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The Internet Businesses The Almighty Buck

Have You Fought Your ISP Over Bandwidth Limits? 1076

Posted by Cliff
from the for-small-values-of-"unlimited" dept.
serutan asks: "Recently, a DC++-related mailing list I subscribe to has been buzzing with posts about letters from various ISPs in the U.S., UK, Australia and NZ, warning customers to curtail their download bandwidth usage to an 'acceptable' limit (generally 200 hours/month for three straight months). These are people who thought they signed up for unlimited access. Some of the letters hint that high bandwidth usage may imply illicit activity. All are vague on possible consequences, and nobody has mentioned actually being cut off by an ISP. One guy received an apology after talking to a supervisor about the meaning of the word 'unlimited.' Is this a growing trend? Have you received similar threats from an ISP? What was the outcome?" Of course, would it be so difficult for ISPs to stop advertising "unlimited" access, and instead include in the small (or not-so small) print exactly what the "acceptable" bandwidth usage is? If you did sign up for "unlimited" services and find yourself in this predicament, what have you done to get your bandwidth issues resolved?
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Have You Fought Your ISP Over Bandwidth Limits?

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:05PM (#7736575)
    I was paying speak easy for 768/384 and they where giving me 1536/768. The bastards.
  • Unlimited = ?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ckathens (631781) <seekay303NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:06PM (#7736584)
    Apparently "unlimited" has been redefined w/o our knowledge. I wouldn't mind paying extra to have really "unlimited" access if that's what it took to not have to worry about this. I have "unlimited" newsgroup access which I pay extra for, and it is well-worth every penny.
    • by wcb4 (75520) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:08PM (#7736608)
      I think you are right.... eMusic redefined unlimited to mean 2,000, why can't the ISP redefine it? I think I will redefine "dollar" to mean one of the little copper colord coins, and I will gladly pay my ISP 50 of them for "unlimited" broadband.
    • Re:Unlimited = ?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:32PM (#7736962) Homepage
      You have unlimited access at most ISPs. What you don't have is unlimited bandwidth.
      • Take a look at the UK dial-up ISP market.

        BT Internet (as they were before numerous name changes) are one of the big players. They advertised their dial-up (56k modem) service using the name "Anytime", and it was billed as unlimited access. What they didn't tell you was that your modem would be cut off after 2 hours (so great for games and big downloads, then), that if you were on-line for more than 12 hours out of 24 you'd immediately have your service terminated (according to large numbers of people on U

    • Re:Unlimited = ?? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jxs2151 (554138) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:58PM (#7737314) Homepage
      The problem is that the marketing droids see "unlimited" as a convenient, useful buzzword that someone else has to deliver (Techs). The lawyers solve(?) the problem by fine-printing the difference between the marketers and the techies.

      Problem solved right?

      • the marketing droids see "unlimited" as a convenient, useful buzzword

        Hmm, if Ford or Chevy picked up on this I wonder if we would see the ALL NEW SUV with unlimited range (300mi), unlimited mileage (10mi/gal), unlimited capacity (6ppl if you squeeze them in). Just imagine the unlimited marketing potential!!

  • by ed8150 (554077) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:06PM (#7736592)
    i dont see why users that use large amounts of bandwidth are automatically tagged as pirates. for example: a few weeks ago i saw an article about an isp shutting down a guy for going over his "cap"(even though this cap was invisible). they described his bandwidth use in terms of movies, saying that the amount he downloaded was equivalent to 40 movies or somthing like that. what happend to due process? it is not a good bussiness practice to see your customers as criminals and treat them like that.
    • by trentblase (717954) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:12PM (#7736684)
      Due process only applies to government actions (when it's not overlooked altogether). I'm not saying it's moral, but your ISP has every right to terminate your service for any reason they want. It's in the contract, and as long as they pro-rate your monthly fee, there isn't much you can do about it.
      • by thoolihan (611712) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:21PM (#7736804) Homepage
        but your ISP has every right to terminate your service for any reason they want.

        Totally correct. It is their legal right.

        However, it's not a great strategy for them. Good businesses protect their customers, and assume the best. Take safety deposit boxes, rented storage space, and many other examples. They can be used for illicit activities, but such businesses do not go around snooping on their customers. They prefer to keep them.

        Hopefully, technology companies will figure this out one day.

        -t
        • However bandwidth is a scarce commodity. If one safety deposit user punched through to the other boxes and started using their space don't you think the bank would kick that person out?

          However, the ISP needs to have listed what it will take to have your acount cut.

          • by cgleba (521624) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @04:01PM (#7738080)
            The solution ISPs can use is weighted fair queueing.
            This ensures that one person does not destroy the bandwidth of another. It is a hell of a lot better then making users worry about how much they download.

            One such implementation is the Weighted Round Robin qdisc in Linux:

            http://wipl-wrr.dkik.dk/wrr/

            There are other implementations that scale better.

            I say this every time someone brings up the "scarce bandwidth" issue, but no one ever listens and ISP continue to use draconian way to solve their bandwidth issues that could *easily* be solved with a little algorithm.
        • by garcia (6573) * on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:42PM (#7737095) Homepage
          However, it's not a great strategy for them. Good businesses protect their customers, and assume the best.

          Your kidding right? Haha, you must be. Let me explain how it really works out there.

          For those of you lucky enough to have freedom of ISPs you better be thanking your lucky fucking stars. There are people (like me) that have had multiple types of Internet over the years (dialup, 640/160 DSL, 768/128 DSL, 3000/384 Cable, 1500/128 Cable, 1500/256 Cable, 1800/256 Cable and soon to be 3000/256 Cable). I have had a handful of providers and a wide range of acceptable connections, speed, and tech support.

          I currently live in a suburb of Minneapolis. We have two choices currently (where I live)... Comcast cable (which raised the rates on those that don't want their CATV to over $50 if you have your own modem) and Wireless (which has a $500 setup fee and slow speeds (640/640 IIRC)).

