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October 16, 2009

Will Net neutrality end unlimited bandwidth?

Posted: 09:48 AM ET

Net neutrality policies that prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from managing network traffic based on content may end the age of unlimited Web use. Without the ability to intelligently manage their networks, ISPs are increasingly using data caps, often as low as 5 GB per month, to preserve bandwidth.

A year ago the FCC was breathing down Comcast's neck for throttling Internet traffic related to BitTorrent, the file-sharing protocol. With the threat of Net neutrality regulations looming, Comcast and other ISPs, agreed to drop BitTorrent traffic-management programs and generally treat all Web traffic as equal.

However, the Net neutrality concession wasn't free for consumers. AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner all rolled out monthly data caps shortly after the agreement.

Without neutrality, ISPs are allowed to manage network traffic by restricting content. They may do so intelligently, or they could slow streaming video, disrupt P2P services and even block rival Web sites - which would be highly anti-competitive. Though frustrating, the data caps allow ISPs to conserve their limited bandwidth without relying on network-management techniques that violate net neutrality.

Now the FCC has its sights on mobile broadband providers. FCC Chairman Julian Genachowski is a strong supporter of net neutrality and believes it should also apply to mobile providers. But with much less bandwidth available in the wireless spectrum, net neutrality could mean sluggish speeds and far more restrictive data caps.

In a Washington Post interview, Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Professor David Farber argues net neutrality isn't practical: "We've always said the Internet has infinite bandwidth, but the economics of running a network don't allow you to do that."

Net neutrality policies haven't crippled terrestrial Internet in the way Farber fears, but mobile broadband is not as plentiful. Wireless carriers may have trouble complying with neutrality regulation.

If every smartphone customer suddenly began to take advantage of his unlimited data plan with bandwidth hungry applications like VoIP calls or streaming video, and wireless carriers are not allowed to manage this sudden demand for content, the network would suffer.

Gizmodo thinks net neutrality will eventually cause smartphone users, like those with the iPhone, to lose their unlimited broadband:

You will pay for every ounce of data that you use. And if you're "crowding" the network by downloading a bunch of stuff, you're gonna get slowed down because that's the easy "net neutral" way to keep users in check. How much better is that, really?

Proper network management would be ideal, but there is no guarantee ISPs will manage our internet traffic effectively and fairly. So are you willing to give up your unlimited bandwidth for Net neutrality, or do you trust your internet provider?

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Filed under: computers • Internet • iPhone • online video • smartphones

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DH   October 16th, 2009 10:03 am ET

Sounds like we have a Hobson's choice here. Either pay for use or let someone else decide what content we can see.

Jason from California   October 16th, 2009 10:37 am ET

All the ISP's need to do is to stop overselling thier bandwidth. If someone buys a 768kpbs up and 1.5mbps down connection the ISP needs to ensure that they have enough bandwidth for all of thier customers.

If they have enough bandwidth for 1500 customers @ 1.5 stop putting 2500 customers on that connection. So again the only reason this is a problem is that the ISP's are too greedy and/or are not pricing thier service so that they can adequately support the number of customers they have.

We should not have to decide between neutrality and data caps.

PJ   October 16th, 2009 10:54 am ET

It's pretty much how this Country works in general – 5% of the population has the money, resources and power. On the Internet, about 3-5% of users are incredible, staggeringly, mind-blowingly greedy bandwidth pigs. Shut 'em down. Boot 'em out. What is their contribution to the Internet and the Human Race in general? ZERO. They consume and consume and consume and give nothing back. Beam 'em into the engine room...

John   October 16th, 2009 11:31 am ET

I love how this article goes about saying net neutrality is bad... I'm sorry, net neutrality is what keeps the large amount of people visting this website to keep coming here. No company is telling them where they can go and what they can see. The limiting of information by the removal of net neutrality and incorporation of business could even extend to sites the company "doesn't want to be represented by." This could mean the removal of information people should or want to know about and limiting most's scope on the world. I don't beleive that– even with data limitations– net neutrality should be abolished. Do whatever else is nessecary, I'd rather my information be free and un-biased by big business.

Ricky   October 16th, 2009 11:42 am ET

The problem with this situation is that ISPs need to invest more in their infrastructure to support the growing bandwidth requirements. All of this doomsday talk about running out of bandwidth and the net coming to its knees is baloney. ISP profits are immense and they will do anything to prevent having to actually upgrade their network and spend their wads of cash. As with the healthcare debate, there are tons of lobbyists swarming to spin this in their favor. The reality, however, is that there is no competition to drive down costs and consumers have one or two choices for Internet access. Do the research and look through the garbage they're spewing.

Wes Finley-Price   October 16th, 2009 12:06 pm ET

@John I was not attempting to discourage net neutrality. I personally do not trust AT&T to manage my Internet usage and I believe neutrality regulations are necessary.

The article was meant to show the real world consequences of Net neutrality and allow the reader to make up his own mind.

Justin   October 16th, 2009 1:34 pm ET


You are exactly right. The main issue is that ISPs in the US are for-profit commercials organizations. Their main goal, as with any for-profit business, is to maximize profits. They purposely throttle people back and hold off on upgrading because upgrading network infrastructure is very expensive. They might as well just limit the amount of bandwidth their users can use and hold off on upgrading until everyone who uses that ISP gets speeds comparable to dial-up.

