It’s no secret that internet service providers are considering broadband caps to cut down costs. However many U.S. consumers dislike the idea and will gladly change carriers if their current BSP implements the restrictions.
In Zeugma Systems’ recent survey conducted for the International Data Corporation (source), 81 percent of the 787 U.S. customers polled proclaimed their dislike for a bandwidth cap and the additional charges for internet use beyond the limit. However, 83 percent had no idea what a gigabyte was or just how much bandwidth they actually consume. 51 percent of those polled added that they would actually switch service providers if broadband caps were set in place. Some even claimed to actually pay for additional premium services if necessary.
"These results are both an opportunity and a warning for BSPs," said Kevin Walsh, Zeugma Systems vice president of marketing. "The opportunity is that consumers are signaling a willingness to pay more for dedicated bandwidth over and above basic high speed internet for such services as premium internet video, VOIP, gaming, and corporate VPN access. The warning is a clear distaste for bandwidth caps. At a minimum, providers moving forward with bandwidth capping schemes may want to consider a more intelligent and flexible application of caps.”
Starting today, Comcast residential customers are now limited to 250 GB per month. The company claims that the new limit is more than enough for its customers, and will more than likely never surpass the limit. But considering the consumers who purchases games and movies online, this restriction may feel more like a punishment than means to save money on behalf of the BSP. Online gamers may face the largest setback, especially those playing on Microsoft’s Xbox Live service or MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Everquest 2.
So why implement a level cap at all? According to this article over on DSLReports, the broadband limits are speculated to be the result of addressing people who download more than the typical user. These people, of course, are more than likely users sharing files or downloading pirated software outside P2P networks. But for legit consumers eating massive amounts of bandwidth, studies show that a good chunk of the consumption involves downloading HD video.
Additionally, Time Warner Cable recently shut down its newgroups service, claiming that the company had no way to police files stored on Usenet servers. Time Warner is also currently testing broadband caps in Beaumont, Texas. "The introduction of Consumption Based Billing will enable TWC to charge customer based upon usage, impacting only 5% of subscribers who utilize over half of the total network bandwidth," states Time Warner in a leaked memo (source). The broadband caps Time Warner is testing range between 5 GB to 40 GB monthly.
Whether consumers like it or not, it seems to be only a matter of time before the entire American BSP market faces broadband caps. If time Warner succeeds testing and implements the cap, other BSPs will likely follow suit. If Comcast stands firm with its 250 GB limit, the company may face a surge in subscriptions once other BSPs begin 40 GB restrictions.