really? I love how every armchair internet expert seems to understand an industry they have never worked in. Don't get my wrong, there are sleazy lazy ISPs out there. But caps are not the devil, and a little understanding goes a long way.
Even a well designed network will come to its knees if there is a relatively small percentage of people using torrent software, period. There are many more individual connections used for that data transfer method, and networking equipment wasn't really designed to handle the sheer number of packets until the last couple years. Virii and malware can also contribute to similar issues. I remember the SQL slammer taking out quite a few business internet connections through the massive packet storm it caused.
Even for the largest players, internet connections cost something. When you get fairly large you get to negotiate what the connections cost. But if the data usage is too one sided, most large data movers will require compensation, even for 'peering'. Even Comcast has costs involved connecting their network to the larger internet, and they actually spend quite a bit of money in upgrading their internal equipment. I'm fairly certain they own a very large chunk of the fiber running across this country.
When you are small, you can purchase a burstable internet connection. This will allow you to keep your costs down assuming low usage, and if usage climbs everything continues to work.... at a premium. If your 95th percentile usage jumps up you may be slapped with large fees. So little ISP's almost always have to have caps associated with their service to get anywhere near to competitive levels with the big boys.
When the ISP I worked for invested in faster equipment, we found out something interesting. If we allowed the customers to run with less speed restrictions it lowered our overall usage. Instead of many users accessing the net at once the individual users were getting what the needed faster and getting on with their days. The total usage on our service (on a five minute average) went down.
However, over time we gained customers who abused this type of system. I had a guy who wanted to download 'every song ever'. And an Xbox pirate who downloaded games he never played. There was one guy who only stopped downloading when his hard drive filled up. When you see this issue from the other side you realize that this is not necessarily an issue of greedy companies abusing their users, but the few abusers messing it up for the rest of us.
Don't get me wrong, I dislike Comcast, Frontier, et all. But far too many people gripe about this issue without understanding the underlying technology, and it simply is not fair. Yes, I think that we should have faster connections and larger caps by now. But thinking that you should have a magic internet cable that drops out of the sky to provide you with free internet service is ridiculous. Everything costs something.