The US is rated somewhere around 25th in the world for broadband speed and availability – and we freakin invented the internet (or Al Gore did, one of the two...)! In the US we get a FRACTION of the bandwidth compared to users in other countries where the industry is nationalized – heck they're getting up to 40-50mps speeds; when have you seen your ISP offer anything even remotely close to that? I know it makes me sound like a commie, but maybe nationalizing the broadband industry wouldn't be a bad idea, or at least impose some regulations to mitigate all these restriction the ISPs put on us.

Rural Oregon   October 16th, 2009 1:50 pm ET

Allen stated the issue nearly perfectly. I manage an ISP in a rural part of Oregon. The bandwidth costs us money to get internet out here then the costs have to be passed on to the consumer.

Jason from California your idea just is not feasible. It would be impossible to have a 1 for 1 ratio of bandwidth to customer. For us to do something like that in rural America we would have to charge customers hundereds of dollars a month just to break even on the cost of recieving that said bandwidth in the first place. So to keep costs down for the consumer there are some fine balances that must be maintained. If the ISP purchases to much bandwidth they end up loosing money an eventually failing. If on the other hand the ISP purchases to little bandwidth then they end up with unhappy customers due to slow speeds. Normally maintaining that balance is fairly easy. Now, throw in a handfull of customers that abuse the service by using thier service at its max rate 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That hand full of customers degrade the over all service for everyone. By all rights the ISP should be allowed to curb the usage of a few abusers to improve the overall service for the majority.

I for one believe there should be at least some control allowed over our networks even if there are regulations stating what is and is not acceptable. With no management things will only continue to get worse. If ISP's have no control I do forsee them using bandwidth allocation with limits of usage per month becoming more common. I for one do not desire to see that happen. But, ISP's do have overhead costs and throwing more bandwidth wont solve the problem due to the cost being a major restriction.

Ryan   October 16th, 2009 2:13 pm ET

Net Neutrality should be written into the constitution as a first amendment right.

I don't want a ISP to filter my content based on what it is, or how big it is. Its tantamount to a library saying you can't read that book in the corner because it has too many "a" letters in it, and its too large to get down off that top shelf.

Data caps, are coming quickly. Get ready for them. However, just as the senate is questioning text messages, those telecom companies imposing 5GB caps a month are doing something criminal and should have to testify to why their network sucks so badly they have to impose such an extreme limiting of traffic.

However what the story didn't mention was what the average data cap is. They gave us the extreme of that situation but not what the average person could expect, and that makes this story come off as bias in my opinion.

But the best part of this story, is how almost no one on capital hill wants to talk about it. I personally can't wait until we have a nationwide internet crash, all trunk lines down. The next day five telecom CEO's will have to explain to eight senators why they can't get their internet porn fix and have to go pay a stripper.

Mike   October 16th, 2009 2:19 pm ET

Net neutrality is necessary to prevent ISPs from over regulating what we access. It starts at illegal file sharing and moves onto throttling websites that don't pay the ISP for premium service.

I'm not too worried about bandwidth caps even for things like downloading an MMO like EVE online that is 2Gig since the caps I've heard would require you to download something that large about ten times a day to go over it. If I were using that much data I would be more than happy to pay for it.

Chad Boudreau   October 16th, 2009 2:38 pm ET

I apologize for double-posting.

1. Cell phone company's do not own, they lease, the frequencies their networks operate on from the government.

2. Some company's license their property such that you would be able to legally access it through different arms of a cable/internet company. For example, Funimation charges a dollar per episode for anime watched over Comcast's On Demand service, where those same episodes are licensed by other companies which stream them, legally, over the internet for free. Thus, I can use my ps3 to access on my TV for free the same material as Comcast wishes to charge me a dollar for.

Without net neutrality, Comcast can essentially decide, by slowing or interrupting my streaming video, where I watch the show.

3. FYI, Long long ago AT&T received a HUGE tax cut for the express purpose of giving everybody fiber optics. For the most part the extra profits reaped from that cut went out as dividends, and AT&T paid lip service to their obligations by buying bankrupted companies who'd invested in fiber optics during the internet boom. Recently ('06-'08) AT&T went back to congress to try and get 20-30 billion to aid them in in doing that which they'd already been paid to do.
Not sure, but I think they got the money.

Jason from California   October 16th, 2009 3:29 pm ET

Rural Oregon,

You say that customers that use thier max bandwidth 24×7 are hurting everyone but I would argue that they are getting thier money's worth. They are paying for a dedicated broadband connection which is availible 24×7 @ whatever speed. If the ISP cannot handle that than they shouldn't be selling it.

What it boils down to is the ISP's need to meet thier contractual obligations. If a 1 to 1 bandwith is not feasable don't sell that much to everyone. If I was paying 24.95 a month for a connection that was capped at 10GB per month (which is more than most people need) than that is fine, but if the data is unlimited than stop complaining if I use it like that.

It's shady business practice to sell something to someone that you don't have.

To sum up, Network neutrality is not the problem here, it is business trying to compete using shadow games.

