Why? Because bandwidth costs money. If current broadband users were sold products that guaranteed bandwidth availability, they would not be paying the €20-60/month they currently do.
Enter the “cap”! ISPs in Ireland, and worldwide, can offer the prices they do, because they rely on the majority of their customers not using the full potential of their connection at all times. If customers did, either the ISP wouldn’t be able to cope, or the subscription rates would be a lot higher. Basically, broadband is sold as a contended service. So the cost of providing, say, a 1 megabit (Mb, and not MB as you might read elsewhere) connection to the Internet, is borne by up to 48 customers. That is, those said 48 customers share that 1Mb connection. The law of averages, and real-world experience, will dictate that most of those customers will not be online, utilising the full potential of their connection at the same time. Residential ISPs live by that rule. Most ISPs, in fact all residential ISPs might not be an exaggeration, will enforce some “cap” (a limit on how much you can use the connection you pay for), so that the minority of heavy users don’t spoil the fun for the majority of average users.
So what’s the big deal? Well the vocal minority will complain that they pay for XMb (be it 1Mb or 6Mb, or whatever), and that they are entitled to that speed. The same said minority, I would argue, aren’t clued in to the practicalities of such a service. The service contention (in Ireland that typically ranges from 20 to 48 for a residential service) is lost on them, when they sign up. Do ISPs care? Of course not, because nobody wants that same said user.
So, if you want an uncontended, unlimited service, you can’t expect to get that for residential broadband service prices. If you think you can, you’re fooling yourself. If you say “but what about ISP XYZ that are offering unlimited service?”, look closely at their terms and conditions, or acceptable usage policy (AUP), because they will have a clause there that (quite rightly) says that if you disrupt the experience for others you will be punished (either financially, or by means of some limit on your connection).
Next week, we deal with unlimited bandwidth web hosting!