          Comcast comes in and takes over an area, raises prices because there are no other options for HSD, and then sets these invisible caps...

          Do you really fucking think that Comcast gives a flying rats ass if I go over my invisible limit and they dump me (mind you, they refuse to tell you what the cap is, how they determine it, how you should determine it, how you should protect yourself from it, etc)? They don't for one simple reason... MORE MONEY. If I go over that limit I am hogging bandwith money from others that only check email and a few webpages a day...

          With 25 million subscribers, moving to a 3mbit speed cap, and needing more money, they are doing exactly the best thing to save their bandwith costs, dumping those users that use the service the way it should be.

          Sadly we have no recourse. 90% of their users aren't going to start pegging their bandwith usage and they are going to keep dropping off the high-end users until they are satisfied they are raking in enough dough.

          Sad but true... Just my worthless .02.
          • Uh, I think your confusing bandwidth speed/rate caps with transfer caps. The article/comments are about limited transfers (500MB/month or something, etc), not restriction on net traffic 'speed'.

            Speed caps for home use, not a big deal. Transfer caps, that's another story.
          • Have you tried talking to your city government about it? Cable companies are a government granted monopoly, so there's a lot they can do. Recently here in Iowa City they forced mediacom to stop selling its premium channels as digital only. (i.e. you couldn't get HBO without going to the megabucks digital plan) While I don't watch that much tv, I'm glad the city was willing to stand up to mediacom. If they ever trouble me over using what I paid for I'm definately going to show up at the next city hall mee
          • What I want to know is why Cable and DSL are always set up like:
            download/upload
            (x*4)/x

            i.e. 3000/256. As I work for a webhosting company, I know that bandwidth can only be bought symetrically (you can't buy an incomming DS3 with an outboung T-1). So, why do they cap your upload speeds so low?

            Alternatively, I'd love to partner with an ISP. They seem to have all the outbound bandwidth in the world, and I have plenty of inbound to spare!

            ~Wx
    • by Lord Apathy (584315) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:24PM (#7736851)

      I had that problem. They thought I was downloading movies. I fixed that thought. Told them the truth. I was downloading porn. Solved that prolem right away and haven't heard a peep out of them.

    • by NetDanzr (619387) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:30PM (#7736937)
      There's a relatively reliable way to prove that you are not using your connection for illegal purposes - comparing the amount of downloads and uploads. I, for example, work in the investment business. I go home, and I spend the next two to three hours downloading and printing out investment reports, all of which are in .pdf form (my bedtime reading). On a normal day, just there I can run up to 2GB of downloads, which translates into 40GB/month (assuming 20 workdays). In addition, most companies offer the replays of their conference calls. When I'm not activelly working on my computer, I have always these replays running and record them or listen to them directly. Even with a small bandwidth usage (around 20kbps), it adds up when you have this running 7 days a week, 3-5 hours on weekdays and up to 16 hours on weekends. I have gotten a letter from my provider, I called them and told what I was doing. I was lucky to talk to a competent person who checked my uploads and found that my upload bandwidth is pretty much non-existent, which is a proof that I don't actually share any files. I was let off the hook after that.

      I'm not saying that everybody who has high download bandwidth usage and low upload usage is innocent; there are a lot of leechers who do just that. However, there's so many file sharers that with my low upload usage I dropped off the list of people my provider was after.

  • cox (Score:5, Interesting)

    by proj_2501 (78149) <mkb@ele.uri.edu> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:06PM (#7736593) Journal
    Cox.net clearly states their bandwidth limits and their definition of "unlimited", which means:

    -always available, no dialing
    -no hourly usage limits
    -no tying up the phone line
    -no content restrictions

    looks like only one of these really applies to "unlimited"
  • Rogers! (Score:5, Informative)

    by wo1verin3 (473094) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:07PM (#7736603) Homepage
    Rogers has been doing this to a lot of my friends, I haven't gotten 'the letter' yet.

    The facts:
    1) The service is advertised as 'unlimited'
    2) They are unwilling to tell customers how much they've transferred
    3) They are unwilling to tell customers what would constitute an acceptable amount of bandwidth

    Judging by postings here [rbua.org], they seem to be going after some areas and no others. Here is an interesting thread [rbua.org].
  • Bandwidth limits? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kidgenius (704962) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:08PM (#7736605)
    Supposedly, Cox has a bandwidth limits of like 10GB of downloads a month. I know for a fact that for the past 6 months, I have definately exceeded that. And it's not necessarily illegal activity. I've d/led various linux ISOs for a Linux Installfest. I've downloaded "safe" music through mp3.com, dmusic.com, etc. I'm also always downloading new software to try out in Linux to see what's out there. Add this all to my regular surfing, and I wouldn't be suprised if I was over a "limit" of sorts. The thing is, I've never once received a letter, but other people I know have. I'm curious how they go about deciding who to send letters to.
    • by Future Man 3000 (706329) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:19PM (#7736787) Homepage
      It's quite possible that the differentiation is made on the upload rather than the download -- P2P may be more likely to get you tagged and complained to, whereas pulling gigs of Linux software and Microsoft service packs and the like do not. Cable ISPs have a (technical) issue with upload bandwidth that DSL or analog modems do not, so I've heard from a few sources, although I'm quite curious to know what it is if anybody can tell me.

      I don't think this is a good thing. The Internet relies as much on give as take, and pushing a download-only network is a horrible concept and would hurt everybody involved in the long run.

