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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Fight Usage Caps? 353

Posted by timothy
from the but-your-username-favors-such-restrictions dept.
First time accepted submitter SGT CAPSLOCK writes "It certainly seems like more and more Internet Service Providers are taking up arms to combat their customers when it comes to data usage policies. The latest member of the alliance is Mediacom here in my own part of Missouri, who has taken suit in applying a proverbial cork to their end of a tube in order to cap the bandwidth that their customers are able to use. My question: what do you do about it when every service provider in your area applies caps and other usage limitations? Do you shamefully abide, or do you fight it? And how?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Fight Usage Caps?

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  • Business (Score:4, Informative)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:26AM (#44783899) Homepage
    The solution to get more allowed usage is to purchase business service from your ISP.
  • by sabri (584428) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:41AM (#44784043)

    or start your own provider without a cap.

    And you'll soon be out of business. Truth of the matter is, that a business simply cannot sustain by providing unlimited broadband internet for the prices that the average consumer is willing to pay.

    For example, my connection via Charter is great. I pay for 30Mbps but actually get 45Mbps. If I were to suck up 30Mbps 24/7, that would mean that Charter would have to reserve 30Mbps of bandwidth on their network, and to their transits. So 33 customers like me would fill up a Gigabit Ethernet link. With an average price of ~$4 per Megabit, transit traffic alone will cost approx $4000/month, or roughly $120 per customer. Cut that in half, because my ISP will likely peer a lot, and you're still left with $60 per customer. And then we're not even discussing the cost of the access, core and edge network gear, installation and operational costs. I'm paying less than $60/month.

    So, what do ISPs do? They oversubscribe. Since I'm not using my link 24/7 at full speed, it is easy to "share" my bandwidth. The last time I worked for an access-ISP, the oversubscription rates were between 1:35 and 1:50 for consumer-grade access. And in order to make sure that everyone gets a fair share, they'll have to include some type of limitation.

    So all in all, the numbers just don't add up. You can't expect premium service for a bargain price and as long as the ISP is transparent about it, I don't have a problem with bandwidth caps. In the end I can still choose to pay for the premium service and not be subject to a cap.

  • by tuppe666 (904118) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:50AM (#44784107)

    In the UK at least 6 years ago when the government was all *cough* pushing the idea it was an E-Govenment. Basically a petition was sent to the Government complaining that ISPs offered unlimited data...which in practice was often seriously crippled that offered little data. The response was to pass the buck to the Advertising Agency Authority who still do little to nothing http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/03/government_dodges_unlimited/ [theregister.co.uk] That was in 2007. It is now 6 years later and nothing changes https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/ofcom-ban-the-fraudulent-use-of-the-term-unlimited-by-mobile-networks-and-isps [change.org] .

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:59AM (#44784183)

    One ISP responded by saying, 'Of course, actually until recently one of our customers was one of the biggest porn companies in the US'.

    Porn server on a DSL line. Musta been really into spanking and torture. :) Okay, that aside, yeah, there's plenty of ways to fight a cap if you're stuck in a residential area and have no alternatives; ICMP traffic typically isn't counted or capped. If you setup a micro instance in the amazon cloud or elsewhere, and create a VPN that uses ICMP traffic, you can tunnel through that and out into the wonderful world of unlimited bandwidth.

    The fact is, tabulating the actual bandwidth used isn't a matter of just adding up the bytes on the wire transmitted or received, and that's because every way of auditing it is different. Some ISPs track it at the border router, some try to limit it during peak periods... take Comcast for instance...

    They have this 'burst' thing where the first 5MB of a http or https connection runs at max speed, then throttles. Well, you can use that to your advantage -- just send a reset packet after 5MB is exchanged, and enable http resume. With a few other tweaks to http pipelining and other things, you can easily get triple what your rated line speed is supposed to be... but it requires you setup your own dedicated gateway/firewall/router combo box and some really complicated ipchains and kernel magic.

