Sunday, May 03, 2009

Broadband providers need to help consumers watch for overages

The Business Section of the Sunday, May 3, 2009 Washington Post has, on p G1, an intriguing article by Robert Pegoraro, “Broadband Caps Can Cost You,” link here. The writer surveys the debate over broadband cap plans, which don’t seem to be settling out to a predictable and reliable practice for consumer.

Time Warner apparently backed away from a plan that would have started at $15 a month for a 1 gig, and charged about $2 per extra gig or increment, up to a maximum of $75 a month.

Comcast says it set a 250 gig cap on its residential service, but does not charge for going over. But a consumer who goes over twice in a six month period can be canceled. Comcast says that just .1 % of consumers go over.

Pegoraro says that a plan like Time Warner’s is questionable because many mandatory downloads are large. Microsoft’s Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista runs up to 345 megabytes (compared to the starting 1 gig limit, that’s 34%) and Apple has a 668 MB download for one of its feline operating systems. (Apple seems to like cats.) Pegoraro notes that a lot of his use seems to happen when he is not even using the system. Personally, I still prefer not to leave a machine on for a long period if I am asleep or away from home.

Broadband providers should provide consumers a convenient way of monitoring their usage, something comparable to a logon account to a wireless cell account (remember even the message units on your landline phone bills). They still need to do a lot of work in this area, particularly as the president wants to promote making broadband a utility everywhere.

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