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Bandwidth Caps Can Cause Risky Decisions and Uncertainty

By - Source: Georgia Tech | B 53 comments
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A study conducted by Georgia Tech scientists and Microsoft Research found that bandwidth caps are changing user behavior to a degree that may not be desirable.

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.

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  • 15 Hide
    mcvf , May 14, 2012 9:00 AM
    Quote:
    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.
  • 14 Hide
    djgamex , May 14, 2012 9:06 AM
    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 Hide
    killerclick , May 14, 2012 9:24 AM
    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.
Other Comments
  • 15 Hide
    mcvf , May 14, 2012 9:00 AM
    Quote:
    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.
  • -7 Hide
    alidan , May 14, 2012 9:02 AM
    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.
  • 14 Hide
    djgamex , May 14, 2012 9:06 AM
    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 Hide
    killerclick , May 14, 2012 9:24 AM
    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.
  • 11 Hide
    Integr8d , May 14, 2012 9:47 AM
    "sense windows xp, and sense i gained common sense"

    I swear I'm not trolling. But this is LOL.
  • 13 Hide
    Pherule , May 14, 2012 9:47 AM
    killerclickDownload (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.

    So what happens when every single ISP in the country imposes caps, as it is still in many countries? What happens if the ISP covering your area is the ONLY ISP that covers your area? You can't always just drop an ISP. (Oh and they ARE called 'bandwidth' caps in preference to 'download' caps, despite the fact that it's referring to the cap limit, not speed limit)

    It's not just the caps that are the limiting factor however. While Europeans enjoy 100Mbits up/down, there are some countries still stuck with 384Kbit ADSL. You try downloading Netlimiter and limiting your connection speed to 384Kbits/sec and then try browsing the web and a few downloads. Suddenly 50MB becomes a 'big' download, not something you click on a whim.

    I've heard people say "move to another country then". Oh sure, like anyone's going to move to another country JUST for Internet.
  • -6 Hide
    tomfreak , May 14, 2012 9:48 AM
    Cap the download/upload speed if u(ISP) aint capable to sustain the unlimited bandwidth, isnt that simple?
  • -1 Hide
    spookie , May 14, 2012 10:00 AM
    djgamexi 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.



    Sorry mate but it is really not always that expensive in South Africa. I only pay R199 ($25 for 10Gb (and it's wireless, not adsl) go get yourself a contract from 8ta, you really won't regret it.
  • 4 Hide
    frostmachine , May 14, 2012 10:07 AM
    I live in a download capped world. Software updates are disabled for all except essential stuff. AV n the like. Ads are aggressively blocked. N I try to avoid ads/flash heavy sites. Also I use Opera in Turbo mode to compress sites.
  • 2 Hide
    djgamex , May 14, 2012 10:09 AM
    8Ta doe's not work in the area I'm living and telkom is still in the stone age so i'm stuck with MTN as they are the only one with a decent speed.
  • 14 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , May 14, 2012 10:39 AM
    My Cap is 75GB per month. But I use it up in 2 weeks. ISPs really need to stop this bandwidth cap BS. They are too lazy to upgrade their cables/hardware to increase their BW as the demand increases.
  • 2 Hide
    redemptionse , May 14, 2012 11:08 AM
    I wish had your internet connections. The only viable broadband option for me is wireless, 3g/4g and the like. I'm paying $90/month for a 10 GB cap. With daily browsing I reach 8-9 GB easily by the end of the month. I haven't been able to install windows updates yet because they're like 2 GB. To download bigger files I either use my smartphone (which has unlimited data and I use around 30 GB per month for watching tv shows) or I take my laptop to somewhere with a real connection. My life sucks
  • 0 Hide
    mrpijey , May 14, 2012 11:40 AM
    9GB cap... wow... it takes me about two minutes to use that up. Sure sucks to live there if you're an Internet user...
  • 5 Hide
    angryfingertips , May 14, 2012 11:50 AM
    Caps to me mean that the telco and cable companies are just trying to raise their rates in a backdoor sort of way and a way to save the cable TV from internet streaming If you are really wanting to base it on use, you would charge for how much is used, like electric companies do. I fear that one day in the future we will all be paying per byte we d/l. Which is really awful since programs get bigger and bigger over time.
  • 11 Hide
    demonhorde665 , May 14, 2012 12:09 PM
    "A solution may be to provide customers better tools that analyze bandwidth usage, Chetty suggested."

    BULLSHIT, A solution ? the only solution is for corporate communication companies to stop being blood sucking butt f---king leeches, that try to shake every dollar they can out of consumers. I swear i respect criminals more than these guys . at least criminals honestly stick a gun in your face when they rob you instead smiling at you, acting chummy and telling you thank you for servicing my d---,m in ever so clearly disguised words.
  • 7 Hide
    techguy911 , May 14, 2012 12:41 PM
    Some isp's trick customers into buying faster connection but fail to mention that your monthly cap is half, happened to me upped my bandwidth to 30mbps and my download cap dropped to half and since there are 6 people using the internet that cap didn't take long to go over.
    The bill was double what i was paying for before and told them to change it back to what it was before.
    This type of marketing is just crooked sure you can download much faster but not as much.
  • 1 Hide
    hoofhearted , May 14, 2012 12:44 PM
    I would think that caps would hurt the advertising industry the most. Especially when it comes to wireless in the US that has similar caps. I use Adaway for android which even block ad traffic within apps.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 14, 2012 12:55 PM
    lol this news is about a month or more old.. but ya bandwidth caps. to heck with them!
  • 6 Hide
    mobrocket , May 14, 2012 12:59 PM
    Integr8d"sense windows xp, and sense i gained common sense"I swear I'm not trolling. But this is LOL.


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