ISPs reaching an end to the data cap era


After years of backlash from consumers regarding data caps, Internet service providers are beginning to explore new ways to meet these demands even as bandwidth usage increases exponentially nationwide.


In January 2011, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission caused an uproar among individuals and businesses when it announced that ISPs could begin charging consumers based on how much data they used. While ISPs in Canada were far from the only service providers putting these kind of restrictions in place, an April 2011 report from Ars Technica found that the limits created by major Canadian firms were far more stringent than the usage ceilings set by major ISPs in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.


In the months following the ruling, many customers loudly complained about the data caps. Perhaps the most publicized negative comment on the issue came from Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos. Speaking last year at a Merrill Lynch-sponsored conference on media, communications and entertainment, GigaOM reported that Sarandos said data caps force Canadians to have “almost third-world access to the Internet” and that “it’s almost a human rights violation what they’re charging for Internet access in Canada.”


Addressing bandwidth frustrations by improving infrastructure design
Eventually, the public pressure against these limits has forced ISPs to change their tune regarding bandwidth allocation. According to a report from the Public Interest

Advocacy Centre cited by CBC News in February, 74 percent of Canadians said bandwidth caps play a significant role in their decisions to choose an ISP.


“What you’re forced to do is watch the meter,” Michael Geist, technology expert and law professor at the University of Ottawa, told the CBC. “It creates real disincentives.”


In light of these end-user demands, Canadian ISPs have upped their bandwidth caps or eliminated them altogether in order to appease customers and not lose business. However, as a result of these moves, ISPs are now forced to deal with the same problems that existed in 2011, namely that more end users are placing further strain on IP network resources. With solutions such as video conferencing and cloud computing becoming  more popular, the amount of bandwidth a given organization needs is higher than ever. Plus, this demand is only expected to rise further in the coming years, with Cisco predicting in May that global IP traffic will rise approximately 300 percent between 2012 and 2017.


This now puts ISPs in a precarious situation. While they were previously able to meet this demand by lowering the supply of bandwidth, such a strategy will no longer cut it. Instead ISPs must consider an infrastructure design upgrade, replacing legacy networking equipment like copper wiring with next-generation solutions such as fibre optic cabling, high-end ROADM optical transport and other state-of-the-art offerings from leading hardware manufacturers like Cisco.


ISPs looking to make this shift and update their infrastructure design should consider turning to FlexITy, one of the largest managed services firms in Canada. FlexITy’s Optical Transport & Network solutions help ensure that any service has the equipment in place to meet rising end-user demands today and well into the future.