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Time For Universal Data Plans? 245

Posted by timothy
from the bits-is-bits-you-see dept.
theodp writes "Between multiple cell phones and their add-ons, high-speed Internet connections, and digital TV subscriptions, most households are paying for data delivery at least three times over, often paying the same provider twice. It's time for a universal data plan, [CNET columnist Molly] Wood declares. 'I want to pay once for data, I want that data to be unlimited, and I want to be able to use it in any fashion I choose.' Still, she has hopes that the-times-they-will-be-a-changin'. 'It's only a matter of time before regulators catch wind of just how many times we're being charged for the exact same thing.'"
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Time For Universal Data Plans?

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  • by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @07:34AM (#32474630)
    I, too, wish I could pay once for my data stream. I, too, wish companies would just let me "pay once" for the service. And what are the chances in the U.S. of having telecoms wake up and declare, "Folks, we're just making too damned much money! It's time to think of customers, give them better services and charge them less. I hereby renounce all bonuses and profit!!"
    • by toppavak (943659) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:01AM (#32474730)
      Well, if they're government-supported monopolies who also get their infrastructure subsidized it's only fair the tax-payers get something in return.
      • by Weezul (52464)

        Yes, but just making the deal will never cut it. A sustainable system for subsidies would be : large corporations who receive significant public subsidies or hold public contracts in excess of $250M per year must become publicly democratically chartered companies, which means all american citizens have the right to vote in elections of board members and executives, and these results must be approved by a second round of elections among only stock holders.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by VTI9600 (1143169)

        The only telecom "subsidy" I am aware of is the Universal Service Fund [wikipedia.org], which is paid for not by tax dollars, but by mandatory contributions from telecom carriers. The stated purpose of the USF was simply to provide access, not to make sure that prices stay low. That being said, I do think that the USF has run its course and ought to be ended, but I digress.

        It is only natural that AT&T and all other wireless carriers would put strict caps on the usage of their wireless service, and increase prices per

    • by ta bu shi da yu (687699) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:03AM (#32474738) Homepage

      The solution is so simple, I'm not sure why anyone didn't think of it before... just allow people to access the data only once.

      Wikipedia? You only need to go there once - you certainly don't want to pay for that article on Progressive Outer Retinal Necrosis more than once!

      New York Times? Nothing new there - you don't need to go back to it more than once.

      Bob's House of Fetish? Why would you want to browse there multiple times, you sicko?

      Amazon.com - precisely how many books do you really need to buy? There are only so many combinations of sentences that can be crafted in the English language; besides which, Amazon is so totally a "one-click" solution that there is no reason for you to need to access data there twice.

      Honestly, there are so many examples I could go on all night. But I won't, suffice it to say that I agree with the article's central thesis - say "no" to multiple charges for access to the same data multiple times! Allow an ISP to prevent you from browsing today so that you won't be charged tomorrow. It's got my vote!

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Do I get to cache it?

        • You joke, but with telecoms phasing out unlimited connections, advanced caching systems (and data compression) will become increasingly important in the near future. All those extra gigs of space and extra cycles on your machines will soon be put to use.

    • by msauve (701917)
      Why stop with data? Why not demand the ability to pay for all of your life at once, and get unlimited service. No more incremental housing or food or medical or entertainment costs. Free Ferraris for everyone!
    • by raddan (519638) * on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:43AM (#32474952)
      You can pay once for a data stream. It's called Internet service.

      Telephone and television are services on top of those data plans, and as such, they are extras. You pay extra for more. In an ideal world, that extra work is easy (just provide the "television" and "telephone" services on top of IP transports), but actually, because of a mixture of legacy systems (e.g., analog television) and QoS requirements (your telephone-over-cable connection is only pretending to be POTS), running these services is not so straightforward. It's fair to pay more for more services. "More is better", remember, and we pay more for better.

      Because TFA is filled with gems like:

      You're paying multiple times for "unlimited" data? Isn't that like multiplying by zero? Either way, you lose.

      which is obvious idiocy. So, translation: "we think we're paying too much".

