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We love unlimited. Everything is better when it’s not limited, right? Then what’s not to love about unlimited bandwidth? Actually it’s bad for us consumers. Here’s why.

ISPs currently give you unlimited internet access… as long as you don’t use it too much
Did you look into your contract when you signed up for your ISP? If you’re on an unlimited plan, in most cases you’ll find the term ‘fair use policy’ buried somewhere between five hundred paragraphs of Legalese. This term generally has two possible definitions.

  1. There’s a hidden limit. If you want to know much you can use, beg our customer service representatives to tell you what it is.
  2. We can cut off your connection or throttle it whenever we feel like it.

In my book, ‘unlimited’ doesn’t mean ‘limited in a secretive way’.

With metered bandwidth, you know what you’re gonna get
You know what you’ve paid for when you’re on a metered bandwidth plan. Consumers with metered plans have a legally binding agreement with their ISP where they have to let them send and receive a set amount of data through their pipes. This is more transparent than vague fair use policies that impose a hidden limit. With a little collaboration between ISPs and tools such as ISP Monitor (pictured above), the customer always knows what he’s up against.

There’s only so much traffic our pipes can handle anyway
The only reason why ISPs lie about the bandwidth limit of their plans, is marketing. You could compare the internet to a highway: you can only fit so much cars on a highway at the same time. Similarly, internet resources are limited too so it is only fair that we have to pay for what we use. Otherwise, your grandparents are overpaying for their internet connection because some kid is constantly torrenting movies.

In conclusion

ISPs need to be upfront about their limits and provide an easy way for their users to check their bandwidth usage. As long as these limits are fair compared to what you pay for it, I for one think we’re better off banning unlimited plans.

Thoughts? Rebuttals? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

There Are 4 Comments

  1. I thought the internet was a series of tubes :P Definitely not a truck though.

    Over in the UK almost all providers offer most of their packages with metered bandwidth and the speed is as fast as your copper can handle. You only get “unlimited” if you pay for the most expensive packages, and whilst these tend to be subject to “fair use” as well its far more lenient than what you might get over there.

  2. I would love to see a metered plan with pay-per-incident technical support.

    The 2 major costs for an ISP is customer support (#1), and capacity/bandwidth.

    Skilled users who aren’t downloading torrents all month or spending an 3 hours on the phone with tech support a month asking why NetNanny isnt working or whatever could negotiate a much lower rate for the internet service.

    Right now I am financing grandmas and torrent kiddies

  3. Limited is fine – if it’s enough for you – as long as the ISP can tell you how close to your limit you are. BT in the UK advise you to install a network monitor such as the one above which is absolutely useless if:

    1) You don’t know on what day they reset your counter to zero
    2) You have more than one machine on the network, or dual boot into different OS’s
    3) You have visitors who log on once in a while

    All of these make it really difficult to keep an accurate tab on things.

    My mobile network can tell me to the second how many minutes I have left on my monthly call plan, how many text messages and how much data. I can do this via a web browser on the PC or via my phone. Yet BT can’t provide just one of these pieces of information (download capacity left) to the end user via a similar web page.

    Why should we be guessing at information that they have to hand?

    • Yeah, that’s pretty annoying. It’s not that hard to implement, then why don’t they do it? Perhaps an old-fashioned petition can put them under some pressure, who knows. ;)

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