      • Re:Bandwidth limits? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WhiteDragon (4556) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @03:31PM (#7737673) Homepage Journal
        The issue with cable and uploads is that the FCC won't allow transmitters of more than a certain power on cable television lines w/o a license. When you upload, your cable modem is using its builtin low-power transmitter to push the data onto the wire. The cable company's central office does have an FCC license, so they can broadcast a much more powerful signal down the line to you, and in fact just broadcast everybody's downstream packets on the same channel (so in the past you could sniff the network and see anyone else's traffic, but they have added a little bit of logic to prevent that). The problem comes when multiple customers are trying to upload at the same time, each with their weak signal. In order to prevent multiple transmissions from colliding with each other, a time slicing multiplexing scheme is used. In other words, each cable modem attached to a given central office (Cable Modem Termination System, or CMTS) gets a certain time window to transmit. Quoting from How Stuff Works [howstuffworks.com]' article on How Cable Modems Work [howstuffworks.com]:

        The downstream information flows to all connected users, just like in an Ethernet network -- it's up to the individual network connection to decide whether a particular block of data is intended for it or not. On the upstream side, information is sent from the user to the CMTS -- other users don't see that data at all. The narrower upstream bandwidth is divided into slices of time, measured in milliseconds, in which users can transmit one "burst" at a time to the Internet. The division by time works well for the very short commands, queries and addresses that form the bulk of most users' traffic back to the Internet.

        A CMTS will enable as many as 1,000 users to connect to the Internet through a single 6-MHz channel. Since a single channel is capable of 30 to 40 megabits per second (Mbps) of total throughput, this means that users may see far better performance than is available with standard dial-up modems. The single channel aspect, though, can also lead to one of the issues some users experience with cable modems.

        That is why uploads with a cable modem aremore limited than downloads.
        • Re:Bandwidth limits? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @04:42PM (#7738572)
          When you upload, your cable modem is using its builtin low-power transmitter to push the data onto the wire.

          No, I'm sorry, this is just silly. Bandwidth is not related to power. A one milliwatt signal can carry just as much data as a one megawatt signal. This is not why uploads are slower. And the only FCC licensing required for cable-based RF systems are the type certifications that measure radiated signals. You can run an unlicensed megawatt signal into a cable -- as long as you keep it in the cable.

          The real reason is the TDMA -- time division multiple access -- used on the upstream. It's not an issue of the collision of weak signals, the signals would collide no matter how powerfull they were.

  • Reality check (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JessLeah (625838) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:08PM (#7736606)
    We are 'little people'. They are big corporations. They could redefine 'unlimited' as 'up to 1GB of traffic per month', and frankly, none of us on here have a snowflake's chance in Hell of seriously combating it.

    Let's not get any delusions of grandeur here. Eventually, this is going to be the Standard Operating Procedure for all ISPs. Then what are you going to do-- "vote with your wallet" by going to another ISP who'll be just as bad?

    Sorry to be so pessimistic, but this is the way things are, as far as I can see.

    And if you think I'm being unrealistic: Well, I can remember a time when you'd call up an ISP and actually be able to talk to a knowledgeable techie... that's obviously in the past now. And don't tell me about your wonderful local ISP. You know damned well how rare those are now.
  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:08PM (#7736611) Journal
    proposed a bandwidth cap on "abusers" of their system, but the subsequent outcry made them reconsider...

    IIRC, the amount of data allocated would have been exceeded by downloading (for example) the Redhat CD's as ISO's...

    Simon
  • Oh Come ON (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:08PM (#7736616)
    Some of the letters hint that high bandwidth usage may imply illicit activity.

    Like it or not, 90% of those people who have high bandwidth usage are using it for illicit activities.
    • Re:Oh Come ON (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Decameron81 (628548) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:29PM (#7736922)
      Like it or not, 90% of those people who have high bandwidth usage are using it for illicit activities.


      Game demos, movie previews, trailers, free songs, linux distributions and similar free software, drivers, video and audio conferencing software, internet radio clients, multiplayer games, chatting software, swf animations, etc etc etc.

      Nowadays "suspicious" means "guilty" to a lot of people, doesn't it?

      Diego Rey
    • by johnkoer (163434)
      As Homer once said:

      "Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent.
      Forfty percent of all people know that."
  • by DirkDaring (91233) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:08PM (#7736619)
    Should include this link here on DSLReports:

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/remark,8737754~r oo t=comcast~mode=flat

    "My experience with Comcast bandwidth suspension"
  • by glomph (2644) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:09PM (#7736636) Homepage Journal
    One of the mobile phone providers advertises "UNLIMITED" minutes in one high-end package. In the submicrometer-sized print at the bottom of the ad it states that usage above 3000 minutes "is subject to review".

    Reminds me of the old Dennis the Menace episode where Dennis sets up a lemonade stand with the sign "All you can drink, 5 cents". A thirsty customer gets a small paper cup, empties it promptly, and asks for more. Smart-ass Dennis replies: "That's all you can drink, for 5 cents!"
  • by Jacer (574383) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:09PM (#7736640) Homepage
    I have a 200mb/day upload limit on my computer in my dorm via the school's policy. It makes it hard to run a decent warez server! Downloads are unlimited though. Not that it matters, sharing my connection with 30,000 other students kind of limits the speed. I have a nice yagi antenna on my Christmas list though. If I point it out of my window, I should be able to hit the access points, which aren't on the residence hall network. That's 200mb/s of untapped bandwidth. They won't notice if my room mate and I are using a mere 11mb/s!
  • by GreenCrackBaby (203293) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:10PM (#7736642) Homepage
    Here in Alberta, Canada, I was initially using Shaw cable but received "the call" pretty quick. I changed to Telus DSL and it appears they either don't care/don't monitor usage. I easily use 100 GIGS up & down each month and have never received notice.

    The funny thing is that they do advertise a cap, but just don't enforce it.
    • Wonderful Shaw :) (Score:3, Informative)

      by freeweed (309734)
      I've been a mostly happy Shaw customer for over 5 years now. Still am, in fact, but it's fun to rant. I'll preface this by noting I was doing probably 45gb down and maybe 5gb up a month for a few months straight at this point. I don't want to hear any holier-than-thous here, because if you really want, I could come up with legit activity to account for that - and besides, the issue of legality never once came up. ISPs in Canada couldn't care less WHAT you do with their bandwidth, just HOW MUCH you use. Whor
  • Comcast (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FractusMan (711004) * on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:10PM (#7736664)
    Comcast has a limit. It is unspecified. Right now, there is a movement within the ISP to send letters to users who are using 'excessive bandwidth'. And I do agree with them, almost. Actually, not at all.

