this that was had on TWIT 224 this week.

Ok, so I was wondering how I would go about defining a ‘Bandwidth Hog’. Setting a cap is a little arbitrary. For example, I get about 3MB/s download speed here. So at one end of the spectrum downloading 250GB at full speed would take me just shy of 24 hours during which the ‘other users’ would probably be seriously impacted. On the other end of the spectrum, I could throttle the download to about 95KB/s which would take me about 30 days during which I doubt very much any of the ‘other users’ would be impacted.

I admit that both ends of the spectrum are contrived but they illustrate that caps are complicated to implement.

Personally I have no problems with cap if (a) the service is tiered and (b) usage stats are easily accessible.


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