annoyances internet technology

Data Caps – Bad, Ugly or Evil?

That’s right, there is no way in the world the data caps imposed by ISPs are in any way good. They are either bad, ugly or evil – or, most likely, all of the above. Here’s why.

By limiting (in any way) our consumption of internet as a resource, ISPs are essentially setting up a mental model that “your internets may run out“. Imagine the next iteration of home routers that, in addition to bandwidth metering will have an off-switch, once you hit 99.9% of your monthly allowance it will switch your connection off to prevent an outage. Your car has ran out of gas. With astronomically high overage fees it’s obvious no one would want to pay for it. Households will – consciously or subconsciously – limit their use of internet. Which means – a lot less online video, online games, in fact – a lot less of our usual online activity as a whole. Your Facebook updates don’t take much, but any video streaming (YouTube/Hulu/Netflix), Skype/Oovoo video chat or games downloading goes out the window. Those cute baby videos you’ve uploaded for your grandma in Michigan – bye bye. If you’re just checking e-mail or working on some documents – you may still fit into your limit, but if your job requires some massive data movement or exchanging large files (think – video editing or backups or database dumps to your local development environment) – goodbye working from home.

Who is going to win? In a short term – ISPs, of course, that will keep profiting until their customers will adjust to new usage patterns. After that (I’ll give it a few months, two – three quarters tops) their cash inflow will significantly drop. In addition to that – they’ll keep spending a fortune on army of lawyers battling class action suits where they will have to explain our computer-illiterate judges why 100kb picture takes 120kb of bandwidth (HTTP headers overhead? Good luck with that mumbo-jumbo). That is – instead of investing money in upgrading the infrastructure.

Who is going to loose? Everyone else. Consumers will suffer the most, since there is no real way we can vote against that, thanks to government supported monopolies (try finding an alternative to a high-speed ISP in your area). We may actually go back to REAL human interaction, exchanging movies and TV programs via removable flash drives and hard drives (Arrgh, those damn pirates would never stop, would they!). Content providers will see a decrease in demand which, in turn, will result in a lot less money available to be invested in the whole online content business model. They will have to spend another fortune on lobbying laws and regulations in their favor – instead of spending that money on acquiring better content or improving their own infrastructure (CDNs and such).

Most likely in a few years we’ll see giants like Google, Apple and, maybe even some movie studios, if they hire CEOs that can see a bit further their noses and expensive suits, will lobby for some kind of solution that will neutralize the negative effects of caps, at least to a satisfactory level. However, the time we will lose will inevitably put us so far behind our main technology competitors that we may never be able to catch up. It’ll be like cell phone market – we’re still paying around $5 for 200 SMS (while they are totally free to phone company) and are capped to measly 2GB of cell data plans while in some other “not-so great” countries people already using their cell phones for video streaming and full blown video conferencing. Try that on your 2GB plan of “fastest some-G network” that drops regular voice calls like crazy in the middle of the largest US cities.


Verizon Wireless Data Tests From Florida

As I was returning the Storm after a little test run (I talked about it in the previous post), I decided instead of ditching Verizon altogether to try out their data plan. I got UM175 USB wireless modem and Verizon’s “unlimited” 5GB data plan for $59.99. But testing all that from the middle of New York City isn’t as much fun as taking the set to vacation.

So here I am, in one of Orlando, FL resorts, checking the quality of the service. There’s no problem with connectivity, my question is – just how good the internet connection is for an advanced user like me. All tests were conducted through, so that you can enjoy the pretty graphic fonts instead of boring tables.

The most important criteria to look at are latency (how fast the signal travels from point A to point B and back) and upload speed. Big latency is what will kill your IP phone conversation, your online meeting or your live webcast. Download speeds are usually more than adequate, but when you’re trying to upload a bunch of pictures from vacation, a huge Excel spreadsheet or heavy PDF, the podcast or videoblog post – that’s when little upload speed is starting to hurt. Besides, slow upload speeds will also have their say in making your online meeting or IP phone conversation useless.

business internet services technology

Bandwidth Caps Are Bad, Speed Caps Are Better

Bandwidth Caps Are Bad, Speed Caps Better - iStudioWeb With the latest craze about Time Warner and AT&T introducing download caps for their subscribers, it doesn’t seem like companies care for anything but the short term profit, if that. Price-conscious consumers won’t buy into this game again, like we did with cell phones and limited minutes. Anyone who ever overused their cell phone plan knows how hard it was to pay off skyrocketed bill. Personally I had that experience only once – I was consulting some really large project over the phone and my phone bill went from regular $120/month to $653. Of course, it was a justified business expense, but still – it would have been just $240 if I had two separate plans. If you ask me today – I would go to any lengths available to keep my costs down these days. But I digress.

What beats me in the whole capped broadband picture is that ISPs are trying to implement a restaurant pricing. While at the same time forgetting that they are anything but. My cable provider claims that he provides speeds up to 15Mbps. My dedicated servers are on 10Mbps lines burstable to 100Mbps and I am yet to see speeds above 1 megabit. Between themselves servers swap stuff at very least at full 10Mbps which makes it painfully obvious that my cable provider lies is something like McDonalds – at best.

What is obvious to me is that download cap pricing structure is a loose-loose situation for everyone. Once consumers will get a feeling of what their limit will give them, most of those who, supposedly, would be a cash cow for ISP will leave for something else. Or keep their usage under strict control. Either way, ISPs will loose money. Or, rather, will earn less than they do now – just because they have caps. Wouldn’t you talk on your phone more if it was unlimited calls? Sure. Are you postponing calls to your friends until it’s “unlimited nights and weekends”? Most likely – yes. See the pattern?

If provider companies are so inclined to slice their services in tiers – why not turn the situation into a win-win? How could they do it? TIER THE SPEEDS, NOT THE DOWNLOADS. Some “old parents” setting wouldn’t need more than occasional e-mail checking, downloading pictures of their grandchildren and maybe a video or two. That would be a slowest and cheapest tier. A mom-pop-kids shop would probably need some more advanced tier – videos, music, iTunes for kids, heavy MySpace/Facebook and YouTube. And geeks, gamers and internet business owners would appreciate the fastest speeds and the lowest pings out there at the premium. Basically, companies would milk the same bunch of people, only do it so much different that it would make everyone happy.