    See, the whole "it's always on" thing doesn't apply. It's NOT unlimitted. We don't know what the limit is. We aren't told. We aren't allowed to know. Customers are not allowed to know what this 'limit' is unless they go over it. Do you know why? Let me tell you why.

    Because this limit only applies to those who are in an area where there are a lot of people. If you are on a headend with very few people, you can download to your heart's content, because it just won't affect that many customers. If you try to do the same amount of activity on a node that already has too many users - UH OH! You're being excessive!

    So, by not naming a limit, they can impose one as they see fit - not by your actual usage, but by how you work as a unit within your geographic area.

    Working for Comcast (though not for much longer) gave me some interesting insights into ISP mentality.

    • Re:Comcast (Score:5, Informative)

      by Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:58PM (#7737313)
      Actually, DirecPC was sued over this a few years back and the court agreed that the company HAS to provide you with what the limits are or they can't enforce them.

      Now, whether or not a group of customers is willing to start a class action suit against ComCast based on the DirecPC ruling is another thing altogether.
  • by CaramelCod (588674) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:11PM (#7736675) Homepage
    All it takes is a few greedy P2P users to hose the business model for home broadband. The reason you pay a lot less at home than a business user for the same circuit is expected usage rates. You can argue that this is false advertising "UNLIMITED" but unlimited really means that you are not cut off after X MB download in 30 days. (or charged at $.Y per MB over X)
  • by Dimwit (36756) * on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:13PM (#7736697)
    Speakeasy [speakeasy.net] does nice things like have a truly "unlimited" policy. For around US$60 a month, I get a 640/128k pipe, and two static IPs. That's it.

    The really cool unlimited part is this:

    * I can use as much of that bandwidth as I want.
    * There are no content restrictions.

    And this is the big one...

    * I CAN RUN SERVERS. Yes, I realize that a lot of broadband providers don't stop you at their routers or anything, but most of them have it in their AUP that you can't run your own servers. Speakeasy just asks that you don't make money.

    Oh, and I get free nationwide dialup. It's not bad.

    Oh, and one other cool thing: They even explicitly say that you can set up a WAP and share your access with anyone you want, so long as you don't charge money for it.
    • I really like Speakeasy, but it can be a pain getting the local telco to allow them to hook up your service. Verizon jerked me around for almost a month before I got my Speakeasy DSL when I was in college. Some companies won't let Speakeasy use their lines at all, like SBC in my area. Common carriers hate being edged out by contract carriers.

      -Carolyn
  • Direcway FAP (Score:5, Informative)

    by donkeyoverlord (688535) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:15PM (#7736722) Homepage
    It's advertised and part of the sign up agrement but man does it suck. Your basicly given a "bucket" filled with 165 MB of data that you can do what ever you want with for 8 hours. If you use it all up your screwed down to dialup speed while the "bucket" refills over the next 8 hours.
  • by mnmn (145599) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:18PM (#7736765) Homepage
    I went from Sympatico to Rogers to Sympatico and now looking elsewhere here in Toronto. About 4 years ago, they were offering the same speed at the same cost with no limits. Naturally bandwidth costs fall over time but theyve frozen between the two monopolists in Ontario.

    Whats funny they quitely implemented bandwidth limits that are pretty rediculous, and Sympatico has even blocked port 25. In another incident when I was trying to explain network problems to a customerservice rep at Sympatico, I kept switching between win98 and linux to exhaust all their over-the-phone tests so they know the problem is on their side. Well, when he heard "Linux" he went bonkers and told me there was no way he is helping me with any further issues and I shouldnt waste his time.

    So now we're paying an average of $65 per month for our usage, which does not support Linux, let alone the openvmx, solaris and openbsd that I have at home.
  • Bandwith Nazis (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kleedrac2 (257408) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <cardeelk>> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:19PM (#7736783) Homepage
    I'm on Sasktel and have found them to be more than acceptable to the point where I know my TOS agreement prohibits me from running "any server" but I have a small web/ftp server running and they don't mind. However Access Cable in Yorkton services my in-laws and several of my friends and I've taken to calling them Bandwith Nazis! They turn off your internet if you are running Kazaa (they check the ports) as well as if you have any virus that uses bandwith at all! This isn't necessarily a bad thing but when I go over to fix it I have to download all the removal tools at home and burn them onto a CD because if I call them asking them to turn it on to grab a removal tool they tell me that they will not turn it back on until the system is clean and suggest a format!! When my in-laws complain about having to pay for an ISP that shuts them off whenever they feel like it they are told that it's all in the contract and there's nothing they can do about it. Luckily I've convinced them to switch in January but I just hate dealing with these people so anyone in Regina/Yorkton SK area PLEASE DON'T GIVE THEM ANY BUSINESS WHATSOEVER!! I really wanna see this company fail. Every one in Saskatchewan would do well to switch to Sasktel, Shaw, or Image and let's put an end to the Bandwith Nazis!! In a side note, they offer a news server but filter it so horribly that you can't connect to over half the newsgroups! This is just my 2 cents.

    Kleedrac
  • by EoRaptor (4083) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:21PM (#7736807)
    Canada saw this long ago.

    Unlimited Access can be construed to refer to time, not bandwidth. Thus, ISP's claiming unlimited access aren't offering no download caps.

    Think of it this way

    Access buys you the key to a car, which is parked in your driveway. You can get into the car through any door, and for as long as you want. You have unlimited access to the car. You are not, however, allowed to drive it anywhere, you do not have unlimited usage.

    Rogers Cable (Ontario, Canada) is trying to implement this type of soft cap, and it's not working too well for them. The major issue is they won't define the caps, and people are being cutoff for completely arbitrary amounts of usage. The other huge problem is that they specifically advertise 'Unlimited Usage' (consumers having wised up to the 'access' wording) and this is quite contrary to it.

