So for the past few years, we’ve been hearing about this thing called “Net Neutrality”. Basically what that is, is that all content on the internet is delivered the same. There is no preference over what sites get better speed and/or service to the users of the internet.
Recently however, some companies have looked to tiered internet(where you pay more for faster speeds) and/or a download limit. We’ve already seen Time Warner institute a policy on this, albeit on a very limited scale.
My real thought on the matter though, is why? Why do the ISPs want to charge more for a higher download limit? While I do agree that most people may not download a lot in a month, there’s really no good reason to have a download cap like this.
Basically, what Time Warner is saying is that it costs more to send 10GB of information than it does to send 40GB of information. This isn’t true(or, at least as far as I know). While cable internet access is shared among all of the people on the network, that only matters if everybody is downloading a lot of information at one time. Anyway, my point is that there isn’t a noticeable cost difference between downloading 10GB and downloading 40GB.(if there is, link me to something that shows that!) Because of the nature of the network, the more you use it, it does not get correspondingly more corroded. For example, charging based on water usage makes sense. There is a finite amount of water for people, and for each gallon processed you need to clean the water, pump it, etc. As well, the more water you push through the system the more strain is put on the system over a period of many years.
“But wait!” you say. “Since cable is a shared medium among subscribers, isn’t that just the same as the water line, which is shared among customers?” Well, yes. Paying for faster speeds makes sense, as basically all that is doing is making the pipe which comes to your house larger. However, unlike the water system, where how much it costs is directly related to how much you use, this is not the same with the internet. Network hardware does not have a certain lifespan, to the extent that it can only take X number of packets before it needs to be replaced. How long before a part of the water system needs to be replaced is almost always directly related to how old it is. While it is true that network hardware does need to be replaced eventually(as it will eventually break), the amount of data does not determine this. If we try to force 10,000 gallons of water though a 1-inch pipe in one minute, that pipe will have to be replaced very soon, as the pressure is very high. If we try to force 10,000 packets through a piece of network hardware that can only take 8,000 packets a second, the 2,000 remaining packets simply disappear. There is no forcing of the packets through the hardware.
Note: Don’t quote this information as factual. Anything stated here is to the best of my knowledge. I’m not really a network guy.
So, to conclude: Internet based on how fast you can download makes sense. Internet based on how much you download doesn’t.