Josh   October 16th, 2009 5:09 pm ET

It's just a sad fact that the U.S. isn't leading in internet speed to it's population. What I wouldn't give to have South Korea's internet.

"As of 2009, most apartments and houses are able to subscribe 100 mbps internet connection for less than $50. So far, there are no limits in these services." -Wikipedia

I know South Korea has a smaller population that the U.S. and a smaller geographic area to cover but I'm still envious. I hope our ISP's will get their act together and catch up.

John   October 16th, 2009 9:01 pm ET

I am avg 7.5 Gig an month now and I do not DL movies. I would have a hard time under a 5 gig cap at these prices

Thom, Denver, CO   October 16th, 2009 10:56 pm ET

If the ISPs try to pull this crap the federal government should finally give all Americans free WIFI and just tell these smug jerks to sit on it.

The insurance companies are sticking it to us by using their vast wealth to manipulate the government, are we going to let all of these rich corporations continue to steal from us with impunity?

Kyle   October 17th, 2009 1:14 am ET

The internet should remain neutral at all costs. This is the reason the internet has become a cultural and business phenomena since it's inception. To give companies the ability to decide what type of traffic deserves attention would destroy this. Cellular networks on the other hand, are more limited, and don't really perform all the downloading and uploading of home PCs anyways, so it might be feasible to get rid of net neutrality in regards to cellular networks. However, technology is increasing rapidly, and what is a foreseeable problem now should not be hastily fixed with legislation when it could be fixed by future innovation.

Jan   October 17th, 2009 2:15 am ET

Let me explain the issue of network bandwidth management with a more familiar example.

Let’s say customers pay you $30/month and you give them each 5 movie tickets. You only sell as many tickets as you have seats in the theatre, so you are not overbooking. Some of those customers will not be able to use their 5 tickets in a month, so before the movie starts, you let customers without tickets sit in the empty seats. As long as lots of customers don’t use all 5 tickets, this works ok, and lots of people get to see more than 5 movies a month, basically for free.

So now let say one month, every customer uses all 5 tickets. All the customers who got used to going to the theatre and sitting in empty seats without a ticket, and were not let in this time, are angry. Do you think its fair the theatre didn’t let customers without tickets in?

This is EXACTLY what happens at an ISP with data traffic when the ISP throttles bandwidth. Even though for months you perhaps got to see 20 movies a month for $30, you only could do so because some customers didn’t use the tickets they paid for. Is anybody arguing that the theatre should just open the doors, and let customers in until it fills up, with or without tickets? The result would be some customers who have tickets, are not allows in. Is that fair?

To me anyway, the fair thing is to let customers in who have tickets, and have a standby line for customers without tickets, but who would like to see the movie. At the last moment, you let as many of the people in the standby line in as there are empty seats. This is a huge win-win for everybody, as every customer who paid for a seat get’s in, and some customers get free seats.

Currently, the large bandwidth users are getting free seats from their ISP, and would suggest they might consider appreciating how much bandwidth they do get for a low cost.

ISP’s need to be a litle more honest about this too, like by not using the word unlimited bandwidth in their marketing. It’s not unlimited, but at any moment, is way larger than the amount guaranteed for each customer. ISP’s might be required to disclose the committed per customer bandwidth, and some information on how the dynamic bandwidth is used.

ISP’s do have a slightly more complex problem, especially with P2P networking. The problem is like people who want to see the movie will just show up at the theatre, and as a result may crowd out customers with tickets. One solution for the theatre is to require customers without tickets to call ahead and ask if there is space available. My understanding is last year Comcast attempted to intelligently modify the data flowing between P2P clients to prevent this crowding effect. Many kinds of Internet traffic already have what’s called congestions control, which is exactly this kind of calling ahead to ask if there is space. I would have to believe P2P clients did not respect these congestion control systems, and continued to flood the Comcast network with data. To allow the people with tickets to get into the theatre, and keep the people who didn’t have tickets away, Comcast had to set up barricades on the roads leading to the theatre. Does it seem unfair that Comcast went to great lengths to assure that ALL customers were getting a fair share of the available bandwidth? Even if it meant setting network barricades for the customers trying to get empty seats that didn’t exist?

I think it’s important to separate net neutrality from bandwidth throttling. Letting a customer use their 5 seats they purchased in any way they want seems important, and is very different that turning away the customers who are hoping to see the movie for free.

We ALL will be worse off if the only way ISP's can fairly share the network is by limiting the bandwith of every user to the committed amount. This is like letting the half empty theatre sit half empty during the movie and not letting customers withough tickets fill those seats.

J R   October 17th, 2009 2:22 am ET

This article is epic fail. CNN taking money to post industry propoganda now?

mrlewish   October 17th, 2009 8:51 am ET

Unlimited bandwidth? Who the heck has unlimited bandwidth? This is a straw man argument. Simply put what ever internet speed you contract for should be on 24/7 period regardless of usage.

I think it's time to look at these cable companies franchises.

Jesse   October 17th, 2009 10:06 am ET

The large companies mentioned in this article have been taking advantage of consumers' desire for more bandwidth. When things first started rolling out, they gouged consumers with the guise of "we're building more infrastructure for future use." Now that people are wanting & needing the Internet more & more, their choice is to limit the use.