    They have suspended people, only to reconnect them when asked. This lead to a good exodus of people, and recently Rogers have been calling people saying 'all is forgiven' and asking them to return, saying the caps are completely gone.

    Whether this proves true or not is yet to be seen.

    • But if I have unlimited time, what are you saying I have time with? I'm not seeing the difference here. They give me download and upload speeds at X and Y. If I have unlimited time [and obviously no control over the speed I am getting], then my bandwidth for the month would be, at worst, 30 * 24 * 60 * 60 * speed per second. So isn't it their fault for setting the speed at a level where they can't provide me with that unlimited time that you are alluding to?
  • I have been cutoff (Score:5, Informative)

    by Buzz_Litebeer (539463) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:22PM (#7736827) Journal
    I downloaded 8 gigs in the course of 3 days, and I had my internet turned off, I used the cable service provided in lawrence kansas.

    I had absolutely no warning, no phone calls.

    The only reason I know I had been cut off was because I figured that my excessive downloading for the last 3 days had probably triggered it.

    I called the cable company and they said that I had been turned off for grossly exceeding standard usage amounts. It took me 2 days and about 4 calls, but I finally got the service turned back on with a verbal agreement not to download more than 3 gigs a week.

    So, I had to skimp, but i survived!

    I cant imagine someone only allowing 2 gigs a month though, i have downloaded more than that just off of demos and things from gametab.

    Buzz OUT
  • How to fight them... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jdreed1024 (443938) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:30PM (#7736932)
    Clearly it appears that attempting to reason with the cable companies will fail, for the most part. Other than bitching about it on Slashdot, has anyone tried fighting this? I'm sure your Public Utilites Commission (or whatever the corresponding entity is) would be interested to know that the cable company is imposting a limit that they keep secret. Certainly your local investigative news station would care (ie: FOX news), especially if you can show that you've never downloaded any illegal content.

    An ideal guinea pig would be someone who downloaded a bunch of ISOs (say for 3 or 4 different linux distributions) and then got hit with one of these letters. However, I don't see that happening. I also don't see people who get hit with these letters mentioning exactly what they were using the bandwidth for. Surely if they're not at fault, they should say what they were doing so that the EFF or other groups could help them fight the cable companies. I'm also betting they care more about outbound traffic than inbound traffic.

  • Read your AUP / TOS (Score:4, Informative)

    by oneiros27 (46144) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:38PM (#7737032) Homepage
    (Acceptable Usage Policy / Terms of Service)

    There's normally some sort of clause in there, about how they have the right to refluse you service. It's true in almost every industry out there. [I think medical, and insurance have some issues, where they're not allowed to reject you outright, but I'm not in either of those industries, so I'm bound to be wrong].

    ISPs are not in the business to lose money. If they have someone filling their pipe 24x7, it's costing them more money than what they're bringing in. It doesn't make sense from a commercial standpoint to provide service to these people, and it's entirely possible that those people are detrimentally impacting the service for the rest of the customers.

    I used to work for an ISP, but before the days of DSL, and I know our main issue was people staying dialed up all the time (a phone line was costing us $70/month, we were charging $20/month). Our AUP had stated specifically 'unlimited personal interactive use'. Now, we didn't go after those people who were sharing with their family, or stuff like that, but if you were up 24x7, we took issue -- you had to sleep sometime, and that was not part of the 'unlimited' plan.

    [that's not to say that someone downloading a software update overnight, they weren't, unless they were doing it every night (we had a user who had less than 1 hour offline, over a 3 week period, and we had a plan for dedicated line, and it was more than $20/months).

    So, let's look at this from the ISP's side -- they let you get away with it. They let your friends get away with it. They lose money. They go out of business. You have to find a new ISP, that might be even less forgiving.

    So, my message to you -- get over it. There is no such thing as a free ride, and you shouldn't ever expect to get one. Talk to your ISP. Talk to a supervisor or manager, explain what your usage pattern is, and why you're doing it. Ask them if they can work with you. Odds are, they will, if you make some concessions. They might tell you what their off-peak times are, and so, if you run all of your massive downloads at that time, it won't impact them as much. Maybe you can agree to traffic shaping at the really bad times.

    [we had users that we agreed to leave on, even with them online for 16+hrs/day, with the understanding that should the modem banks fill up, they'd be knocked offline to make room for other users]
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @06:34PM (#7739873)
      If you are willing to claim unlimited, be prepared to put your money where your mouth is. If not, don't make the claim. Unlimited means just that, no limits, no qualifications. You can't afford to offer that at your price range? Then don't offer it. You can make other claims such as no preset limit or so on. However if you want to say there is no limit, be prepared for people to use that.

      I do with my ISP. I expect that my connection be on 24x7 barring problems. I expect to be able to use all the bandwidth they choose to give me as often as I like adn not hear about it. I put a heavy load on that line too, what with three servers, two roomates and lots of personal use. They don't complain, their pricing is such that they can sustain that.

      It is the ISPs that need to get over it, with it being the concept taht you have the right to advertise something and not give it. ISPs want the allure of being "unlimited" but not the associated costs. Too bad. Either be unlimited, and don't whine about it (my dialup ISP never bothered me if I left the modem on for a week straight, which I did) or don't advertise as such. Isntead of unlimited say no time restrictions and no preset limits.

      Notice that American Express does NOT claim they give you an unlimited spending amount. They say they have "no pre-set spending limit". That means that, unlike other cards where you have a hard cap as to what you can charge, they have no default cap in place. Doesn't mean they'll let you charge anything you want. They couldn't do that or someone would get one, charge $50 million in shit and skip the country. However, it would be dishonest to claim otherwise.

      Finally, I would not that DirectPC got sued over this and lost.
  • by Angostura (703910) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:38PM (#7737040)
    Let's face it - hard usage caps annoy users, however with P2P traffic currently taking 60-70% of ISPs bandwidth they have to do something.

