ISP bandwith caps disincentivize faster connections for consumers

Last week I received an email from Xfinity notifying me that my connection speed had been increased by 50%. Ordinarily, I’d be happy about that. In light of a recent case in which a user faces a year long disconnection after breaking their 250 GB cap 2 months in a row, however, I’m really not. Generally, greater speed allows you to do either or both of 2 things:

  1. Get the same amount of stuff done in less time
  2. Get more stuff done in the same length of time

Unfortunately, because bandwith caps place a hard limit on how much you can get done, consumers are left with Option 1 only. To illustrate the impact of this, let’s use Wolfram|Alpha to see how long it would take me to hit my 250GB cap at my connection’s advertised 50 Mb/s speed:

11h6m40s

At 105 Mb/s, the fastest speed available in my area, the time goes to:

5h17m27.62s

In other words, for all of the $99.99/month I pay for this line, I can enjoy its peak performance only roughly 1.5% of the time (assuming 30 days of 24 hours each per month). Not only does it suddenly make my superfast connection look like a waste of money, it also completely discourages me from upgrading to a faster speed tier, i.e. Comcast is actually losing extra revenue from me by limiting my usage.* How ridiculous is that?

It doesn’t take much thought to see the huge negative impact the elimination of Option 2 above has on innovation too. The latter has always been driven by both Options. I’ve always been against regulation of technology, so I’m not aware of any method outside of legislative action that would prevent more ISPs from going this route. Any ideas? Perhaps we should wait for the ISPs to notice that no one is using their higher-tier services.

 

*Technically speaking, on a monthly $/Mb/s basis, my tier costs the least of Xfinity’s offerings. Therefore, it could be argued that Comcast actually wants to keep users on slower connections where they pay more per bandwidth unit (i.e. higher margins). In other news, my last accounting class was in high school, so bear with me haha

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