As a rural dweller, I’m heavily dependent on my satellite Internet access, and I’m alarmed by the growing file sizes of important documents: overly detailed PDFs, PowerPoint presentations with excessive use of graphics/photos/sounds/movies, large video programs...
Why am I alarmed? Because satellite Internet providers have comparatively low thresholds for their fair access policies (FAPs, to the uninitiated).
The FAP levels for WildBlue Communications users, for instance, range from 7,500 megabytes to 17,000MB for downloads, in a rolling 30-day period. That equates roughly to a range of 60 to 140 songs a day, depending on which service plan you choose.
HughesNet sets its FAP levels on a 24-hour basis: 200MB a day for home users. That’s about 50 songs a day.
Compare that to residential DSL users on Qwest’s network, who apparently have no “hard” limit on the amount of data they can download. Qwest’s Website offers these examples as “usage that could be deemed excessive”:
- 300,000 to 500,000 photo downloads in one month
- 40,000 to 80,000 typically sized MP3 music downloads in one month
- 15+ million unique emails each month
- Online TV video streaming of 1,000 to 3,000 30-minute shows each month
- 2 million to 5 million Web page visits (approximately one every second, 24 hours per day)
Still, those of you feeling all warm and fuzzy about your astronomical DSL FAP limits shouldn’t get too comfortable. With more and more people abandoning their landline phones, some are bound to think that they’ll just switch to mobile Internet as well. Brace yourselves: Verizon offers only 5 gigabytes a month on its best consumer level plan. That’s even less than I get with satellite Internet access.
I realize that the overall bandwidth of satellite transmission (indeed, any communications technology) is limited. I realize that there are some users who are truly excessive in their use, to the point of obstructing others. But isn’t it time that the satellite Internet providers did something to either expand their capacity, or to offer additional grades of service with higher limits?
We content creators also have to look at what we’re putting out there: One of the PowerPoint slide decks in Internet Evolution's 60 Days of Executive Education presentations was 25MB, in large part because of many “glossy” photos. Did those photos actually add to the understanding of the participants? I won’t judge, but personally, I got as much out of it as I did some of the slide decks that were under 1MB.
The days of unlimited access to bandwidth are limited. It’s a scarce resource, and there are only two rational responses to scarce resources: rationing, or pricing appropriately. The rationing approach isn’t working for me. I hope that some company can come up with a new product with higher limits, or a new price plan.
— Leland Dirks has worked as an employee and consultant with companies ranging from a Belgian telecom startup to three of the so-called Baby Bells and three of their competitors. He lives in a green/off-grid home in the middle of nowhere in southern Colorado.