    A more reasonable solution, that some ISPs are looking at is to throttle P2P traffic so that it never takes up more than say 30% of their bandwidth. They use layer 7 packet inspection from guys like P-Cube [p-cube.com] and Ellacoya [ellacoya.com].

    The rationale? always-on users want to use their P2P stuff, but are not sensitive about the speeds that they get it - they'll just queue up a load of files and come back next morning.

    It seems to me like the least worst approach, and is certainly better than hard caps. One benefit for the customer is Web traffic will usually still fly, even though P2P is crawling. I believe Telenor in Sweden is using this stuff.

    • The problem... ISPs want it both ways. They fucking advertise the ability to download music and other multimedia content all the time in their broadband ads. Then they get angry when people do, using up their precious bandwidth (which they promised was "unmetered" and "unlimited"). The legality of the content is irrelevant to this conversation. The fact that much of the content is being distributed without permission from the copyright holder is the fault of the RIAA which refuses to sell music online t
  • by JFMulder (59706) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:51PM (#7737225)
    When they advertise unlimited high speed access over here in Quebec, they advertise it as unlimited time and in the fine print tell how many gigs in upload and download can be done each month.

    Take Videotron for example, leader in High-speed access Internet in Quebec. Advertised at 34.95CAN$+taxes each month (provided you bought the modem), you have unlimited time access and 15 gigs in download and 5 gigs in upload. (with speeds of 375k/sec in download and 50k/sec in upload)

    At 49.99CAN$ (provided you bought the modem), you get unlimited time, unlimited download, unlimited upload, speeds of 450k/sec in download and 80 or 100k/sec in upload.

    Other providers like Bell offer if I'm not mistaken unlimited time and bandwidth for 39.99CAN$, though the speeds are about 80k upload and 150k download.

    Bottom line is, everything is advertised as what you get, though Sympatico capped the download one year ago and decided to uncap them after a few months because they were losing too many customers.

    Videotron so far has been the only provider to offer more and more for the same price. It started as 6 gigs in download and upload combined, then 6 gigs in download and 1 gig in upload, then 10 gigs in download and 5 gigs in upload, then they upped the downloading speed from ~300k/sec to ~375k/sec and the upload from 15k/sec to 50k/sec and now we have 15 gigs in download and 5 gigs in upload. I think they're one of the rase case that with time the quality of the service became better, while the monthly price rose by 5$ over a 6 year period .
  • by aquarian (134728) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:52PM (#7737239)
    I agree that if the contract says "unlimited," the meaning of that is pretty clear, but...

    Who in hell has time to *use* all that downloaded material? How many movies can you watch in a month? How much music can you listen to? How much software do you need, or can you even use? How much porn?

    With this kind of gluttony, one might wonder what this stuff is really being used for -- redistribution, perhaps?
  • inside perspective (Score:4, Informative)

    by trustedserf (700733) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:59PM (#7737326)
    i worked in tech support for a large brittish isp for a short while, about a year ago. there was a big problem with people keeping their internet connections open when they're not really using them. remember we're talking about diaup connections here, 56k and isdn modems.

    the problem was not really the bandwidth, because if you're not surfing or doing somoething then you're not really using any bandwidth. the problem was that idle connections left open consume a modem in the isp's modem bank, so other people cannot connect at all when ther's no modems left.

    at the time they were changing their contract from essentially: '24 hours a day any time you like for as long as you like' to something more like 'x number of hours a month, then it runs out'.

    people were always furious because they hadn't read the conditions and had used their connection for more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period and been barred.

    in ireland there was uproar two years ago when a major isp changed the terms of their 'unlimited' connection to restrict useage because they claimed they couldn't keep up. anyone who kicked up enough of a fuss was allowed to keep their connection because it was in their contract that it was unlimited. anyone who didn't complain lost their 'unlimited' contract. i believe some people still have these contracts, because it was not a condition of the contract that further restrictions could be added later.

    funny story: in the job i mentioned, anyone who breached the 12 hour rule was 'upgraded' to use another telephone number. they would call up conplaining 'i can't connect' and we would check their file and see that they'd been flagged as abnormally high users. we would tell them that, because they were heavy users of the service they had been changed to our 'high useage' dialup number, and help them change their settings to dial the new number, and they were so happy that they had been recognised and helped.

    of course, now they were neatly switched to another modem bank along with all their selfish idle connection loving kindred, and could barely connect anymore. we were instructed that, if anyone called complaining that their new high useage dialup number wasn't good, or they couldn't connect, we were to get rid of them quickly. this is a reputable firm, but they couldn't have people tying up a modem, when they were sleeping, or out of the house, or otherwise not using it.
    • by NexusTw1n (580394) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @04:54PM (#7738732) Journal
      The company you worked for was BT, and the selfish users who were tying up modems included the disabled, the housebound and lonely who were online 12-16 hours a day because they had nothing else in their lives. No, this didn't include me, but the BBC researchers who did several stories about this subject, found some wonderful examples of the people BT hated, none of whom were geeks, but were instead "normal" people who relied on the internet for a major part of their life.

      The product was BT Anytime, clearly advertised as 24 hours a day internet access.

      To keep within the law, the TOS had to change before pulling any dirty tricks. First they went for the reasonable 16 hours a day, then 12, then 150 a month.

      The switch to a new number for heavy users was heavily featured in the BBC consumer rights program "Watchdog", because offering a secretly crippled service for some customers breaks British trading standards rules.

      It was a shameful underhand way of dealing with customers BT didn't want anymore, and guaranteed that thousands who slowly migrated to ADSL would never consider BT when deciding on a broadband ISP.

      I object to the description of the housebound who were left without net connections while BT screwed with the dial up numbers, as being "selfish idle connection loving kindred". The main reason for choosing the expensive Anytime package rather than the far cheaper 6pm-8am service was for heavy use. BT knew, or should have known that, and should have had TOS and advertising that dealt with "problem" users in the first place.

      As for the "idle connection" claim, it's quite easy to appear idle if you are blind and your screen reader takes 10 minutes to read a page, or you're sitting chatting occasionally on ICQ.

