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There are three main reasons for anxiety related to bandwidth caps: invisible balances, mysterious processes and multiple users

A new Georgia Tech/Microsoft study shows that bandwidth caps are putting unnecessary strain on users in South Africa.

Marshini Chetty, a Microsoft Research intern and postdoctoral researcher from Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing, conducted a study that shows negative user experiences associated with bandwidth caps. However, Chetty believes the pressure put on Internet users could be relieved with the right data usage monitoring tools.

The study, which is titled "'You're Capped!' Understanding the Effects of Bandwidth Caps on Broadband Use in the Home," was conducted in South Africa. Chetty met with 12 households in the country, where caps were universal until February 2010. South African Internet service providers (ISPs) generally range caps up to 9 GB of data monthly, but some plans are as low as only 1 GB of data, which is significantly lower than 150 GB - 250 GB caps in the U.S.

According to Chetty, there are three main reasons for anxiety related to bandwidth caps: invisible balances, mysterious processes and multiple users.

Invisible balances refer to households having to pay extra fees for small bandwidth cap increases. When this method wasn't ideal, some families would visit other family members to use the Internet, or just switch from desktop PCs to smartphones.

Mysterious processes mean the household's inability to identify which programs are consuming the most bandwidth. Videos and downloads eat up much more of the monthly cap then Web browsing, but not everyone is aware of this and can be cu off in the middle of their activity because the cap reached full capacity.

Some users would even skip software updates because it ate up too much of the monthly bandwidth cap.

"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 Chetty. "We would also hear about people 'saving' bandwidth all month and then binge downloading toward the end of their billing period.

"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. This activity can be benign for some applications, inadvisable for others and downright dangerous in certain cases. For example, not installing security patches on your system can leave you vulnerable to viruses and other sorts of cyber attacks."

Multiple users in a household can also add to the strain of bandwidth caps because not all family members can monitor each other's data usage throughout the month. One may be consuming much more data than the other's, leaving the rest of the household unknowingly limited with Internet use.

Chetty has recognized that bandwidth caps can be problematic, and is urging ISPs to come up with better tools that allow households to monitor their data usage and also create better alternatives for when these caps are met. 

"As ISPs move toward usage-based pricing, we need to keep in mind the reactive behaviors that consumers adopt and the consequences of those behaviors," said Chetty. "Because when you have broadband caps, you will use the Internet differently.

"So if you're going to have caps, you should empathize with your users and offer ways for customers to see how their data are being used and who is using them."

There appears to be strain associated with mobile bandwidth as well. In January 2012, England-based mobile advisory company Arieso reported that the top 1 percent of heavy users are bandwidth hogs, accounting for half of the entire world's mobile traffic.

Source: Georgia Tech



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RE: Comcast
By tastyratz on 5/8/2012 4:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
Very true. People think cable tv owns operates and controls all channels they sell.
While higher up in the food chain many media companies fork back to just a few sources, in general these operations function independently and people forget that.
Cable companies only receive broadcasts from a set of channel providers. They buy channels in packages and get "bulk discounts" on licenses. In that example, it might cost 2 cents per subscriber to give everyone "tv japan", but selling a la cart for those explicitly requesting it would cost them $15 per month.

NOW
These channels have their OWN profit margins and programming to provide. They broadcast over the air to reach x subscribers and get advertisers to pay more, offsetting their costs. they ALSO get money from cable companies selling to multiple subscribers.

The reason you pay $10 or $20 for premium un advertized network channels, is the same reason why you see tons of ads and pay $100 for 300 other channels. Advertisements subsidize the selling price.

As much as you might like your 400 channels, If they all cost as much as HBO you might choose more wisely and miss out on a lot of great content.

That being said, I think the cable companies have a monopoly squelching competitive network resellers from driving prices down further, and I think the product has turned to crap. Prices inflate as they bundle more and more channels together forcing you to ONLY buy the more expensive package to get a few good channels. More expensive filler than most people want. The system sucks, I just understand how it works on top.


RE: Comcast
By wallijonn on 5/9/2012 12:37:47 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The reason you pay $10 or $20 for premium un-advertized network channels, is the same reason why you see tons of ads and pay $100 for 300 other channels. Advertisements subsidize the selling price.


You forgot that they need money to bribe our Congressmen not to regulate the CableTelComs and that every time a major sport contract is updated everyone's bills go up $5.


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