10 Things to Know and Hate About Metered Broadband

Since we’re getting in a huff over Comcast’s 250 GB cap, we thought it would be helpful to lay out why capping broadband is a bad idea today and a worse one for tomorrow, how it can benefit ISPs, and why it’s not really necessary on most networks. Check out our handy overview and links to our past coverage on the topic.

  1. Time Warner got the ball rolling back in January, and in June it announced a trial limiting folks to tiers from 5 GB per month to 40 GB per month. Billing began this month.
  2. While some of the telcos have threatened caps, only Frontier has actually done so across its service area with a minuscule 5 GB limit.
  3. Yesterday Comcast clarified that it will implement a per-month cap of 250 GB, but defended it by noting that it will affect less than 1 percent of its users and most users download 2-3 GB per month.
  4. Many of these caps have been imposed in the name of network management, but they have financial benefits for ISPs as well.
  5. There are differences between the last-mile networks of telco and cable providers that make broadband caps more useful for cable networks, but it’s still a bad idea.
  6. A 250 GB cap won’t affect many people today, but anything making people think twice about delivering or downloading broadband services could have a negative impact on innovation.
  7. In the case of delivering Olympic coverage online, lower-level caps may already be having an effect, but it’s hard to tell without software to track usage.
  8. That means it could hurt companies such as Google, and Netflix as they roll out higher-bandwidth using services.
  9. And in the future, services ranging from telemedicine to teleconferencing could feel the impact. Not to mention those poor web workers.
  10. But regardless of what a few carriers in the U.S. are doing with caps, the web will continue to grow, both in terms of the number of users and the amount of data they consume. Caps won’t stop it, and neither will network management measures such as traffic throttling. If our broadband networks can’t meet that demand, the U.S. eventually could find itself lagging in the technology field.