      BT never allowed you to connect for more than 2 hours - disconnecting remotely after 1 hour 59 minutes.They clearly barred the use of auto reconnection in the TOS, so they could easily have banned those that were online all day and were reconnecting every 2 hours within 5 seconds, but instead they behaved like idiots playing silly beggars with the phone numbers, upset and angered thousands, and were featured heavily on prime time TV as a big bad nasty mean company. A total PR disaster.

      I'm glad you're so proud of what they did, I figured someone on an island of 60 million had to be on their side...
  • by wfberg (24378) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @03:08PM (#7737441)
    There's always a cap.. Most .nl DSL providers are up front about it; the basic, $25-30/month DSL contracts are not only limited speed, but there's a finite cap and a per-megabyte overage charge. On the higher revenue contracts (typically in the $50-80/month range) they'll tell you they you there's "no cap, but a Fair Use Policy". None of them will indicate what the FUP-cap is.

    In the case of FUP what it boils down to is that they don't really care whether you go over a certain threshold, but rather, how much bandwidth there is available in your area. In DSL bandwidth is shared among all the subscribers to one telephone "switch" (CO). For residential use, they typically oversubscribe this to the tune of 1:25 - so a "T1" for every 25 people on a 1024Mbps DSL line.

    If they find out that one CO is using vastly more bandwidth than planned, and there aren't that many new (and elderly) users lined up to get connected - so they can't afford to just lay down more fiber, they reserve the right to crack down on people who use more bandwidth than average. Of course they don't want to be dicks about this, so they usually target people using more than ten times the average, or the 10% "top talkers". Going after top talkers first makes a lot of sense, since the number 1 top talker probably uses half of the bandwidth of the entire neigborhood ;-)

    The actual reason that most plans do NOT come with a cap is that cracking down on top talkers takes a lot of effort. Ever metering the bandwidth can take a lot money and equipment. In one of the earliest incarnations of ADSL service you could check the traffic you used online - they removed this, because all the overhead slowed down connections to the point it was costing them more in terms of bandwidth than just ignoring overages.

    In fact, some of the budget plans that pretend to have a cap don't have one. It's a "special offer" for "6 months only", but in reality they don't have the infrastructure and the people to meter all bandwidth all the time and to go after people with nastygrams...

    Of course, if your connection really is uncapped in the administrative sense, that doesn't mean they won't bandwidth-limit on your ass without you even knowing...

    The most elegant scheme I've seen sofar is used by Bredbandbolaget (IIRC), who sell 10Mbps fiber internet access; if you go over your cap, which is specifically stated to be X GB per month, your speed simply drops to 128Kbps for the rest of the month.. Still usuable for the bare necessities (web, chat, e-mail and some windows updates), just no downloading movies until the next month/billing cycle starts. AND it's fully automated which makes it a lot cheaper than nastygrams. Winners all around.
  • by kd3bj (733314) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @03:15PM (#7737507) Homepage
    I run a small ISP, and I can put an end to all this speculation regarding the use of the word "unlimited" -- assuming anybody actually cares.

    The reason ISP's use the word "unlimited" in their advertisements is because it sells more accounts than if they don't.

    The fact that they are lying is really not a relevant point. Consumers will flock to the guy that says "unlimited" in his advertisements regardless if it's the truth or not. Consumers don't think that hard about the issue.

    It should be obvious that you can't provide a dedicated "unlimited" 56K connection profitably at the $10-$15/mo market rate, but you will sell a lot more accounts if you say "unlimited".

    This is also true in the web hosting business. I see advertisements for "Unlimited Bandwitdh" web hosting all the time. But we all know that this is neither physically possible nor economically possible. Still people sign up for these lies.

    Guys like me that run businesses that want to be honest about things are punished for our truthfullness. Consumers demand to be lied to. So ISP's are forced to choose between significantly lower sales and being dishonest.

    Now, I'm not saying that there aren't ISPs that try to be honest in their offerings. I could give you a list of honest ones that don't use the word unlimited unless they mean it. All I'm saying is that dialup consumers do not typicaly choose these honest guys when they see an "unlimited" offer for the same price.

  • Should be a law (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SomeOtherGuy (179082) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @03:23PM (#7737591) Journal
    If they are going to have Up & Download limits...they should be forced to provide an up to date status of where you stand each day. I have yet to see a message on here where someone got axed or scolded and they actually had details of usage other than....oops you went over the limit.
  • IANEFAMCC (Score:5, Informative)

    by papasui (567265) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @03:35PM (#7737708) Homepage
    I Am a Network Engineer For A Major Cable Company... Most broadband companies has a TOS or AUP (Terms of service/Acceptable Use Policy) which defines the conditions the service is to be used under. Typically when you are installed with service you sign some paperwork that says you agree to blah, blah, blah. Which typically includes not running a server of any kind, violating copyright agreements, and excessive use of bandwidth. Usually that's defined as whatever the company feels is excessive. In my case, continously maxing the upstream for several days will cause an alert to show up in our monitoring utilities. Typically I don't really care as long as it doesn't affect the performance of other customer's service, if it does then I will contact the customer and give them a warning about it. If they continue to abuse the service they will be turned off for a week. They then can have service after a month but if they again abuse the service then they are permanetly turned off. Now I read some concerns about loosing customers due to a policy such as this, but in order to provide high speed internet access at a competitive price it's all about maintaing a ratio between available bandwidth to number of customers. If the ratio breaks due to 1 or 2 customers using too much of the service then the risk occurs that all remaining customers would leave. So it's really about loosing 1 customer in order to keep 50. It might suck, but that's how it goes.
  • Cost Analysis (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @03:35PM (#7737717) Homepage
    Where I work, we changed our advertising from "unlimited" to "unrestricted" for this very reason. Unrestricted sounds about the same but gives us an out to require more money for that top 1%.

    Among other job duties, I am the company's cost analyst. I studied the heavy usage issue. The results would surprise only a fool.

