Broadband users oppose Bell’s bit cap strategy

Bell Sympatico‘s plan to bit cap its DSL service has some users talking about dumping the broadband service, but one user says there really isn’t anywhere to go.

The broadband provider will introduce two services this summer

(Ultra and Basic) and institute a limit on its standard service. Ultra will cost $69.95 per month and come with a three Mbps connection and a 10GB upload and download cap. Basic will cost $29.95 per month and users get a 128 Kbps connection and a 1GB cap. Standard service — essentially what customers have now — will cost $44.95 per month, will come with a connection just shy of 1 Mbps and a 5GB cap. Users will be charged $0.79 for100MB past their limit.

Chris Weisdorf is the president of the Residential Broadband Users Association (RBUA) based in Toronto. While the group doesn’t have an official position on bit capping, he says the membership is opposed to it. The RBUA’s members’ message board has been a hot spot of late. One member claims to have posted an online petition and collected more than 3,000 signatures, while another writes, “”My goal is to have as many people as possible leave Sympatico in the next three months.””

Weisdorf says he is opposed to any capping and recognizes his membership is most likely to be the ones most affected.

“”The majority of people spend an hour online a day and they just do some Web browsing and they e-mail, and they don’t do anything else. I think it’s unfair that the subscriber base who are really using the broadband connection for what it’s meant to be used for are being punished,”” he says.

“”They get everyone on the service with low pricing deals and promises of unlimited access and with high speeds, and then they start cutting back on all that stuff to increase their margins. It’s simply not right.””

Sympatico-Lycos spokesperson Andrew Cole says the 5GB peak will only be climbed by about five to eight per cent of its current customer base. The current average is about 1.5GB. Heavier users, he says, have the option of upgrading their service. Residential users, however, are not eligible for service level agreements.

Weisdorf says most users aren’t aware of how much bandwidth they are using. “”In general people don’t understand that if you leave a Real Audio stream or something like running for few hours it’s going to rake up a lot of bandwidth. And if you do that with the caps you’re going to be hit with a big bill. To help customers track their usage, Cole says it has launched a bandwidth tracker.

In the end, Weisdorf says, broadband users are stuck between a rock and a hard place. He says there is DSL competition only in limited areas and Rogers is considering a bit cap of its own.

“”This is a duopoloy. Whatever Bell does Rogers does, and whatever Rogers does Bell does,”” he says.

Cole said the cap takes effect June 12.

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