Unlimited bandwidth – not so unlimited

Let’s say you’re surfing around on the Internet and having a good ole’ time.  Perhaps you’re updating your Facebook status or doing something with your farm.  Maybe you’re streaming some movies through Netflix or checking out random Youtube videos.  Then all of a sudden, you find that your Internet connection has slowed to a crawl… maybe it even just completely stops all together.  What happened?  Well, you probably crossed the unlimited limit of your service.  Unlimited limit… funny.

For most people, there is no worry of doing these things.  But most people also don’t realize is that when you sign up for that unlimited service, you really aren’t getting unlimited service.  It’s true, for the most part.  Unlimited simply doesn’t mean unlimited in the eyes of the bandwidth gods.  But don’t fear it too much – most people won’t reach such limits per month… at least not yet.

Through the millennium, a huge complaint came from the customers of Comcast.  Their unlimited high speed internet service, while good and fast, actually had an invisible limit.  We use the term invisible because no one really knew exactly what this limit was and Comcast wasn’t telling.  I’m sure throughout the years the limit changed based on internal suggestions.  But still, this led people to believe that they had unlimited service.  They would then receive a call stating something about abusing the service and all that fun nonsense.  Even I received the call a few years ago and had my service shut off at one point (Hey, it was a busy month).  The problem with this was that Comcast could technically shut you off for whatever amount.  Why?  Because they weren’t telling you what it was and in fact, most people didn’t even believe such a limit existed.  It’s pretty unfair to the consumers and in a way it was false advertising (although they probably did say something in the EULA that no one reads… just enough to get away with it).

In 2008, after much demand and loads of upset customers, Comcast finally came out in the open and said that they did have a limit.  Not only that, they actually admitted what the current limit was.  So if anyone doesn’t know, Comcast has a limit of 250GB a month.  That’s really not a bad number by any means, but it still isn’t unlimited.  At 250GB, average users will never reach that and most should be fine, even heavier users.  Was it always 250GB?  I doubt that very much, but when push came to shove, they had to give a number and that was it.  Of course, most users wouldn’t be able to tell how much bandwidth they have used up.  Comcast had nothing in place to let users know until just recently when they started rolling out a bandwidth statistics monitor that a user can view.  This is good, but it has taken them a long time to start rolling it out and in fact, it isn’t widespread yet.  So don’t be surprised if you don’t have access to this service.

The reason Comcast gets so much attention is because they stirred up a hornet’s nest with the way they went about doing it, plus they are a well established company.  But they aren’t the only ones.  I couldn’t name you all the ISP’s out there that have invisible limits, but more do exist.  Verizon has been pretty good to their users about not putting up invisible limits.  In fact, I haven’t even found anything about them doing this except some complaints about their cellular data usage.  Apparently, some users have complained that Verizon throws a fit when you start using too much bandwidth on their data plan for their 3G services.  I don’t know how much of that is true and I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  It’s probably just for folks who tether their phone to their computer without paying for the service.  But let’s not give Verizon all the cheers, they have stated that they are open to the idea of capping a limit at some point if they see fit.  So, you never know what will happen.

Of course it isn’t fun to have that feeling of a limit, but in a way, we should feel okay about the broadband services that are offered here in the U.S.  A lot of other countries do not fare well when it comes to broadband limits.  Some seem like they are still stuck back in the 90’s!  It’s true because if you take a look around at other countries such as Australia, they have horrible plans and high prices!  They offer limit plans such as 25GB, 50GB, etc. and the pricing for these small bandwidth limits are ridiculous in my opinion.  So as I looked around at these, I felt pretty good about state of broadband in the U.S.  The only problem is that as we progress, we demand more bandwidth usage.

This is where it gets a bit tricky.  If you look back ten years ago web pages were more simple, there wasn’t as much content available, and you could still surf the net on good ole’ dialup (though it still wasn’t fun).  But as we look at the use of the Internet today, we use it for everything.  Web pages are filled with graphic heavy content, high quality pictures, and animations.  It is now common to view videos on web pages, even in high definition.  We constantly send and retrieve bandwidth for online gaming from the PC and the consoles now.  We stream full movies and even online radio stations as well!  Video game demos, video game patches, and just general programs that you can download can get quite high in bandwidth.  This adds up very, very quickly.  The further we go down this road, the more bandwidth is going to be demanded.  I’m hoping the companies with their limits adjust to this scenario.  It’s going to happen.  We are going to need higher bandwidth limits.  It’s just a consideration to keep in mind.

Like I said, I think we have a pretty good standard of broadband in the U.S.  I still hate the idea of advertising unlimited service when it is in fact, limited.  I’d also like to say that just because some users do over go such limits as 250GB, does not mean they are constantly performing illegal activities.  Anyone could reach that limit with relative ease if they were constantly surfing the net and constantly streaming high definition videos, whether it be from the PC or even online services on our consoles.  Hulu just recently announced a trial of a premium service that they think could replace cable.  However, with these limits, that just isn’t exactly possible.

All I’m really saying is that you should know that not everything is unlimited.  If you do want to keep track of your broadband usage, there are many programs out there that will monitor it for you.  Programs such as Bandwidth Meter will count up all the bandwidth you use per day, per week, and per month.  This definitely can keep your mind at ease.  Most of you won’t come close to these limits, but eventually, the limits better change because we’re all going to suffer otherwise.  And as for those other countries, stop screwing your customers out of Internet usage.  It’s just pathetic.


One Response to “Unlimited bandwidth – not so unlimited”

  1. 🙂 lol

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