While not everyone needs or uses the data hungry services, these companies want to punish everyone for the use of the few. It is my belief that this small "heavy user" group is a minor percentage of the bandwidth used on their networks.

Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner just want to line their pockets more, now that their monopolistic controls over their respective markets are being threatened more and more by other service providers such as Verizon's FiOS service and satellite service.

LennyP   October 17th, 2009 7:13 pm ET

As long as the size of Microsoft and other companies critical updates - as in security patches - remain humongous any attempt to charge by the bit would be disastrous. Either the number of people downloading and installing these patches would fall dramatically or the companies issuing the patches would be required to pay for the bits sent downstream for each and every patch.

Mike   October 18th, 2009 2:27 am ET

How much money are the ISP's losing????????
This whole stupid debate is nothing more than CEO's trying to squeeze every cent out of the American Public. Comcast is trying to stop content from interfering with their cable TV packages. If everyone watches on the net instead of cable they lose their ability to gouge the american consumer for access to the Home Shopping newtork and QVC. Don't belive anything a corporation says..

Jay   October 18th, 2009 6:24 am ET

I feel like I need to defend the "Abusers" so called by "Rural Oregon." Since when is someone who uses a legally purchased service an "abuser" That just doesnt make sense. Because those "Abusers" probably paid the highest price for the fastest package available from their ISP. They paid that price so they could use it the way they wanted. I for one, am an online gamer. My wife likes to download movies and TV shows. This stuff is available legally on the internet and we pay the highest price for the best package in order to not feel the ristrictions of low speeds. So are we ruining the internet for everyone else? Of course not. We are simply using the services we paid for.

I think that data caps will happen, and I dont think they will be that big of a deal. Simply put, you will have the speed you paid for and a download cap of say 20gb or 50gb or however many gb comes with your contract. When you surpass your cap your speed will slow down not cut off. In Belgium they had that system, and if you surpassed your download cap, you spent 5 more euro for 5 more gb of download and your speed went back to normal. it wasnt restrictive for those that dont "Abuse" the internet. And those of us that use what we pay for just had to pay a little more, and not download anything terribly large for the rest of the month, or keep topping of our download cap.

Jeff Martin   October 18th, 2009 7:20 am ET

This article is obviously written by a lobbyist for AT&T and Comcast. We're smarter than that and please spare us the insult.

Greg   October 18th, 2009 11:25 pm ET

For the most part, the core of this discussion is based on marketing and media "territory" issues and not the technical limitations of a given network. The technology is available to provide relatively huge bandwidth to nearly every household within a few miles of the nearest fiber feed. The REAL problem is that the people who provide the bandwidth are also trying to make money through the sale of content, which inevitably leads to conflicts of interest. Back in the "old days," before the cable and telecom companies started buying the content providers, there was no concern about this sort of thing. I think there should be a discussion about regulating these media conglomerates to the extent that they cannot interfere with the healthy growth of the nation's networks. Let them compete in the arena they're designed to compete in: content.

JeffC   October 19th, 2009 8:36 am ET

This is so transparent. The providers can easily develop more bandwidth. This is about protecting cable tv revenues now that everyone can download movies and tv's to their computer. More cable providers money grubbing.

Rich   October 19th, 2009 12:16 pm ET

How about the fact that I just had to download a 98Mb QuickTime update and 14 "critical" security patches for XP?

chad boudreau   October 19th, 2009 12:43 pm ET

I like this.

"hey, let's sell unlimited access to the internet, cry foul when people actually use what they buy, and then laugh our way to the bank when people like Franko call demanding a free market contract being upheld communism!"

This is how the net neutrality argument started:

The internet providers decided that content providers (google, yahoo) should pay extra to be allowed to transfer data through their networks at the same speed as users (you, I, an others) paid to download. Thus, even though google doesn't use AT&T to access the internet, AT&T could force google to pay them extra, and if google didn't, then you wouldn't get your search results quickly.

Once that was squashed (essentially the provider would be charging someone else so that you could access the internet at the speeds you were paying the provider to receive), they turned to other tricks to extract extra money.

I'll be honest with you, monopolies are anti-capitalist, and so anybody who suggests that keeping these companies from exercising their power unduly is a communist is ill informed.

That means you, Franko, Jan, and Haseo.

Meh   October 19th, 2009 2:33 pm ET

I want my money for nothing and my chicks for free.

Peter   October 19th, 2009 2:51 pm ET

Caps are certainly better than losing net neutrality, however, some consideration needs to be given to users who's habits use a large amount of bandwidth, but do so in a non-disruptive way.

For instance, I am a gamer, and during the day/early evening I use a small to moderate amount of bandwidth when playing games or streaming video on Hulu/YouTube.

At night, I use programs like Impulse and Steam to legally download games I've purchased through those portals. Some of these games could easily exceed an entire month's cap, yet I download them while 90% of the other customers are asleep.

A cap could still maintain net neutrality without harming legitimate use if they'd only count data downloaded during certain times of day. Something I download at 2am, will not interrupt your browsing at noon the next day!

