Bandwidth Caps Can Cause Risky Decisions and Uncertainty

The fact that the study only included 12 households and that it was done in South Africa may raise some doubt, but the results seem to be rather common sense. At least for most users in the U.S., the results are somewhat hypothetical as the bandwidth caps in South Africa are extreme and range from about 1 GB to 9 GB allowances per month.

The would be scenario suggests that dramatic bandwidth caps lead users to equally dramatic decisions to avoid additional charges when a bandwidth limit is surpassed.

“People’s behavior does change when limits are placed on Internet access—just like we’ve seen happen in the smartphone market—and many complain about usage-based billing, but no one has really studied the effects it has on consumer activity,” said Marshini Chetty, a postdoctoral researcher in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing. “We would also hear about people ‘saving’ bandwidth all month and then binge downloading toward the end of their billing period.”

Chetty found that people would also sidestep and use mobile connections and share Internet connections with others with available bandwidth. However, the "risky" behavior is created when people decide what to download and what not. While many users are not aware how much bandwidth music streaming and background processes can consume, they understand that software updates and security patches count against their bandwidth allowance.

“We were surprised to learn that many of the households we studied chose not to perform regular software updates in order to manage their cap,” Chetty said.

We are talking about just "many" of a total of just 12 households, but the conclusion that obvious downloads may be skipped sounds like a conclusive behavior under extreme bandwidth cap conditions.

“This activity can be benign for some applications, inadvisable for others and downright dangerous in certain cases," Chetty noted.

According to the scientist, ISPs "need to keep in mind the reactive behaviors that consumers adopt and the consequences of those behaviors." A solution may be to provide customers better tools that analyze bandwidth usage, Chetty suggested.

Create a new thread in the US News comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
53 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • mcvf
    Anonymous said:
    I'm no fan of bandwidth of data caps, however...

    If people are streaming music or downloading a new game/app over security updates, they need only one thing.

    Education. Forced (a bad experience) or taught common sense.

    Silly that people do that, yet I'm not surprised.


    @Raidur: But, if the only thing they can afford to download would be updates, what is the point of updates? I can imagine that with 1GB cap to update or not update is a decision to take. I have found myself once in that position already (mobile data plans) and I decided not to update my phone and applications and postphone it. Granted, it was not security update, but still, I tried avoid to waist my month cap. If I can do that, I am sure many others will too if cornered with too limited plans.
    15
  • djgamex
    i Live in South Africa and the internet is just so dam expensive then the windows wants 100MB For updates and the Av wants 50 Mb for updates and so forth 1Gb costs about R150 to R300 depending on the isp that is about $20 USA PER GB. The ISPs are the culprits in forcing us into this way of using the net we cant afford to waste those precious MBs.
    14
  • killerclick
    Download (not bandwidth) caps are ridiculous. In Europe, pretty much every ISP offers unlimited downloads as a base package. If my ISP tried to impose any kind of download limitation, I would drop them the same day.

    Networks should invest in capacity or be punished by the consumers.
    14
  • Other Comments
  • Raidur
    I'm no fan of bandwidth of data caps, however...

    If people are streaming music or downloading a new game/app over security updates, they need only one thing.

    Education. Forced (a bad experience) or taught common sense.

    Silly that people do that, yet I'm not surprised.
    -17
  • mcvf
    Anonymous said:
    I'm no fan of bandwidth of data caps, however...

    If people are streaming music or downloading a new game/app over security updates, they need only one thing.

    Education. Forced (a bad experience) or taught common sense.

    Silly that people do that, yet I'm not surprised.


    @Raidur: But, if the only thing they can afford to download would be updates, what is the point of updates? I can imagine that with 1GB cap to update or not update is a decision to take. I have found myself once in that position already (mobile data plans) and I decided not to update my phone and applications and postphone it. Granted, it was not security update, but still, I tried avoid to waist my month cap. If I can do that, I am sure many others will too if cornered with too limited plans.
    15
  • alidan
    sense windows xp, and sense i gained common sense, i havent had a single computer get screwed due to virus or malware.

    i dont think blindly "i have to upgrade because newer is better" is the right mentality to have.

    take a video game i have, disgaea 3, i have an older version of the core game because of this.
    there is a world with a 1/3 chance of spawning a clone
    you use an item with a 1/10 chance of duping the clone item
    so this adds length to the game artificially,
    keep in mind this is very end game maxing characters im talking about.
    a patch came out, and made that 1/3 chance to a every round there is a clone.
    a patch after that took that away.
    so i never "upgraded"
    again, keep in mind this is very end game character maxing, something that can take up to 30 hours for each character. the difference that made is just speeding the process up.

    there is also software i use, acdsee, that doesn't play nice with amd cards... every few amd driver versions it breaks panning speed, every few versions it fixes it. so what do i do? i find a version that works, and unless something is broken, i don't upgrade, in one case for over a year.

    blindly upgrading can land you with a downgrade and a hell of a hard time getting the old version back.
    -7