With the media's recent rediscovery
of Comcast's half-decade old practice of booting high-consumption users, our Comcast forum regulars are running a poll
asking just how much bandwidth you consume per month (download an app like DU Meter
if you have no idea). The discussion of broadband caps has re-kindled calls (mostly by industry) that we shift from a flat rate system to a billed by the byte bandwidth model.
Comcast continues to say their invisible caps only affect a minuscule portion of their userbase. Satellite provider HughesNet also insists that their FAP "Fair Access Policy"
only has an impact on a "small percentage of subscribers."
Cable operator Insight
says they only take action in "exceptional cases of sustained usage at very high rates for long periods of time."
The problem obviously is that such "extreme"
usage isn't going to seem quite so extreme in just a few years. Check out DirecTV's upcoming broadband on demand
video service, which hooks a user's DVR into their broadband connection in order to download high definition content. Legions of HD movie buffs are about to become "bandwidth hogs."
This looming surge in demand has the industry once again suggesting that it's time to migrate to a "bill-by-the-byte"
business model. An exec for the CTIA (a wireless carrier trade group) insists that caps aren't the problem; flat-rate pricing is the menace
"The problem for Comcast, as with other wireline and wireless ISPs, is how they have priced their good. Flat-rate pricing for Internet access and bandwidth use might have had its place during the development of the Internet, but as we move into the phase of ubiquitous access, and wide disparities of usage and file size develop, particularly on the more scarce wireless bandwidth side, long-term economic network viability and fairness demand that people pay for the bandwidth they consume."
The question becomes which U.S. ISP wants to be the first to try it? Which U.S. ISP wants to have competitors attack it for charging per gigabyte usage fees? Will users tolerate the migration to a bill-by-the-byte business model? That depends entirely on how much bandwidth they're eating each month.