Dont Believe Providers Claim

We should be finding ways to attract more people to broadband.

More broadband access is what we need. Weve said it in editorials, the government is pressing for it, businesses and content providers are banking on it, and everyone seems to agree that improved access to broadband connections is vital. Everyone, it seems, except the broadband providers themselves.

Many broadband providers, especially on the cable side, seem to be trying their hardest to make broadband access unattractive. Prices have gone up, discounts for owning your own equipment have gone down, and many major providers are considering charging customers for using lots of bandwidth. Thats funny; I thought the main benefit of broadband is lots of bandwidth.

These broadband providers say they need to institute these charges because heavy users are hogging all the bandwidth; they often throw around statistics that say, for example, 1 percent of all users account for 20 percent of all network traffic. This sounds good, except to any knowledgeable network administrator who sees that as normal traffic for any network.

The providers say that the per-use charges will mainly affect peer-to-peer network users—for example, people downloading copyrighted content.

But businesses should look at this claim more closely. Will salespeople sending out PowerPoint files exceed traffic limits? How about engineers using CAD programs or developers sharing unfinished code? The prices companies pay to give their employees broadband access could easily skyrocket.

If broadband is important to the economy, then usage-based pricing is a very bad idea, especially given that users often cant control what comes to their system or even whats sent from their system. Tiered pricing might make some sense, but at this point, we should be finding ways to attract more people to broadband, not drive away existing users.

Will rising broadband costs make you rethink providing access to employees? Let me know at