      And, we are paying too much. But her argument is stupid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ErikTheRed (162431)

      I already paid once for my car. Those car companies want me to pay again every time I replace my car or buy an additional one. Even if I have two or three cars I still only drive one car at a time. Why should I have to pay more than once? Stupid, greedy car companies. The government should do something about this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

      The thing is, if you are using both cellular and wired internet, you are paying for multiple pipes. The cost of wired infrastructure is almost completely unrelated to the cost of wireless infrastructure. There are very few shared resources for the last mile, towers don't help DSL or cable, and DSL or cable don't help towers, except maybe shared backhaul. Yet people want to pay one low fee to use either as you see fit. Not only that, the airwaves can only pass so much data as you're sharing more constrai

  • by RandomFactor (22447) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @07:37AM (#32474644)

    "Now, though, with the FCC breathing down carriers' necks about tiered usage plans, it's only a matter of time before regulators catch wind of just how many times we're being charged for the exact same thing"

    Granted we're paying multiple times as noted, but...

    Why would the government care to do anything about it? I can buy a song on cassette, album, cd, mp3... government hasn't regulated that. Why would it regulate multiple data-plan channels?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AHuxley (892839)
      The older optical nation building did get some tax payers input and the telcos are sort of granted areas of consumers in bulk form.
      With the ability to have lock in comes a few options to be regulated.
      The telcos spent billions and feel they are making millions while their networks are just dumb packet pipes for others to make billions.
      So they will sell speed and sell all they can as extras.
      They missed the idea of data caps and counting data usage up and down, but I am sure they have creative plans for th
    • I can buy a song on cassette, album, cd, mp3... government hasn't regulated that.

      Title 17 of the United States Code heavily regulates that.

    • by kenh (9056)

      I clipped the exact same quote to make my comment - but I had a slightly different take - how is paying for a home data plan with my cable co. and paying for a different data plan for my smart phone paying for the same thing twice?

      I have wiored phone service and cellular service - are those the same offerings? Am I being billed twice "for the same thing"? No. A wired phone provides certain things and a cellular phone provides others, same with mobile and fixed data plans.

      Also, remember, each data plan and t

  • by yyxx (1812612) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @07:43AM (#32474662)

    I don't think "unlimited" plans ever made much sense because some people will abuse it. Costs are proportional to volume, so pricing should be too.

    Reasonably priced universal plans do, however, make sense. In Europe, you can get data plans for something like EU20 / month for 5Gytes with no restrictions on how you use it (cell phone, laptop, etc.). Some companies even give you multiple SIM cards for the same account.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:06AM (#32474752) Journal

      Costs are proportional to volume

      Is that true? Does it cost the telcos less to have all those radios and towers sitting around not doing anything? I think the cost lies in building and maintaining the capacity. Once it's there, it's most cost effective (in a bits/dollar sense) to keep your network as close to saturation as possible. Costs are not in fact proportional to volume, and they shouldn't bill as if they were.

      • by vlm (69642) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:16AM (#32474798)

        Does it cost the telcos less to have all those radios and towers sitting around not doing anything

        Most gear has surprisingly variable power draw based on utilization. However the cost of power is so low, relative to the other fixed expenses, that its basically a rounding error. Its right up there with paying the landscaping crew to mow the weeds down, the outside plant maintenance (paint crew), and the snowplowing contract. Many people confuse the rather high power density and total draw of a "big data center" with the rather low power density and total draw of a POP.

        And yes it does cost them to have the gear sitting around doing nothing, because the interest on the bonds/loans accumulates no matter if they're selling or not.

        The expense is enough to discourage me from participating, so I don't. They have made a calculated business decision that they simply don't want/need me. I don't see any point in feeling insulted/vindictive/cranky about it. Some folks, however, respond to it angrily like they're being made fun of by a girl whom won't date them. Its just business and theres plenty of fish in the sea, so chill...

      • Is that true? Does it cost the telcos less to have all those radios and towers sitting around not doing anything? I think the cost lies in building and maintaining the capacity. Once it's there, it's most cost effective (in a bits/dollar sense) to keep your network as close to saturation as possible. Costs are not in fact proportional to volume, and they shouldn't bill as if they were.

        For UK broadband ISPs you rent their lines from BT, the main cost is renting the capacity. Every megabit / second capacity for delivery to end users costs them money. Using the capacity up to its limit is essentially free.