Phil   October 19th, 2009 3:42 pm ET

The solution to overloaded networks, lack of money to pay for infrastructure, spam, and piracy is to charge postage on every single packet you cause to be sent or received on demand. People will have to watch how much service they demand, easing congestion and discouraging frivolous use (spam, pirated movies/CDs, nightly software downloads). You don't send your snail mail for free, your cable TV isn't free, and your phone calls aren't free (even with toll-free lines, /someone/ is paying for the service), so why should your Internet access be free? Find a mechanism for charging postage on every packet, and the market will resolve all the problems.

Jason L   October 19th, 2009 9:22 pm ET

Well there are a lot of good points made in these comments. Is Net Neutrality entirely bad? No. Is the way that it is being managed bad? Yes. With anything that is government related, it is going to take time to hash out the kinks in the system. Red Tape.

Now, on to those people disgusted with the US being so low on the Bandwidth-coverage area/speed lists. Look at how small the countries are that are in the top 10. It is much easier and less expensive for them to cover their country with fiber optics that it is for the US-based companies. The fact is, companies in the US are upgrading to fiber optics, but they are doing it for their largest markets first. This totally makes since on the business front. It also, is not a process that is fast. It takes time, permits, and man power to put these systems in place.

Just some things people should consider.

Dennis from CA   October 20th, 2009 12:07 am ET

@Ryan in Silicon Valley:

Ryan, try 130+% of their profit for AT&T this year. They are investing $19B on infrastructure alone this year and they only had $12B in profits last year. I think there is hope but as it is, this net neutrality thing is going to hinder that progress is what I hear. Kick 'em when they are down is not the solution if you want a fast and good internet like ppl get in foreign countries (yes, I lived majority of my life abroad and I know how wonderful that is). FCC right now is trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist. Ppl that say we shouldn't listen to corporations like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, I have a question for you: Soooo.... this Google.... is not a corporation?!?!? We should listen to them, advertisers on the cab billboards, rather than owner of the cabs (ISPs)? Since when do we own the infrastructure of ISPs??? Get real please... If you would like to invest billions of dollars each year for infrastructure and provide me high speed internet, feel free but since only ISPs are doing that, I will be happy.

Oh and here is my 2 cents: Since when porn is considered information? If the net neutrality is about information, it should not affect porn. There is nothing educational about porn. It just takes up bandwidth (which can be used for something more purposeful such as education children that are going to schools in our failing education system). So when will people will stop being greedy with internet? Think about that... I am so tired of hearing about how not being able to access porn sites is a violation of their constitutional rights. There you have it. You are stepping over others' constitutional rights for your own greed and that opens the door for others to do the same. Solidarity and teamwork is what made this country great and greed is the only thing that can take it down. So don't be greedy and think about others....

Dutchman   October 20th, 2009 11:10 am ET

Yeah, this is a ridiculous mis-representation of things. I would go nuts if i got a monthy cap. I live in a very small rural community and only have 1 ISP I can realisticly get access from. Imposing a cap on us would be stealing, because we'd still have to pay for it, and if i still want to be able to play online-games there is no way i can go sattelight. So they pretty much have me at there mercy. But I have no real reason to bash on Mediacom, they just upgraded my internet speed for free, because they were UNDER charging me :P.

Chad Boudreau   October 20th, 2009 11:57 am ET

Dennis from CA: Yes AT&T is spending a ton of money this year to upgrade their networks...
1. They already received 40 billion + over a decade ago to do this.
2. much of their current upgrades are going to their 3g wireless system, which is for cell phones, not wired internet for the home. Actually, they are in the process of getting the pants sued off of them for promising 3g speeds to their iphone users and being unable to deliver.

Jason, let's look at those countries by size and population, factor in how much the people pay for their connections, and scale it to the US...

Finland's internet is on average 4 times faster than in the US.
Finland has 3.6 million internet users spread over 1/30th the land mass of the US...
but the US has 250,000,000 internet users, about 69 times as many as finland. Therefore, since we have 30 times the landmass, but 60 times the users, it should cost us 1/2 what it cost finlanders to access the internet at comparable speeds.

IF the finnish ISPs are profitable, then we should have 4 times our current speed at half of their cost and our ISPs would still be profitable. In 2005, it cost an average of 46 euros to access the internet, and the steadily increasing competition in that market suggests that it is profitable.

Oh...wait...I'm sorry. Most finlanders get the highest speed, which is 4 times our highest speed, but many americans do not. Many americans don't even have access to these kinds of speeds. In fact, on average the internet for americans is almost 10 times slower than in finland...

By the math above, since 46 euros = 68 dollars, americans getting the highest level of american service should be paying 1/8th of that (our market:land mass ratio is twice as large as finland, so we have two times the customers in a given area of land, which means you should get twice the customers for installing infrastructure). Half the costs to the customer (twice the customers for a similar cost), makes the internet cost 34 dollars, to get finnish speeds. But wait! At best we get 1/4 the speed of finnish people, at average 1/10th, so on AVERAGE our internet WOULD cost $3.40 a month, if proper investment by the ISPs had been made, and for our best current speeds, it WOULD cost $13.60 a month.

That means that if the ISPs had invested the money they were given by the government, as well as a decent portion of their profits, your ISP, no matter where you live, could give you the best speeds available to home users of our country for 13 dollars and STILL make a healthy profit.

