Do broadband caps make sense?


If you’ve been following broadband, or are a broadband customer in the US, you may have heard that several large providers have begun programs to limit (cap) the amount you can download under the guise of better service. Of those who are instituting this program Comcast seems to have the highest cap of 250GB per month with most of the pack settling in the 50GB to 75GB per month range. Those going over the limit set by their provider will face a variety of punishments ranging from termination to a hefty fee for each gigabyte over the limit. They (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, AT&T, and others) have made claims indicating their cost of providing internet access is rising due to the amount downloaded by customers and/or customers who download large amounts of data are degrading the performance of other users.

Well. This just isn’t acceptable and wrong on many levels!

  1. For years providers have sold us unlimited internet.
  2. Under the promise of more access to the internet they have sold higher speed to users, basically inviting users to download more.
  3. The providers have taken no consideration for the future. Every single day more broadband offerings appear and more applications require broadband.
  4. Any affect high traffic rates have on users is a result of poor design or poor planning on the providers part.

We all know the internet isn’t free. Someone has to pay for servers, routers, fiber, employees, etc. Just as you and I pay our provider for internet access, so does your ISP, though on a wholesale level called IP Transit. What the providers don’t want you to know is their access costs have dropped steadily over the last few years, while they keep finding ways to raise yours. The graph at the right (courtesy of GIGAOM) clearly shows IP Transit prices dropping an average of 30%. When was the last time your bill dropped 30%? I’m guessing never!

50GB may seem like a lot of data, but consider a family of four. Mom watching television shows on the internet, Dad working on a project for work, kid 1 watching a movie online, and the second child playing video games online. That’s a lot of bandwidth, and repeated daily will surely near or exceed the 50GB limit. If not now, in the very near future. It surely puts these limits into perspective!

I recently changed providers from Comcast to AT&T mainly due to Comcast’s recent decision to limit traffic. I researched several companies looking for speed, truly unlimited access, reliability, and other factors. AT&T seemed like my best option and won my business for both television and internet access based on speed, usage policies, and unlimited access. In fact, I actually captured a screenshot of the AT&T page describing their policy regarding download limits.

I see this as the companies setting themselves up for future profits on two fronts:


  1. Knowing data consumption rates will increase they are setting up a pricing structure to guarantee mega profits as consumption grows.
  2. Knowing that more and more entertainment content is delivered over the web the companies are protecting their own entertainment channels (television) by pricing web content extrememly high.

Either way they are creating a win-win situation for themselves and a lose-lose situation for consumers! All the while stifling the growth of the internet!

What can you do?

  • Remind yourself how much the internet has grown since unlimited access became the norm in the late 1990’s.
  • Please monitor your providers policies for unfair change.
  • Notify any government agency in your area who has oversight of cable and/or internet access that you do not believe this is a fair practice.
  • Notify any Federal governing body (the FCC in the Us) that you do not believe this is a fair practice.
  • Notify your provider directly that you do not believe this is a fair practice.
  • Vote with your wallet. If your provider decides to follow this path investigate your alternatives, move to a different provider, and let them know why you are giving your business to another company.

The companies who are implementing these policies and pricing structures are the tip of the iceberg. If we don’t act now, and act fast, this could change the future of the internet and stifle growth on multiple levels! If this isn’t stopped it will affect you and your family!

To find out more about this dangerous trend you may find the following helpful:
Comcast caps internet at 250GB
Frontier to enforce 5GB cap
Cable users prepare for overage fees
Rogers Cable starts billing for overages in July

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About the Author

David Hartsock

Executive Editor/Owner/Admin of Daves Computer Tips and all-around good guy – Dave’s interest in computers began in the early 1980’s during the Apple II era. In the early 1990’s the PC began to replace proprietary and mainframe devices in Dave’s industry so he began to learn and experiment with the PC. Through DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and now Windows 10. Dave became the “go to” guy for friends, family, and coworkers with computer problems. Daves Computer Tips was born in 2006 in an effort to share these experiences with others in an easy to understand, plain English, form.

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