        So download all night long and driving their usage up from 50% to 51% has almost zero cost to the ISP. Downloading at peek times when 100% of the capacity is used, forcing the ISP to rent more capacity off BT to keep their customers happy, that costs the ISP real money.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hatta (162192)

          But usage doesn't cost BT any more than non-usage, so that doesn't change my argument. BT shouldn't charge their customers as if it did, and those ISPs shouldn't charge their customers based on capacity either.

          • by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @09:35AM (#32475228) Homepage

            Here is where your argument fails - how much capacity should BT have in the first place?

            If people use lots of bandwidth, then they get saturated, and then people browsing the web get annoyed at page load rates.

            So, they add more capacity. However, since there is no per-kb rate/etc on usage people just up their demand for bandwidth accordingly, so they're instantly at 100% capacity again.

            So, then you get into fights over what is and isn't network abuse and all that. ISPs try to filter torrents and all that nonsense, then that leads to encryption and a war of escalation in technology. It doesn't really resolve the problem.

            Instead, if you just charge a reasonable amount per gigabyte then usage is self-regulated. If you want to seed torrents all day, have at it. BT will even run dedicated fiber to your house if that is what it takes to keep you going. However, you'll pay for it, and if the price is worth it to you then by all means go.

            Unlimited plans usually translate into people who barely use the service paying for those who heavily use it.

            The key is to regulate so that telecoms end up charging reasonable usage rates. Maybe force them to charge the same rates for corporate and home users - no way they'll try to charge fortune 500 companies crazy rates...

            • The key is to regulate so that telecoms end up charging reasonable usage rates. Maybe force them to charge the same rates for corporate and home users - no way they'll try to charge fortune 500 companies crazy rates...

              Maybe pricing has changed since I last checked, but no way do I want to pay business T1 or T3 rates for my home internet connection. I simply don't need the SLA that businesses need and pay for.

              I don't get it ... you just got done stating that metered use would be self-regulating, and then you go on to state that external government regulation is the only way to solve unlimited usage. Why not allow the market to set the metered and unlimited rates, and allow people to choose which is right for them?

              • by Rich0 (548339)

                Simple - telecom is a natural monopoly.

                I don't want ISP data rates to resemble cell phone sms rates...

                Now, I'm completely fine with market internet rates, if the last mile rates are regulated.

                That is, you pay your phone company to get your data to the central office, and then you pay a different company to get that data to the internet. The last mile fee structure would be based purely on the technology - so DSL would be flat rate, cable might be use-based, etc. The last mile provider would be prohibited

          • The root of your problem is that you've assumed that "not smoothly variable" implies "not variable".

            Imagine you run a pub. The rent is a fixed cost.

            The purchase cost of your beer is a variable cost; the more your customers chug, the more the draymen must lug.

            But what happens when your pub gets more busy? You can't hire half a barman. And the glass cleaning machine's too small, but the next size up is too big.

            These are stepped variable costs; they're flat except when you pass thresholds, at which they mov

      • by raddan (519638) * on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:58AM (#32475044)
        No, that's not true. Saturation with Internet protocols is extremely bad; likewise for radio signals. Many of you probably think that if you have a 100 Mbit connection that you should be able to use 100 Mbits. Sounds fair, right? Sadly, TCP suffers from something called "congestion collapse" when it hits roughly 40% of utilization, so a congestion-avoidance mechanism was introduced to constantly back-off your send rate (it's called "exponential backoff") to prevent this from happening. The only way to fix this is either to over-provision, or to impose heavy-handed QoS parameters. Not to mention-- what does "saturation" mean? If all of us get 5 Mbit plans, does that mean that our ISP needs 5n (where n is the number of customers) available bandwidth? What about upstream of them? What about upstream of that? Such a provisioning scheme is a fantasy.

        Wireless is in a similar, but slightly different boat: wireless is sort of like our old hub infrastructure, before switches were affordable. That essentially means that the network is like a bus, and that clients themselves need to handle collisions, which are frequent. Because of TCP's congestion avoidance mechanism, it can't tell the difference between a packet lost due to a collision and one dropped because of network saturation, so it does the same thing, it backs off. In wireless, the data link layer tries to address this (at least in the 802.11 protocols), but it is not terribly successful, and that is because there are all other kinds of problems with radio transmission, like the "hidden terminal problem", etc, that don't exist in "well-behaved" networks.

