This article over at TechDirt really highlights some of the biggest hurdles that consumers run into when trying to decide on a decent ISP to subscribe to. 'Unlimited' services which really aren't unlimited, with "fair usage policies" and quiet bandwidth limits are all the rage these days… but seriously, how long can this last?

Over the past couple of years, a bunch of ISPs have started (usually quietly) applying traffic shaping efforts to slow down your high bandwidth applications like BitTorrent. This is part of what the whole network neutrality debate is about, but this has more to do with the ISPs trying to keep out services that use up more bandwidth then they budgeted for.

What it really represents is the inability of ISPs to recognize a simple fact: if you offer people bandwidth, they'll figure out ways to use it. The ISPs got into this big race with each other, and all promised unlimited bandwidth at cheap prices, making the calculation that the demand for bandwidth wouldn't increase very much, and most people wouldn't use very much at all.

They were wrong. But, rather than admit that they made a mistake, they suddenly pretend that the "all you can eat" broadband they sold you is something different — one where they can arbitrarily limit what you can do with that bandwidth. They sold you one thing, with the belief that you wouldn't actually use it, and now that you are, they're shoving in place temporary fixes to stop you from using what they sold you.

Of course, there are many who believe the whole thing is simply a ruse to try to charge everyone more money, a concept that gained steam when a loose-lipped CTO from Qwest admitted that file sharing traffic isn't actually much of a burden for them, and he didn't understand other ISPs claiming it was such a problem.

Unfortunately since they're all at it, I for one can't see a reason why this would ever change: especially as long as there's a generally accepted (and oft assumed) relationship that goes (high bandwidth usage) == (illegal file-sharing) == (bad), whether you paid for access to that bandwidth or not.