ISP Review - Extreme Broadband Caps

ISP Review investigates broadband usage limits

Extreme Broadband Caps
By Mark 'Winter' Jackson : Mar 26th-2004 : Page 1 of 4

"Capping is the term most commonly associated with any method used to restrict the speed and or flexibility (data usage) of a service."


The late 2000 introduction of the first truly consumer orientated broadband services heralded a new age in Internet access and use. Grand visions of computers that could speedily offer the finest in online multimedia entertainment, while at the same time deliver an affordable and flexible service, were touted.

Since then broadband has had ample time to establish itself within UK and European markets, spreading far and wide through a number of key technologies (ADSL, Cable, Wireless etc.). In the same way a diversity of different packages, service and price points have arisen.

Unfortunately the past 12 months have seen a small, yet increasing, number of ISPs introduce restrictive bandwidth limits. ISP Review UK investigates whether these limits go too far.

Introducing the cap

Capping is the term most commonly associated with any method used to restrict the speed and or flexibility (data usage) of a service. For example, an ISP could limit your downloading to no more than 1Gigabyte per day or force your connection into delivering a slower speed.

It wasn’t until over one year ago that the phrase first became associated with broadband, a technology that many had envisioned as being unrestricted in use. Initially NTL (Cable), which would later be followed by BT (ADSL), introduced a 1Gb per day download cap on its services. The move was poorly planned, leaving many people unprepared and extremely angry; visions of an unrestricted technology were shattered.

To put things in perspective, a 3Mb (file size) MP3 music file takes just less than a minute to download on a 512Kbps connection, with a 1Gb (1000Megabytes) cap that allows you 333 MP3’s. Quite a lot, although MP3’s are small and such a number would take just 4/5 hours to download.

Typically NTLs excuse related to how “heavy” network usage, through use of P2P file-sharing etc., was degrading the overall performance of its network (related P2P article - http://www.ispreview.co.uk/articles/p2p).

Taking it to the extreme

During the first quarter of 2004 BT introduced a new addition to its ‘budget’ range of broadband ADSL packages – BT ‘Basic’. The service, which has a £20 per month price point, limits users to just 1Gb per MONTH (roughly 30Mbs per day). That’s more or less on a par with ‘moderate’ dialup consumption, leaving speed as the only true benefit.

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