        Anyway, all of this means that as you add customers to a wireless network, your capacity may decrease. I'm not saying that telco prices are fair, but the economics of managing such a resource are not simple.
        • Use UDP?
          • What the GP talked about is there for a reason. If you used UDP in a congested network, you'd probably get lots of packet loss. If you tried implementing your own retransmision algorithm, you'd probably get the same results as TCP with no congestion control algorithm: extremely low throughput, even though you have enough bandwidth.

            Just don't do one thing at once and you won't suffer the penalty as hard as you would one connection at a time.

            (and I'm not sure about that 40% figure, TCP RENO is probably more e

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770)

          Yes, oversubscription is essential to cheap Internet. If you tried to provide full, guaranteed no matter what, bandwidth to every connection you'd have very little bandwidth to each individual. Instead you oversubscribe and so long as people play nice and don't try and use 100% all the time, it works.

          As an example, take an office network. Suppose you have a building with 5 floors, 40 PCs per floor. You want to provide gigabit to the desktop and to the servers. Well, for about $8500 or so you could do the wh

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rdebath (884132)

          TCP does NOT suffer from congestion collapse until well past 40%, congestion collapse of TCP requires the line to be running at 100% with enough channels that the transmit windows overload a router's memory buffers because the packets in the buffers get stored for longer than the retransmit time of the connections. For modern routers RED (Random Early Drop) tends to avoid the problem.

          For the 40% rules you're probably talking about a CSMA/CD (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection) connect

      • True, but misleading. Capacity has a fixed cost. Providing 100Mb/s of available bandwidth (in any form - terrestrial radio, fibre, satellite, or whatever), costs a certain amount. Providing more than that costs more. If you have 100Mb/s available, you can sell ten 10Mb/s slices, or 100 1Mb/s slices with guaranteed throughput. This is (very approximately) how broadcast radio and television works - channels pay a fixed amount for a fixed reservation (a channel).

        Alternatively, you can sell time-limited s

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shentino (1139071)

        With fixed costs, billing by usage is equitable.

        Say you invest a fixed amount of resources to bake a huge pie. How much should you charge people for a piece of it?

      • The carrier has a given capacity to be divided between users. If a user uses more of that finite capacity than other users, then that user should be billed more. The pricing model that most accurately reflects the value of the commodity would be to have users pay for the bandwidth that they use, scaled to the demand at that time of day. I don't want to pay for someone else's "unlimited," I want to pay for what I use.

      • Is that true? Does it cost the telcos less to have all those radios and towers sitting around not doing anything? I think the cost lies in building and maintaining the capacity. Once it's there, it's most cost effective (in a bits/dollar sense) to keep your network as close to saturation as possible. Costs are not in fact proportional to volume, and they shouldn't bill as if they were.

        Costs are most certainly proportional to volume. A tower has a finite capacity, and the more bandwidth people use the fewer

        • Uh...once you run the fiber to the tower upping capacity is not so difficult. AT&T's problems were due to skimping on costs and running multiple T1s to their towers instead of just going all-in with fiber.
        • by hitmark (640295)

          only that towers have a clear way to lower the bandwidth available to a heavy user in case some other user comes along and wants use to. The big problem is that towers can only handle so many active users, no matter how much or how little bandwidth they are using, each time slot kept open for those push notices is one that cant be used by anyone else on that tower.

          newer protocols are getting better at stuffing more active users in a smaller time slot, but towers have a problem thats unique to them (tho anal

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Plus that's certainly not the best of deals around here - what about 4GiB for EU12, prepaid, recharge like this valid for two months, and with remaining data credit not lost if you recharge the account again before that 2-month cutoff point?

    • Uh, I think you mean EU 20/month for 50 (FIFTY) gigabytes.
  • I too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dnaumov (453672) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @07:51AM (#32474690)
    wish that radio spectrum wasn't finite and would allow for unlimited bandwidth and removal of traffic caps. However, reality begs to differ with my point of view.
    • by Itchyeyes (908311)

      ^This

      Not to mention, mobile data and access at home are very much not the same service, even if they are provided by the same company sometimes. The only fair point I think TFA makes is in regards to providers charging for different types of data on the same network, eg charging for text messaging on top of a mobile data plan, or digital phone on top of a cable Internet service.