How much do you pay for the internet?

Franko   October 20th, 2009 1:33 pm ET

Net neutrality is the ultimate prejudice
Even Microsoft Windows has process priority

Near top priority should be VOIP, downloading movies, near the bottom

GreyGeek   October 20th, 2009 5:20 pm ET

In the mid 1990s my city began pushing cable and telcoms to string fiber optic so that the Internet would have enough bandwidth for everyone in the city to enjoy, at an economical price. The cable and telcoms sat on their thumbs so my city began laying fiber optic themselves, to set up a public ISP at affordable rates. I watched city workers bury a fiber optic cable in my yard, and looked forward to the improved service at an affordable price.

My city was just following in the steps of other cities that got tired of waiting for the cable tv and phone companies to leave their copper wires and join the 20th century. But, when the cable tv and telcos saw that the Internet was taking off they whined to congress about "unfair competition".

For most of my 68 years we've had the best Congress money can buy, and after enough bribes, a.k.a. "campaign contributions", rolled in the Congress agreed. The cable and telcos agreed to bury the fiber optic cable in their cities for a mere $200 Billion. Congress agreed again, and passed laws enabled the funding and outlawing cities from "competing" against the cable and telcos. The only problem with that legislation was that it had no performance guarantees or penalty clauses. An oversight that, without a doubt, was funded by the lobbyists bribes. (That's the same way the health insurance companies snookered Congress and Nixon into legalizing the current health insurance ripoff. Congress may be greedy but they aren't stupid - they set up their own private health care coverage that pays everything with no deductible until the day they die. They ate the steak and tossed the bones to us.)

As a forecast of what has happened with the banking system in the last year, those unethical, immoral corporations took the $200B and ran. The fiber optic cable buried in my yard could be feeding me and my neighbors 40Gb/s bandwidth at under $50/month. Instead, I have to pay $72/m for 10MB/sec connection. The only good part was a written guarantee that I would not be capped.... if they'll continue to honor it.

Meanwhile, those SAME CROOKED CORPORATIONS are now conning media outlets into saying that capping is necessary because their old Copper wires can't carry the load. Whose fault is that? It's THEIR OWN GREEDY FAULT.

IF Congress had any morally redeeming value, and TRULY represented the people who elected them, it would pass legislation requiring that the cable and telcos repair and connect at their own expense the fiber optic already buried and replace existing Copper wires with fiber optics to bring the USA into the 21st Century. No increase in rates. A few less Golden Parachutes, stock options and other beneies to management should cover the bill. If they can't afford to do it then entire Internet system in the USA should be nationalized and treated like a public, not-for-profit utility. If I am going to be stuck using an antiquated, capped technology, and pay premium prices for the privilege, I'd just as soon pay public employees managed by folks accountable to the ballot box.

The electric service in my community, Lincoln, NE, is a publicly owned utility and it continues to offer electricity to every home in my city for under 8 cents per KW, which is about 1/3 to 1/4 what private companies charge in other areas. The folks managing it are doing a terrific job during a time of energy uncertainty. Managing an ISP should be even easier be the current Internet bandwidth scarcity is ARTIFICIAL and only a result of greed and incompetence by the Cable TV and Telcos.

Tim   October 21st, 2009 10:13 am ET

There is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth- the ISPs want to throttle to unofficially impose a cap. If they can't throttle, they have to be up front about how limited their "unlimited" service really is. Either way this goes the ISPs will find ways to profit, but at least with net neutrality the ISPs will have limits to how bad they can make it for us.

This article suggests a lack of net neutrality rules magically makes true unlimited service possible. Thankfully the well-informed comments seem to make up for the article.

Tim   October 21st, 2009 10:32 am ET

Just read Jan's theater analogy. The problem with throttling is it just picks certain types of traffic. It would be like the theater only allowing people wearing black shirts to watch the first 15 minutes of a movie, with or without a ticket.

If there were monthly bandwidth quotas, with low-prioritized bandwidth after the quota, it would be like spending your 5 tickets, then being at the mercy of whether other people use theirs.

I agree that people who use a lot of bandwidth should pay for what they use, but if they are told they get unlimited bandwidth, they should not be penalized. Bandwidth caps that stop these users from overburdening the network should not affect the typical user, so such caps should not be used as a scare tactic, unless of course they are used as another profit source, which would be the ISPs fault, not the government's.

GreyGeek   October 21st, 2009 12:02 pm ET

Your analogy reminded me of when I was a kid. I saved 25 cents from my paper route and every Saturday afternoon went to the "Pioneer" theater to see two movie features, a serial feature (Flash Gordon or the Green Hornet) Lowell Thomas read the new while the first Pathe video news clips played, and one or two LoonyTunes cartoons. If the second showing didn't fill up I'd often remain and watch everything again. The Pioneer had a split timber facade out side and inside were 10 rows of folding chairs, 15 to a row, with an isle down the middled, facing a large with cloth tacked to the wall. You bought tickets at the door so there was no possibility that you couldn't get a seat.

A theater is not like an ISP because there is no fixed number of features with fixed starting and stopping times so that customers can be herded in and out to a definite schedule. The Internet is open 24/7/365 and the venue is almost a bottomless pit. For the customer the difference is in how they access the Internet, how fast that connection is, and how much it costs.