    My point is, extensively test what your ISP does and doesn't throttle, how it throttles, and how it caps. Then game the system. It's just another hurdle to be overcome. And when you've figured it out, share it with others. ISPs need to get the message that if they aren't going to support network neutrality, the network is going to rise up and kick them in the ass.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @12:21PM (#44784317)

    So, what do ISPs do? They oversubscribe

    Caps do not fix the problems of over-subscription. The majority of customers will all have the same usage patterns - basically heavy usage during prime-time and a trickle the rest of the day. Restricting the total gigabytes downloaded by the month can only minimally improve congestion during prime-time ... it does nothing until a couple of weeks into the month when people start to hit their limits and can't download anything at all, otherwise they still go full speed during prime-time.

    Furthermore, the modern ISP has huge, huge margins on bandwidth. Like 90+ % gross margins - the vast majority of an ISP's cost are in the infrastructure (cables, equipment, staff) not in bandwidth itself. Wholesale bandwidth pricing itself has been dropping like a stone, reducing by at least 30% a year for many years now and has recently accelerated to about 50% a year.

    http://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2012/08/02/ip-transit-price-declines-steepen/ [telegeography.com]

    Download caps are just a wholly inappropriate tool for fixing problems with over-subscription. They are, however, fantastic for hurting competing businesses like NetFlix and Hulu.

  • by Cimexus (1355033) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @12:23PM (#44784327)

    Agreed. Transfer caps in Australia aren't the big problem they were 10 years ago. There are enough choices of cap (at different price points) that there'll be one to suit pretty much everyone. My ISP in Australia (Internode) has caps ranging from 30 GB to 1.2 TB per month.

    The problem in the US though is twofold:

    1. In many areas there are only one or two ISPs available (the local cable monopoly and the local phone/DSL monopoly). Not like in Australia where pretty much everyone has 15-20 ISPs to pick from (even if many of them are Telstra resellers).

    2. Some US ISPs have transfer caps, but it's a one-size-fits all approach. You can't choose different caps for different prices like you can in Australia. My (cable) ISP in the US had a 300 GB cap but there was no option to move to a higher cap if I needed it (other than to get a business connection).

    Basically, I have nothing against caps *IF* you provide options. Grandma who just checks her email and does a bit of banking can get by on her 10 GB cap which costs some measly $15/month or whatever, the average family of four can get the mid-range "few hundred GB" plan and Mr. Uber Torrenter can get his 1 TB+ cap (but has to pay more for it). That's how it works in Australia and it's fine. In some other places though there's a cap, and no choice.

  • by DarkTempes (822722) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @01:19PM (#44784665)
    You can easily pass 150 GB a month just watching 720p video from youtube or twitch.tv every day. Maybe even 420p, I'd have to do the math. Don't even think about 1080p. I know that with my 300GB cap that I have to be very choosy about what content I get to watch in 1080p.

    If you're a gamer then you can use up large portions of 150GB just from game patches. Actually downloading a new game is frequently 15GB or more (your typical MMO is over 20GB these days, even FPS games get up to 30GB).

    You like to clone big projects on github and tinker with them? Tough luck.

    And that's just for ONE person without any file sharing; imagine a house full of people that actually use their technology. You wouldn't even be able to buy a plan with a cap that accommodates their needs (the highest my US ISP goes to is 450GB). And if they're all streaming their media then you're actually multiplying the bandwidth cost for any individual media item as they can't just push it over the local network.

    Tell me 150 GB / month is plenty when you retire and you're actually home to use your internet more than a couple hours a day.
    I mean, sure, you don't NEED the internet. You could survive perfectly fine from subsistence farming. But sometimes nice things are nice to have...

    The argument that it's expensive to be an ISP as a reason for caps is flawed. That's a reason to raise prices but not a reason for caps. Hell, do ISPs even pay for bandwidth in their peering agreements? No?
  • by fredklein (532096) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @08:12PM (#44787063)

    Streaming means you are at the mercy of the provider. If they determine it is not profitable enough to carry a particular show/movie, then you lose access to it. Probably forever.

    At least if you "hoard" it, you have a local copy you can watch whenever.

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