  • by cavehobbit (652751) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @07:57AM (#32474714)
    'It's only a matter of time before regulators catch wind of just how many times we're being charged for the exact same thing.'" They do know this. they do not care. The regulators are in the pockets of those they regulate. Look at any regulated industry. Most of the time they support being regulated because they use those regulations for their own benefit. Oil, gas, Finance, banks, autos, pharma, etc. Even if an industry fights against initial regulation, they support it afterward, when then end up controlling it. They use the regulations to justify anti-consumer actions and to drive UP the cost of entry to keep competition down. Or even to eliminate competition if they can slip in a regulation that damages competitors. That is why lobbying is such a big business. the lobbyists win no matter what happens with regulations. They get paid to fight against or for any regulation that comes up. They are worse than lawyers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There is a lot of truth here. And it can even be self regulation. Just look at PA-DSS. I wonder how many people here know that if they are running an e-commerce site with any OSS shopping cart and directly accepting credit cards they have to stop as of July 1st. There is no FOSS shopping cart application that is PA-DSS certified by Visa et. al. The only thing that comes close is Magento Enterprise edition ($9000). The Community Edition is not nor ever will be.

      We forked an opensource point of sale appl

  • why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maraist (68387) * <michael.maraistN ... gmail.n0spam.com> on Sunday June 06, 2010 @07:59AM (#32474724) Homepage
    If I pay for electricity at home, why should I be forced to pay for it again at work.. Or at the mall. Or when I'm overseas.. That's not fair.. waaaaaaah.
    • by tverbeek (457094)

      The article's whole line of argument is utterly unsound. The author apparently doesn't grasp technology or economics. Her home DSL and her 3G data plan are simply not the same thing.

      "Data access" is not universally fungible. The cost to deliver 1MB of data by DSL is not the same as delivering it by 3G, which is not the same as delivering it by CD+USPS, which is also not the same as delivering it by wifi+shared-T1, etc. If AT&T charges me separately (at a higher rate) to deliver data to me by 3G, dis

    • by ceejayoz (567949)

      If I pay for electricity at home, why should I be forced to pay for it again at work.. Or at the mall. Or when I'm overseas.. That's not fair.. waaaaaaah.

      AT&T just announced that iPhone tethering will be an additional monthly charge but that using it still eats up your data plan's bandwidth allotment.

      That's like paying for electricity at home, but having to pay an additional charge to use the paid-for electricity in certain appliances.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:00AM (#32474728) Homepage Journal
    The real problem really isn't the data limits per se, but what happens when you go over them. It's really easy to accidentally go over your limit(for instance if you think you are on wifi but are actually on 3g), and when you do you have to pay out the ass. It would be nice if regulators forced providers to offer an option to block internet access until next billing cycle if you go over instead of only finding out after the fact that you now owe hundreds of dollars because you accidentally misconfigured your device.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZorinLynx (31751)

      How about just regulating overage fees to be capped at the same rate as what you are already paying for service?

      For instance, if you pay $60 a month for 5GB of transfer, and use 10GB of transfer, the provider cannot legally charge you more than $120 for that month.

      Right now you pay an arguably fair rate until you reach your cap, then you are utterly *reamed* for any additional usage. This is even worse on voice plans, where additional minutes can cost close to a dollar when you've paid only cents for the or

    • by ceejayoz (567949)

      It'd be nice if regulators asked why the overage gigabytes cost tens, hundreds, or thousands of times as much to deliver, too.

    • People who just want unlimited everything have no idea of the technical limits...especially on wireless.

      That said, the billing mechanisms are horrible and that needs to be improved.
      MB counts should be available on the homescreen of all phones. You should be able to disable data after it crosses the line.

      Or if they don't want that, just have a simple pre-paid account for money for 'over-charge'. once it is depleted, you can't be billed anymore. This at least prevents u from getting insane bills.

      On the fix

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      That, and realistic overage rates would be nice. If I use 10GB on my 5GB-for-$40 plan, I should pay something like $40-$60 extra, not $300.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:08AM (#32474760)

    'I want to pay once for data, I want that data to be unlimited, and I want to be able to use it in any fashion I choose.'