The theater analogy does not address one salient fact: the "theater" was paid by the "city government"t to enlarge and improve its capacity, it took the money, but failed to build the facility it promised to build. Now it wants to profit even more on the increased customer base by raising rates based on scarcity of resources, a scarcity it artifically created by failing to spend the money it was given to build the Fiber Optice infrastructure and putting it into THEIR POCKETS instead.

The only solution is to DEMAND that the Cable and Telcos take the money out of THEIR OWN POCKETS and deliver on their promise at NO FURTHER EXPENSE to the taxpayer or with any increase in user rates.

To allow them to continue to "cap" the antiquated Copper wire service is to continue to condone their THEFT OF TAXPAYER MONEY. In most civil societies thieves are NOT rewarded for stealing, unless they are in Congress and they use the money to bribe voters with temporary jobs on the "road to nowhere" or the "airport with only one plane a day" so they can get reelected. That voters refuse to learn the lessons of history and continue to fall for this vote buying is testimony to power of the entertainment industry to keep their attention diverted and the worthlessness of our educational institutions.

Franko   October 21st, 2009 4:05 pm ET

IPv6 has 8 Priority bits - Your application could set the desired priority - you could buy higher priority from your provider - each router could process according to priority

Getting what you pay for is the priority, the motivation.

GreyGeek   October 21st, 2009 7:25 pm ET

@Fannko: " could buy higher priority from your provider"

The number of IPv4 addresses are close to exhaustion, or at least they were before the current financial woes. The IPv6 protocol was designed to allow even MORE people and servers to connect to the Internet by providing a larger IP address range. It is a STANDARD, it is NOT the property of the ISPs that they may use to "sell" access levels or otherwise use to multi-track users so they can continue to charge more and more for the same Copper wire technology that Congress paid them 200 Billion dollars over a decade ago to replace with fiber optic.

The only way Copper wire can give faster access to a few is by restricting the access to others. The Internet was created by taxpayer money and everyone is entitled to equal access to it. It is not the private domain of the rich, while everyone else is restricted to the digital slums.

Matt   October 21st, 2009 8:13 pm ET

I think the headline for this article is misleading and even dangerous. It's general premise seems to be "if we prevent them from ripping us off one way, they'll rip us off another, so why bother, down with net neutrality!" That's not a sound argument. It also fails to mention the wrongdoings and ripoffs already taking place that net neutrality seeks to (and should) end. If internet companies did choose to find other ways to rip us off, as you suggest, certainly, they'll lose their business to competitors who won't.

Mike   October 24th, 2009 12:29 pm ET

This was inevitable. Expect metering in much the same way long-distance telephone use to work. If you read the fine print they say "Up to x.x Mb of down/upload." That doesn't mean you should expect x.x Mb.

This is the drug-dealer's marketing model. The first hit is free, after you are hooked you will pay through the nose.

Bill in Ann Arbor   October 25th, 2009 1:37 pm ET

So what's next, the cable companies only let us watch TV 3 hours a day then cut it off because you 'over-used' it? PLEASE!, over-use of an unlimited service like cable tv is a joke & I'll explain later. The problem with net neutrality is people on both sides can sway it either way. On 1 hand ISP's should not be able to control what you get from where but on the other hand ISP's should be able to shape traffic to protect their network especially during busy times of day. It boils down to HOW they are shaping that traffic and WHY. Back to my original point.. When you pay for a service such as cable TV you expect to be able to use it when you want, how you want. Same is true of telephone, cell phone or internet. Each company has their own method of managing use of the service such as charging for extras like HBO, charging a fee per call, limiting how many minutes you talk per month then applying overages or letting you pick the speed at a certain price point. So THERE is your implied throttling and the reason there shouldn't be a need for the ISP's to argue against net neutrality because of a so-called need to limit or control so-called DATA HOGS, which in itself is a joke. If you pay say $39.99/month for UNLIMITED internet at 2mbit speed vs $59.99/month for 10mbit speed *that* is the ISP's control on how much data you can transfer in a give month. (Simple calculation shows 24×7 @ full speed 2mbit will transfer 1/5th as much as full speed 10mbit) BUT they are not charging 5x as much for that service! THERE lies the problem: OVERSELLING by the ISP's. I'm not suggesting all ISP's jack up the pricing for higher-speed customers but they can't cry the blues about so-called data hogs when they are just using the service they pay for! And I'm not suggesting people be forced into slower connections they can afford. In my opinion the best solution is net neutrality so that ISP's cannot selectively control data hopefully preventing monopolistic abuse (essentially anonymous only controls EXCEPT their customer's total usage and their PEER's total usage without any regard to type of traffic or the remote non-customer-end destination) but ISP's should be more up-front on the fact plans not only limit speed but also implicity the amount of data they can transfer. An added bonus would be if the ISP's provided a neutral form of bursting. Then they could sell unlimited 2mbit service for $39.99 that goes at say 10mbit UNTIL the user's average daily usage exceeds what their 2mbit allotment would be & throttle them at an ever slightly slower rate to keep them at the 2mbit amount. That might be tough to grasp so a simplified example: If you were signed a contract where you got 1 marble per day per month for $30 you get 30 marbles total in a 30 day month. It is up to you to get 1 a day or wait until the last day & get all 30, either way you get your share of marbles. The problem with letting you get all 30 at once is there might not be 30 marbles available, especially if everyone did the same thing & demanded all of their marbles on the same day. But the market better have 1 marble per person available since that is what they agreed to provide, otherwise they are overselling. If the market did a decent job of managing their stock they should be able to not only give each person their 1 marble as promised but also let people get more than 1 marble per day when available. So the ISP guarantees you get the 2mbit you pay for but will let you get up to 10mbit at times when it's available, such as off-peak times of the day.

