Unlimited Internet Use Under Attack

Dennis Faas's picture

The promise of unlimited high-speed Internet access could become a thing of the past with more and more carriers putting limits on monthly downloads. The issue has become a hot one since Time Warner began a trial scheme in Texas limiting users to 5GB of downloads a month, charging penalty fees for any extra use.

It's looking as if rival firms may feel they can get away with similar tactics. One firm, Frontier, is already planning to mirror the 5GB limit next year. What makes that particularly concerning for customers is that in Rochester, Frontier's biggest market, the main alternative is Time Warner.

At the moment, Frontier says the majority of its customers use less than 1.5GB a month. However, it also revealed that average use is doubling each year, meaning that within a year of the cap coming into force, the majority of users could exceed it. There's no word on whether the firm would gradually increase the limit to mirror demand. (Source: scrippsnews.com)

For looking at web pages and using email, these limits are no problem. Many in the industry defend the limits because it affects downloading movies and music, the implication being that it's only a problem for people breaching copyright. That's misleading though, as it's easy to rack up bandwidth through perfectly legal use such as listening to online radio or watching NBC's video coverage of the Olympics.

Comcast was recently censured by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after slowing down access to people using peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as BitTorrent. The firm has yet to announce exactly how it will change its policies, though it may explore whether the FCC would allow it to slow access to users based solely on their bandwidth rather than by what they are actually doing online. (Source: google.com)

Firms that have promoted their services as 'unlimited' may have a get-out clause. One cable firm in the United Kingdom introduced a throttling policy by which the heaviest users had their speeds cut by up to 75% for several hours. The firm says this still makes its service 'unlimited' because users aren't completely cut off at any point.

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