    Here's what such a plan would feature: A monthly cost of $240. How about that?

    • 'I want to pay once for data, I want that data to be unlimited, and I want to be able to use it in any fashion I choose.'

      Have you considered your own bacup system? I can't swing a dead cat around my head without hitting a hard disk offering for about ~€100.

      Keep the backup at a safe place, that you never visit . . . how about your parents' place :-)

      But seriously, make backups often, and keep them someplace that you are not inclined to got to that often.

      The weather in Iceland seems to be nice right now. If you excuse the volcanic ash . . .

      If Iceland is too cold, just send your backup disks to some trusted relatives w

    • by Tuzanor (125152)
      Don't forget that the carriers would always have full pipes and congestion with a flat "unlimited" plan. Us users are clever enough to find ways to not worry about rationing.
    • Funny. I get truly unlimited wireless in Japan for $40/month. Been using it all month for 3 months non-stop- no complaints.
  • Costs like these(and taxes) are not paid multiple times, it's just devided.

    If you want to have unlimited internet at home and in your cellphone you have to pay for it.
    If both cost X$, giving you an total cost of 2X$ you still have to pay 2X$ for your "universal data plan"

    home plan + phone plan = 2X$
    universal data plan = 2X$

    Or actually you would most likely have to pay more for the "universal data plan" or only be able to use one at a time.

  • Beer (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:33AM (#32474898) Homepage Journal

    Between multiple cell phones and their add-ons, high-speed Internet connections, and digital TV subscriptions, most households are paying for data delivery at least three times over, often paying the same provider twice

    Between going to the pub on Monday, then the supermarket on Tuesday, and the pub again on Friday, many imbibers are paying for beer three times over!

    Hope it's not for the same beer.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:34AM (#32474900)

    Because you are paying for different infrastructure. When I pay for my Internet connection to my house, I'm paying for the cable connection that comes in, and the fibre connection that it converts to further up the line. The cable company maintains that physical network and it does cost money to do so. I'm then also paying for their connectivity, which is a fair amount given that it is a fairly high bandwidth line.

    For my mobile phone, I'm instead paying for the cell towers, and the equipment that drives them. I'm also paying for the lines and phone switches and so on further up the chain. There too, I'm paying for bandwidth for the provider though less in that case. The costs there are more the physical infrastructure.

    Saying that I should pay one bill because both services access the Internet is silly. They are different physical systems and in my case different companies. Even in the case of the same company, you need to account for the cost of all the infrastructure and support. It is not free to build and maintain a large network, wired or wireless. It is quite expensive in fact. You can't demand that you be provided with Internet in all forms just because you happen to pay for it in one form.

    Now, as far as cable TV goes, I can see some point there, but still it is a different thing. Different system, other than the final delivery to the customer, different hardware, different providers. Remember that cable isn't free to your cable company. They have to pay to carry many channels (though some, like shopping channels pay them). That's why sometimes you'll find a cable service that doesn't carry a given station, they get in a fight over rates. Cox here nearly cut ESPN off because of a rate fight.

    I can certainly see the argument that perhaps things should cost less than they do now, but this idea that you should only have to pay once is silly, especially when you are talking different formats. The money you spend on a HFC network is different from the money spent on a broadcast satellite is different from the money on a cell network. They all cost a lot to build and operate.

    • Furthermore, I'd like to see the end of unlimited plans, for all of these, and move to plan that resembles utilities. Pay for what you use! Imagine if we had "unlimited" electricity, gas and water plans. People would just leave their lights on all the time, and the whole system would be inefficient. I imagine the same goes for data usage.
      • The reason behind unlimited plans is simple human mentality. They want the ability to use things an unlimited amount for one price, even if it can be shown they'd save money metered.

        ISPs discovered this with businesses back in the early days of the Internet. The only way to offer bandwidth for reasonable prices was very heavy oversubscription, since lines were so expensive at the high level. Hence, you'd sell metered service to ensure that everyone could get their fair share. Well businesses hated it, they

        • Uh, no it doesn't make sense. Shockingly you wrote so much about something you know nothing about. If you read some of the other comments on here you'd understand why bandwidth is nothing like electricity, and the two simply can't be compared. Metered billing makes absolutely no sense based on how the ISP pays and provisions for bandwidth.
    • by Khyber (864651)

      "When I pay for my Internet connection to my house, I'm paying for the cable connection that comes in, and the fibre connection that it converts to further up the line."

