From: InfoWorld —

Back in the 1960s, the electric companies told us to use lots of power. “The more you use, the cheaper it will become!” Remember the electric furnace? The ‘all-electric’ house?

That sounds absurd in this day and age of expensive energy — especially in light of skyrocketing electricity costs. The jury is still out on whether we’ve learned our lesson on the dangers of conspicuous consumption.

But, now, as InfoWorldԉ۪s Tom Kaneshige and Galen Gruman report, the Internet is facing an eerily similar problem:

“The digital Disneyland of the future — where we freely work and play online — may be at risk. Why? Because, some argue, broadband carriers can’t support it. The Internet’s “free ride” culture has led to more people downloading gigabytes of data at practically no cost. Even if broadband infrastructure’s capacity doubled or tripled, there’s no avoiding the equivalent of an abrupt work stoppage.”

The first warning of the coming Internet traffic jams may be recent moves by many Internet service providers (ISPs) to impose bandwidth caps on users, or charge heavy users proportionally more for their service subscriptions.

In Canada, virtually all ISPs have traditionally offered tiered service plans based on both speed and data transfer limits. Elsewhere, such as in Britain and the U.S., competition has driven many providers to offer unlimited access plans. Even many so-called ‘unlimited’ plans now have generous but definite limits on the amount of data users can transfer in a given month.

In its recent statement announcing imposition of data transfer caps, U.S. Internet service giant AT&T noted that video downloads account for a full 40 per cent of its network’s traffic and that a mere five per cent of its users are responsible half of AT&T’s total bandwidth usage.

2 Responses to Bandwidth hogs threaten Net’s future

  1. Evolving Squid
    Nov 12, 2008

    16 years ago, I lived in a house with an electric forced-air furnace. Using it was marginally more expensive than lighting piles of money on fire to heat the house.

    In any case, this is where video and music piracy is truly hurting people. The recording industries can howl all they want about lost, imaginary \"sales\" (the overwhelming majority of music and video pirates won\’t buy the stuff anyway even if they couldn\’t download illegally, so no sale is really lost)… but the downloading is so rampant it negatively impacts other users of the internet.

    In my experience, having been on the internet since 1991, the only people who complain about usage caps are people who pirate music and video. If your internet was capped at 10 GB a month, it\’s unlikely any user would notice if they surf the web and play games. But if you download movies, that works out to 2 DVDs a month.

    The funny part is that as recently as 10 years ago, everyone\’s service had caps, and customers complained. Now customers want the caps back because bandwidth hogs are degrading service.

  2. Maggie James
    Nov 21, 2008

    I know, from checking usage figures on my own Rogers highspeed account, that I actually use much less data bandwidth than I thought I did. And I consider myself a heavy user. I think it’s only fair to put ‘mega-users’, such as video download addicts, in a category of their own — and charge them accordingly for their bandwidth usage.

    About caps… The calls in place in days gone by were fairly low compared to the caps in use and proposed today. The caps have risen faster than the average user’s bandwidth consumption, to the point that — as you point out — few average users would notice there even was a cap.

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