Why do some ISP's have bandwidth quotas?

> It'd be interesting to know what the average utilization of an
> unlimited
> US broadband customer was, compared to the average utilization of an
> unlimited AU broadband customer. It would be interesting, then, to
> look
> at where the quotas lie on the curve in both the US and AU.

I think the implication here is that there's a smoothing effect that
comes with large customer bases.

Probably not even "large" customer bases.

For example, I remember back to when DSL was first rolled out in New
Zealand. It was priced well beyond the means of any normal
residential user, and as a result DSL customers tended to be just the
people who would consume a lot of external bandwidth.

At around the same time, my wife's mother in Ontario, Canada got
hooked up with a cablemodem on the grounds that unlimited cable
internet service cost less than a second phone line (she was fed up
with missing phone calls when she was checking her mail).

She used/uses her computer mainly for e-mail, although she
occasionally uses a browser. (These days I'm sure legions of
miscreants are using her computer too, but back then we were pre-

If you have mainly customers like my mother-in-law, with just a few
heavy users, the cost per user is nice and predictable, and you don't
need to worry too much about usage caps.

If you have mainly heavy users, the cost per user has the potential
to be enormous.

It seems like the pertinent question here is: what is stopping DSL
(or cable) providers in Australia and New Zealand from selling N x
meg DSL service at low enough prices to avoid the need for a data
cap? Is it the cost of crossing an ocean which makes the risk of
unlimited service too great to implement, or something else?

Quite frankly, this touches on one aspect, but I think it misses entirely

Right now, we have a situation where some ISP's are essentially cherry
picking desirable customers. This can be done by many methods, ranging
from providing slow "basic DSL" services, or placing quotas on service,
or TOS restrictions, all the way to terminating the service of high-
volume customers. A customer who gives you $40/mo for a 5Mbps connection
and uses a few gig a month is certainly desirable. By either telling the
high volume customers that they're going to be capped, or actually
terminating their services, you're discouraging those who are
unprofitable. It makes sense, from the ISP's limited view.

However, I then think about the big picture. Ten years ago, hard drives
were maybe 10GB, CPU's were maybe 100MHz, a performance "workstation" PC
had maybe 64MB RAM, and a Road Runner cable connection was, I believe,
about 2 megabits. Today, hard drives are up to 1000GB (x100), CPU's are
quadcore at 2.6GHz (approximately x120 performance), a generous PC will
have 8GB RAM (x128), and ... that Road Runner, at least here in
Milwaukee, is a blazing 5Mbps... or _2.5x_ what it was.

Now, ISP economics pretty much require that some amount of overcommit
will happen. However, if you have a 12GB quota, that works out to
around 36 kilobits/sec average. Assuming the ISP is selling 10Mbps
connections (and bearing in mind that ADSL2 can certainly go more than
that), what that's saying is that the average user can use 1/278th of
their connection. I would imagine that the overcommit rate is much
higher than that.

Note: I'm assuming the quota is monthly, as it seems to be for most
AU ISP's I've looked at, for example:


Anyways, my concern is that while technology seems to have improved
quite substantially in terms of what computers are capable of, our
communications capacity is being stifled by ISP's that are stuck back
in speeds (and policies) appropriate for the year 2000.

Continued growth and evolution of cellular networks, for example, have
taken cell phones from a premium niche service with large bag phones
and extremely slow data services, up to new spiffy high technology where
you can download YouTube on an iPhone and watch videos on a pocket-sized

What are we missing out on because ISP's are more interested in keeping
bandwidth use low? What fantastic new technologies haven't been developed
because they were deemed impractical given the state of the Internet?

Time to point out that, at least in the US, we allowed this to be done to


... JG