      No, you're paying to get reamed up the ass without lube. YOU ALREADY PAID FOR THE LINES, it's called the 1996 Telecommunications Act. You're just being fleeced and you're too dumb to realize it.

  • I agree with others who have posted here that a truly unlimited plan is way over charging the average user or is going to be much more expensive than what we currently have just to make it 'reasonable' for the average user. That being said the current trend is absolutely ridiculous. How can AT&T justify having a pay per byte plan where the paid for data does not roll over and if you go over any amount you get double charged even if it is the last day of your billing cycle?

    Personally I would like to
  • What I do want though is for someone to see how badly they are robbing us in text message plans and the fact that we pay so much more for an outdated infrastructure and none of the costs are balanced. When everything moves to LTE it'll be more of a nightmare when we're paying for multiple services and they all use the same infrastructure. It will support voip for calls and we don't really need SMS to do texting, the phone company just likes to charge us through the nose for it.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @08:46AM (#32474978) Homepage

    ..."the exact same thing"?

    In any case I want no "universal data plan" optimized for people who watch movies on their cellphones, view six hours of tv a day, and download thousands of hours of music forced on me by government. If I want anything it's metered service (that's metered, not tiered).

  • digital TV is multicast and that is not the same as other data that is just for you.

    multicast sends out the same data to mean people at the same time changeing that to each user have there own copy of the same thing will just eat up much more bandwidth.

    • digital TV is multicast

      This is true of satellite TV and of "channels" on cable TV. But as I understand it, video on demand is unicast over cable TV just as it is over cable Internet.

  • Between multiple cell phones and their add-ons, high-speed Internet connections, and digital TV subscriptions, most households are paying for data delivery at least three times over, often paying the same provider twice.

    These services are *not* the same, and anyone who thinks otherwise is obviously not qualified to talk about. I mean, really, can't these idiots tell the difference between wireless and wired data plans? Not that I'm defending communications companies, but you can already get bundles that g

  • Think about electricity, for example. We pay for mains power to our houses. We buy batteries in various forms at various prices - rechargables, single use, car batteries. We have the option for solar power at a different price point. Yet no-one would say "I want to pay once for all my different sources of electricity, no matter what the format is).

    This idea just doesn't make sense. The various suppliers (whether for bandwidth or electrcity, or water - bottled, mains, rainfall etc.) all have different infr

  • Between multiple restaurants and their appetizers and desserts, grocery stores, and milk delivery subscriptions, most households are paying for food at least three times over, often paying the same provider multiple times per month. It's time for a universal food plan, [Cnet columnist Molly] Wood declares: 'I want to pay once for food, I want that food to be unlimited, and I want to be able to eat it at any location I choose.' Still, she has hopes that the-times-they-will-be-a-changin': 'It's only a matter
  • If customers are willing to pay that much that way, providers are willing to take the money.
    Nobody is forcing customers to get such an array of services. Those willing to put in a little effort and withstand slight inconvenience can pay much.
    There is no right to convenient data plans so great as to compel, under threat of imprisonment, providers to concoct such a "universal unlimited" data plan.
    Quit being greedy. You want premium variety, you're going to pay thru the nose for it.

  • Since moving from dialup to ADSL, cable and 3G, I've never seen a "limited" data plan here in Finland. You pay a monthly fee for a given speed, and that's it. ISPs usually reserve the right to throttle, but I've only rarely seen it with 3G, never in wired connections.

    I currently pay 9.80 euros for the slowest possible 3G, 384/384 kbps. This is actually better than it sounds, since for example a 1M/1M ADSL gives you about 103 kbytes/s max, but 3G uses a different encoding, and this 384 kbps translates to

  • QOS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cervo (626632) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @09:43AM (#32475280) Journal
    I don't know why they can't just use QOS on their own phone network. They could mark the first 2-5 GB of capacity as high priority, and then the rest low priority. With a fair queuing system, the average user who doesn't use that much data would not have the appearance of being slow, just the guy streaming netflix movies all the time. But with buffering, perhaps the play delay would compensate for the saturated network.

