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Cable Technology Feature Article

September 30, 2008

Users Don't Like Caps

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

An International Data Corporation (IDC (News - Alert)) study confirms what you might guess: users do not like bandwidth caps. Some 81 percent of surveyed users say they do not like the idea of establishing a bandwidth cap and charging for use above the cap.
About 51 percent say they would try to change service providers if their broadband provider imposed bandwidth caps. Light and moderate users are even more opposed to capping and metering than are heavy users. That suggests the real issue is not bandwidth caps, but the inability to measure and understand one's usage.
The study shows that 83 percent of respondents either do not know what a gigabyte is or have no idea how many they use. And just five percent were unequivocally sure that “those who use more should pay more.” Again, this response undoubtedly is the result of lack of knowledge about their own use. It is highly unlikely most users would object to caps that are so far above their actual use there effectively is no danger a cap ever will be triggered.
There also seems to be intuitive and strong end user demand for traffic shaping and quality of service mechanisms. About 94 percent of respondents saw value in services that dynamically allocate bandwidth and assure quality for certain types of traffic, such as video, VoIP, gaming, and virtual private networks, for example.
About 54 percent said they would actively seek to change service providers if another provider offered this service. About 26 percent would be willing to pay their providers additional fees for such premium bandwidth services.
Some will interpret the results as evidence that bandwidth caps are a bad idea. Some of us would argue the findings simply point out the need to equip users with the information they need to pick the right usage plan, just as consumers are able to pick the right mobile plans, in terms of voice and text message buckets.
The IDC survey was conducted featuring 787 U.S. consumers, and took place between August 18 and August 29, 2008.
About the only thing users claim to like less than caps is metered usage. But you would be hard pressed to find many consumers that object to metered electricity, water, natural gas or gasoline use. The problem would clearly seem to be something other than "metered usage." People object to uncertainty in pricing. And that's what metered pricing represents, in the absence of easy-to-understand information about one's actual consumption.
In fact, light users might well decide metered use is a better deal, but only when users have good information about their own consumption.

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Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Mae Kowalke