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Why your Internet service provider wants to nix all-you-can-eat data buffets

Robert Strohmeyer | Oct. 18, 2013
As the industry moves toward 'metered' broadband plans, hardcore users will feel the hurt.

The cable companies first asserted, like the wireless carriers, that data caps and metering were necessary to prevent network congestion. But they have since admitted that the usage caps really have nothing to do with network congestion problems.

Could it be that they're simply creating the impression of scarcity around a commodity in order to increase its perceived value? If that is so, such a practice is especially dangerous in a market that has already been designed to eliminate competition (the cable companies have divided up the markets in the United States), because there's simply no counterweight to hold prices down.

The best advice for anyone worried about how broadband metering may affect them is to start tracking your own monthly data consumption. If your ISP offers a broadband-metering tool without forcing you to accept a data cap for its use, give it a try. Stream a TV episode and a movie on Netflix or Amazon, and note how much data it uses up. Try the same with movies or music downloads. Knowing what kinds of data cost you the most bandwidth is a good idea.

With an understanding of your consumption, you'll be ready to make an informed buying decision when your provider eventually comes knocking to offer metered billing plans. It may be only a matter of time before today's education programs, soft caps, and market trials become the hard-and-fast service plans for all users.


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