ISPs Cry, Consumers Lose

Lately ISPs have been claiming the high usage of bandwidth is forcing them to take steps to manage the traffic on their networks. A few have taken some controversial steps like Comcast, who have caused an uproar over capping file transfers on peer to peer networks like Bit Torrent. There has also been some cases where Comcast has dropped a connection altogether because of some capped limit that they will not disclose. They even modified their terms of use without even telling their customers. Time Warner is currently testing a tiered pricing model in Texas. Tiered usage isn’t that big a concern to me, since I do not use a high amount of bandwidth in my daily online activities from home, despite the fact that I’m a system administrator who connects to the office network via VPN quite frequently. So if my ISP decides to roll out tiered pricing I really don’t care.

My only problem with all of this is that current U.S. bandwidth speeds pale in comparison to other countries around the world. If users hogging bandwidth is causing ISPs to consider these things to handle the loads, then why aren’t they increasing bandwidth amounts to the same levels as the rest of the world? I remember reading a report that the U.S. is currently ranked dismally low on the list, so if bandwidth is an issue, why aren’t they just increasing the amount available to consumers instead of trying to add all of this control to what users do?? It doesn’t really make any sense.

This is probably because the ISPs are making buckets of money charging you for very little in the way of speed, and they want to keep it that way. Most ISPs contacted by Computerworld for a story on this all claimed their networks were robust enough to handle the loads….yet here they are complaining that high bandwidth users are causing problems. Rather than asking them why bandwidth speeds aren’t comparable to the rest of the world, which would likely ease any problems the ISPs are crying about, the media is simply helping them spin the idea that there must be caps, controls, or tiered levels.

This is just plain ridiculous, and users in America should instead be demanding better speeds that are comparable with other offerings around the world. Even South Korea has us beat by a huge margin, as well as other countries in comparison. Consumers on that side of the pond have more bandwidth then they know what to do with, and the United States continues to slip from it’s spot as a world leader in technology and innovation. Feel free to post your piece on this one.

Just to give you an idea, here’s a short list of median speeds around the world in megabits per second. These tend to be higher in some cases. I’ve read reports of Japan having upwards of 100Mbits/sec. A 40Mbit/sec connection is also dirt cheap there:

Japan ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 61 Mbits/sec
S. Korea ||||||||||||||||||||||| 46
Finland |||||||||| 21
Sweden ||||||||| 18
Canada |||| 8
U.S. || 2

Computerworld editor Preston Gralla has been talking about this on his blog for some time, check out some of the info there @: Another anemic showing for U.S. broadband

So why should consumers get shafted by the ISPs just because some movie/music/software freaks/pirates are sucking up bandwidth? The actions of a few are going to affect the speeds of everyone, and that just isn’t fair to consumers who already pay too much for too little. There is also the fact that legit video viewing is beginning to take up a large part of the internet, with YouTube gobbling up nearly 10% of all traffic. This is a natural outgrowth of the net, but ISPs are not even interested in increasing capacity. It’s all about the bottom line and how much they can get from you for the paltry speeds they provide and that isn’t going to change unless the FCC tracks true usage, which it refuses to do, and the government starts taking steps to ensure better broadband access.

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