A broadband user group has launched an online petition to protest Bell’s bit-cap policy.

In mid-May, Bell announced plans to offer three levels of DSL service which, depending on the service, included a download cap of 10GB, 5GB or 1GB. Subscribers would have to pay $0.79 for every 100MB past their limit. Despite the potential affect this would have on users, Bob Carrick says many are unaware.

“”The public, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily know what the cap means to them,”” says the vice-president of ADSL operations and policy, Residential Broadband Users’ Association (RBUA). The RBUA, which formerly dealt with issues of concern to Rogers @Home users, changed its name last year and expanded its scope.

Carrick says it is possible for a Sympatico customer to use up the daily bandwidth allotment (167 MB, or 1/30 of 5GB) in 22 minutes if the connection is maxed.

“”A nice quality radio stream is 320 Kbps. That’s a really nice stream, (but) that’s still less than CD quality,”” Carrick says. “”You could only listen to that stream for about 1.35 hours per day–and that’s doing nothing else.

“”Bell obviously recognizes the fact these activities are out there because they’re willing to give you a discount on any usage that exceeds their cap if you subscribe to one of their services like Gamesmania.com, Globeinvestor.com, or even Globeandmail.com.””

Carrick adds that if users are using the connection for surfing, e-mail and newsgroups they shouldn’t run into any bit cap-related issues.

Sympatico spokesperson Andrew Cole says he isn’t quite sure how a customer could use 7.59 MB per minute. He says he has spoken to Carrick about streaming audio and “”what constitutes a bit and what constitutes a byte.”” In Cole’s option, “”streaming audio goes at about 28, 29MB-per-hour, so that leaves you about 180 hours of very high quality Internet radio per month.””

As the bit cap issues garners more attention, companies are starting to take notice.

“”We’re seeing changes in technologies so that the actual bit rates are changing, so they actually use up less bandwidth. It’s something the industry has been evolving towards and dealing with from a technological standpoint as well,”” Cole says.

“”Microsoft just invested $1 billion in putting the Xbox online. That’s gonna be a bandwidth hog,”” counters Carrick.

As of late Monday afternoon there were almost 7,200 signatures on the petition, though some were obviously fake. Carrick says he hopes to collect 10,000.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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