Sunday, March 05, 2006

All you can eat, but only 2 trips and 1 plate per trip.

There have been plenty of stories in the media in recent weeks, and indeed months. Ok, YEARS in fact. "User kicked off for excessive usage" was popular in the Uk in 2001 and 200 with both dialup and broadband customers. REcently, smeone was kicked from their comcast account for going over 100Gb/month. the BBC NewsNight program also spoke to a UK ISP, Plusnet, about their new traffic shaping. TheRegister also ran a piece recently about why people using skype can be getting a worse service now than a year ago. The reason si the same in all these cases, Bandwidth.

How many of you, when you were going for your ISP, looked at the advertised speeds, and the price, and no further? The vast majority, I'll bet. That the speeds are a best case, and you can't use them for the majority of the time is something they don't tell you.

100GB is a lot, you might think, but over a 30 day month its only 3 1/3gb per day. still seem a lot? Its also 40kb/second, or 0.4mbit. Comcast's range is 4Mbit to 8Mbit, according to its site, so you can have this fast speed, but don't use more than 1/10th its capability.

Why is this? Well, ISPs are a lot like airlines. They have a set capacity (seats for airlines, data infrastructure bandwidth for ISPs) and they want to get the most out of it. So, what both do is overbook. If an aircraft has 100 seats, the airline will accept bookings for 105 seats on that flight, and expect at least 5 to not show. If everyone turns up, 5 people get 'bumped' and can't fly. There are regulations in place in amny countries to deal with bumping. It is after all, a product/service you have bought and paid for, and through no fault of yours, they are unable to honour it. ISPs, however, have no such regulations, and instead they take it out on the person, to continue our metaphor, who turns up on time for the most flights. Whats more, it doesn't give them any compensation. They claim its excessive usage, but is it?

If you have paid for a connection speed, and can't get it ever, because someone else is always using up the bandwidth, then you might feel cheated. You might fel the other person (or persons) are being unfair. Thats the position Comcast and the other ISPs take. Are they though? the other person has as much right to the bandwidth as you, they're paying customers as much as you are. If you only drove your car 10 miles a week, would you want all those who drive more than you to give you priority, because they're 'using up all the road'? Clearly thats stupid, so why should it be any more applicable to internet connections.

If i'm only allowed 100Gb/month, then limit my speed so that, if I use it to its full, I can only just reach that limit. Comcast's 100Gb liit would mean they'd have to advertise that account at a 400Kbit account. not so liekly to draw int he punters. If I bought a hair dryer that came with the instructions "may only blow hot air for 2 minutes a day, or warm for 8 minutes" would you buy it?

If an account is sold as an 8Mbit account, and 'always on' common sense would dictate that means you can download at 8Mbit always. Anything else is mis-selling, and should be delt with accordingly. If your ISPs infrastructure can't cope, they should lable them accordingly, or upgrade their network. Theres no other excuse for such deceptive practices.

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