technology blog

Friday, 15 July 2011

Want to rent a movie tonight? Can you calculate how much it'll cost you?

Or how many movies can you rent on iTunes in a month?

For demonstration purpose, let's say you love "Funkytown", you are silly and you want to rent it multiple times within a month. Its HD version is 4.6gb at a price of 6.99$ on the iPad. For consistency, I'm taking ISP's cheapest package above 5mbps and assuming you have another service with the ISP to have reduced cost.

ISP Province Monthly price BandwidthAllowanceExtra
Vidéotron Québec 43,95$8mbps50gb4.50$/gb max 50$
RogersOntario46,99$10mbps60gb2.00$/gb max 50$
Bell Québec 42,95$7mbps60gb2.50$/gb unlimited cost?
Bell Ontario 43,90$6mbps25gb2.50$/gb unlimited cost?

With most ISP, you would be able to rent up to 13 movies in a month, if you are not ever watching Youtube videos at 135mb/hour, going to tou.tv, doing Skype or Hangout on Google+ at 720mb/hour. And don't ever think about installing your latest operating system service pack, for each of your computers and laptops, which sometime weights near a gigabyte.

If you have a family, think teenagers watching Bieber in a loop and blow up the monthly cap, you'll end up renting the 11th movie on Vidéotron at an effective cost of 6.99$+4.6gb*4.50$/gb = 27.69$. Yes, it's ridiculous.

I do welcome the extra bandwidth cost bounding. I think it puts a fair balance between limiting heavy usage and extortion. But the extra bandwidth cost is usually unbounded for business accounts, like mine. This puts small businesses in an even weaker position, as they can't afford to not have internet access and usually have multiple concurrent users on a single connection. In fact, small businesses are the ones that are losing the most of this situation.

Now think about it, most independent ISP have caps around 200gb, which would permit you to rent 43 movies in a month, which makes more sense as an upper limit.

Network bandwidth is not like water or electricity; an idle router and a congested router have both the exact same cost. As a counter point, a congested router will have lower throughput than a non-congested one so there is need to balance usage. It's fair, we don't want to have too many congested routers, causing slow connections. My point is that having unbounded extra cost, especially above 1.00$/gb, is nearing extortion and in particular for small businesses.


(note how the details are hidden in a faq on a almost unbranded site)


I work for Google but I did this research on my own time. It doesn't represent the opinion on my employer. I pay for my extra bandwidth.