Chad Boudreau   October 26th, 2009 1:08 pm ET

Paragraphs Bill, Paragraphs.

You're right though. Of course, to allow a person 10 mb/s speeds until they reach the level of download that they would have gotten with 2 mb/s speeds, then throttling them down to 2 mb/s, would allow a person to max out their 10 mb/s allotment in the beginning of the month, and then using 2 mb/s speeds for the other 4/5 of the month, which would be like allowing a person to have a 3.6 mb/s connection all month.

How dare a person use that much!

Also, if you look at the net neutrality guidelines that the FCC put out to mold their future rulings, it's OK for an ISP to shape their network, but that ISP has to be transparent about it, or be slapped down.

In other words, under their new guidelines, comcast can slow down P2P services IF they tell their customers they can do so. ISPs can cap users, IF they tell the users what those caps are. That is vitally important of course, because companies like Verizon (who lobbied for these open internet rules) are putting a TON of money into their networks specifically so that they will not have to shape it, or impose caps. 4G cell phone towers, capable of transmitting 20mbps data at the edges of the network, and their fiber optics to the home network (fios) is what they are focusing all of their efforts on.

AT&T and Comcast (and many others I'm sure) are instead putting their time and effort into 3G cell phone networks, and copper connections to the house... The reason I believe AT&T is so up in arms about transparency is that they may feel that if they have to disclose caps, network shaping, and actual speeds, then Verizon will have a huge market advantage, thanks to their investments.

I mean seriously, "up to 10mbps" vs. "up to 25 Mbps" (or whatever fios is) doesn't SEEM like too much of an upgrade, worth the extra cost, but if companies are forced to tell customers ACTUAL or average speeds, then "400 kbps" (the average speed my aunt gets with AT&T) vs. "15 mbps" is HUGE, and seems worth the extra cost.

*note, 15mbps is a made up average connection via verizon fios, I don't have the service...
Hey Verizon, PLEASE come to my town!!

**double note for verizon love: when the bush administration sent letters to all the telecom companies asking/demanding access to all their customers data, including call and internet history, Verizon is one of the few companies who refused. AT&T is not one of those companies...

Chuck   October 28th, 2009 9:26 am ET

I don't know how Comcast thinks it's going to advertise up to 50 megabit downloads and then put a 5gb monthly cap on the service.... A customer could easily exceed that in just one day.

Chad Boudreau   October 28th, 2009 11:36 am ET

@chuck the 5 gb cap was an example I doubt would ever happen at a major company like comcast (I hope). I mean, the Ratchet and Clank demo over the playstation network was a startling 2.5 GB, and that was worth what, 20 minutes of entertainment?

@grey geek: you are absolutely right. If you look at one of my early comments, I did the math on what we should be paying to access the internet, using Finland as a model. I mean when we talk about japan, the "but they are so much smaller and denser than we are!" rings true, but with finland, the inverse is true: we have twice the internet population density as finland. 13 dollars a month is what we SHOULD be paying, in that model, for our average highest tier home internet service, which would preserve healthy profits for the ISPs...

I don't pay anywhere near 13 dollars a month for internet. You?

GreyGeek   November 19th, 2009 5:04 pm ET

You "can't stand when people act like they know something"?

Listen, sonny, I coded for 40 years before I retired. Another thing that comes with getting old is arthritis. Sometimes normal but minor movements of the wrists and fingers cause such pain it stops you in your tracks. At times it makes typing difficult. You'll notice that I mixed Mb and MB. Big deal. People knew what I meant. So did you, but you don't address my points. You seem to think my typing troubles mean I don't know anything.

Do people who jump to conclusions bother you too?
How about when people are shills for the cable and telcos? Does that bother you? Using your logic I could jump to the conclusions that YOU are a shill for a cable TV or telco. Are you?

BARRY DENNIS   February 3rd, 2012 2:29 pm ET

With more and more Internet User demand evolving from wired connections to Wireless, and the use of MAAO (Multiple Applications Always On) through Convergence AAA devices (AnyThing, AnyTime, AnyWhere) the need for wireless spectrum is growing much faster than wired/FIOS.
Years ago I noted that eventually, "metering" would have to be included in spectrum management, absent the FCC's spectrum re-prioritizing and re-allocation through auction or re-licensing of unused/low value and "parked" spectrum licenses obtained through licensing, but unused or underutilized.
The priority must be much more Wireless spectum if Convergence AAA is to realize it's potential. Within that priority there is lots of room for market and pricing transparency, IF a competitive marketplace for spectrum is enforced.

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