    What drives the cost of a dialin? Well, its usage during the daily peak time, of course. As an ISP, you generally pay based on the 95% peak consumption of bandwidth plus you have to have incoming lines and backhaul lines sufficient to handle the daily peak.

    This means that any account which is online at every daily peak consumes the same cost of resources as an account which is on 24 hours a day.

    So, do the monthly hour consumption and the daily peak usage correlate? They do. Starting somewhere between 180 and 240 hours, 95% of the accounts are online at more than 95% of the weekday peaks (our weekend peaks are lower, and thus excluded from the equation).

    That means that for all practical purposes we have to have an entire network port and bandwidth just for that one customer.

    Now, how much does your home phone line cost? And your dialup internet account? The dialup is less, right? Well, guess what: all told your ISP is paying more like what your home phone line costs to deliver that account. They're in business to make money, not lose it.
  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @05:23PM (#7739109) Journal
    I love my ISP. They will contact me if I do cross the boundary, but otherwise, say nothing. They don't seem to care when I go several weeks in a row right next to that limit, either.

    Their policy is simple -- You can use up to the bandwith your account type allows. [xmission.com] The basic $19/month package has 3 GB/week, add 1 GB/week (4 GB/month) for $10. They give static IP address and no arbitrary server restrictions.

    In their newsgroup discussions, they explain that because there are so many people who pay for big chunks of bandwidth and don't use it, they can provide the whole enchalada without problems. If more people started using all their bandwidth, then they'd have to lower the limits, but with all the homes and businesses and colo connections that consume only a tiny bit of the bandwidth they pay for, they don't anticipate it as a problem. Their stats [xmission.com] show an aggregate of about 3 empty 45Mb/DS3 lines even at the peak use.

    xmission is great.

  • Your ISP at Work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Azure Khan (201396) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @05:52PM (#7739462)
    Having seen a lot of feedback here, I'm not sure that I understand what it is that people want. Here are the things that people have said: "Don't offer speed if you can't deliver" and "don't offer unlimited if you can't deliver". Let's take a look at the way that most ISPs work, and then address those.

    Your standard ISP pays not for bandwidth, but for pipe density. T1, T3, DS3, OC3, etc. They pay for 1.5Mbps up/down 24-7 if they need it. NOw, obviously, this costs them much more a month than your 1.5Mbps download connection, by an order of magnitude of 20 or so. If you're on a dial-up service, most ISPs don't pay much to maintain infrastructure, unless they are also the phone company. It's some servers, a few banks of digi-cards, and a local dial-in number. In the case of high speed access, they generally also have to pay to maintain lines and equipment along the lines, such as repeaters and routers. A few web servers, a couple of mail servers, and you're an ISP.

    Now, here's where the issue comes in. Normally, an ISP expects that some people will use high-speed very sparingly, probably depending on it for a few small critical tasks and the rest is email. And then they know there will be a few gamers and downloader making up some slack. This is expected by your broadband ISPs.

    The problem comes in when you have someone who demands to use their connection for 1.5Mbps, all day, every day. The same connection, bursting, might serve six or 7 heavy usage customers, or 40 light usage customers, but now you have one single customer, attempting to consume $500 worth of download bandwidth for $50.

    Obviously, there should be some sort of common sense applied here. Capping the top speed lower would be a poor idea, because those who download the occasional large file or movie trailer or whatnot enjoy access to the full speed. Changing the access hours seems silly, since some people play games for hours a day but never come close to consuming full bandwidth. Does it seem right to penalize this MAJORITY of the customers because a very small percentage of customers who seem to be of the opinion that if you have a 1.5Mbps connection, you MUST use all of it. If you gave them more bandwidth, they would simply find something else to do with it, not content unless they are pushing their connection as hard as possible, obviously lacking any idea of the economics behind it all.

    Some have said that hard limits should be imposed in the contratct. This makes me sad, because it means that you are telling the company that they cannot trust their users, that they cannot use reasonable judgement, or expect that from you. Sometimes, you might have customers who never go over the limit, but might have a school project one month that pushes their usage up high once. As an ISP, I'd prefer to be able to use my discretion in this situation rather than hear the "told you so" of users crying about "lax enforcement of rule".

    DISCLAIMER: I work for a mid-sized ISP.
    • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @07:38PM (#7740478) Homepage
      "Having seen a lot of feedback here, I'm not sure that I understand what it is that people want. Here are the things that people have said: "Don't offer speed if you can't deliver" and "don't offer unlimited if you can't deliver". Let's take a look at the way that most ISPs work, and then address those."

      While your post was informative, you failed to address the issue of 'don't offer unlimited if you can't deliver'. What the vast majority of slashdotters are upset about is the fact that this is false advertising. Personally, we could give two flying fucks whether or not the ISP can handle the constant usage. Our beef is with the fact that we are paying for a service that is not giving us what was advertised.

      "As an ISP, I'd prefer to be able to use my discretion in this situation rather than hear the "told you so" of users crying about "lax enforcement of rule".

      As an ISP's customer, I'd prefer to be able to know EXACTLY what my limits were, so that I can use the service to its full potential. I do not want my ISP deciding that since Johnny is doing work for a school project, he can use more bandwidth, but since I'm looking at pr0n I can't.

      I do not want my ISP deciding whether or not what I use the internet for is 'acceptable' or not. If I am paying the same amount as Johnny who is doing a school project, I DEMAND equal service. Now, whether I choose to use that service or not is my decision, as it is Johnny's as well, but I do NOT want to be treated differently if I use the service to its fully advertised potential.

      Got a problem with that? Perhaps the ISP should then do some legal research into the Truth in Advertising laws. I have no pity for any company who's falty business plan revolves around 'expectations of usage' of its customers. Not my fault your business plan can't make you money, and I will not suffer because of it.

      Now, I apologize if this post seemed like a bit of a rant. It was a rant though. While I can sympathize with you in your position, realize that customers should not be feeling sorry for companies. That is the way business works.

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