    Still they do need to upgrade their network somewhat. I mean if it is the age of video and everyone is streaming video (we aren't quite there yet), they are going to need to increase the initial data cap as well as upgrade their network. Also if they get 25% more subscribers, they will need more network capacity. QOS is not the magic answer to never upgrade your network until 2020.....
    • T-Mobile has done this. There are no overage charges anymore on their 3G network. They will simply throttle you after your first 10 GB.
      • by cervo (626632)
        I always say t-mobile seems the better of the wireless carriers. They always seemed to have better customer service, more reasonable prices (the fact that they only make you pay for a subsidized phone if you subsidize one is also cool, ATT/Verizon make you constantly pay a phone subsidy even when the contract expires....). And the fact that they do this to eliminate overage charges shows that they are really pro consumer. Unfortunately their network is incomplete in many areas. Otherwise I would hop to
  • Molly Wood declares: 'I want to pay once for data, I want that data to be unlimited, and I want to be able to use it in any fashion I choose

    And what colour pony does she want?

  • You are paying for bandwidth. "Unlimited" means as much as you can download in a month. A month has ~2592000 Seconds. At, let's say, 2 mbps, you can download ~632 GB per month.
    If you have 2 connections with the same characteristics, you can download up to ~1265 GB. I am not defending the ISPs, I am just saying the article is unreasonable. The internet is expensive. If the internet doesn't grow, or if it's not maintained, it dies. There is no central structure, just a lot of peers. Each spends money on laying fiber, buying routers, and administrating that infrastructure. ISPs spend money on the last mile. Then, they sell each other bandwidth. That's it. Real, pure bandwidth means a symmetrical and dedicated CIR connection. ISPs cut that bandwidth, and sell it in a different way. Buying a CIR link with a nice SLA is expensive. ISPs buy those links and sell them in different, cheaper ways. When you pay for an "unlimited" data plan, you are paying for an statistically calculated share of backbone bandwidth, plus the cost of the last mile, administration, etc. You will have to pay for all those costs eventually, one way or another. If you don't want to be metered, or don't want to pay for additional things like tethering, then buy your own real bandwidth and share it however you like.

    The real complain here is that ISPs are guilty of false advertising, and people have bought into that false advertising. They truly do believe you can get 10 mbps for 80 bucks a month. Guess what, there is no way you can actually get such a connection. You are paying for a 10mbps asymmetric MIR. A statistically calculated share of bandwidth. Of course, then they wonder why, oh why do they have to pay extra for a few MB on their mobile phone when they already have all the bandwidth in the world on their "unlimited" home broadband.

    The real complain here should be that ISPs are just charging way too much for extremely limited services, and that their prices don't scale up nicely. When you want to buy anything better than their usual plans (for example bigger upload bandwidth) they make you pay through the nose. Asking them to drop their prices and to scale up fairly when you want a little bit more is fair. But pretending that bandwidth is a free resource and that you already paid for it in your "unlimited" data plan is ridiculous.

  • The reason we have flat rate data connections for our wired Internet is because the edge of the Internet has competition between ISPs, and because the Internet itself was started as a lot of independent networks cooperating for complete coverage.

    But since the time when the Internet started, it has grown to have much less competition at the edges (telcos killed DSL competitors, and broadband is usually at best a cableco/telco duopoly), while the backbones have consolidated to cooperate in a cartel to keep pr

  • 'It's only a matter of time before regulators catch wind of just how many times we're being charged for the exact same thing.'"

    Next they'll go after the newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio, and television for all charging me for their services when I should just get it all in unlimited form from one place for one price.

    that doesn't even begin to make sense.

  • If there was say 3 or 4 ATT sized providers then it would make sense for each one to have a Single Signon so that you could login and receive all the benefits of being a customer of %Network%

    need to make a call on your phone?? %Network has a tower in range
    close to a %Network wifi hotspot ?? your call will be routed by way of the hotspot
    Wanna watch a movie ?? slot your %Network FlashKey type your PIN and go for it

    How many of us would pay US$120 to US$$250 a month (depending on how long a contract you want to

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