Netflix isn't swamping the Internet; ISPs are overstating their congestion problems

Netflix is popular, but almost all its traffic is last mile -- not the backbone ISPs whine about

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That affects consumer accounts most directly, but ripples out to business ISP accounts as well, in both data caps and data-consumption or bandwidth rates.

When AT&T announced its data caps – 150GB per month for DSL users and 250GB for broadband – it called the data levels "generous" and said limits would only affect 2 percent of its customers.

It turns out Netflix users take up an average of 40GB per month just from streaming media, according to a different Sandvine report (PDF),

Users that stream data through a device other than a PC – an Xbox or other game console, for example – use twice that amount of bandwidth for the same content.

That puts DSL users who stream movies through their Xbox 360s two-thirds of the way to their data cap every month before they download a single app or send a single email.

It also doesn't include downloading YouTube videos or games, even the demos of which can rush anyone toward the data-cap limit without realizing it.

The Nazi zombies map for Call of Duty alone is 1.4GB.

Download the demo for Office 2010 Professional and you're on the hook for another 688MB.

It eats up the bandwidth quickly, but your ISP will be there to make sure you don't go over, or that you pay $10 for every 50GB you go over the limit every month.

That's the cost of allowing the FCC to avoid limiting the price-gouging plans ISPs impose on consumers and small businesses, rather than see through the smoke and realize it's not compensating for Netflix that is taking up most of the carriers' R&D and network-upgrade work.

It's the effort to upgrade the nets to support their own streaming-media services, which not only compete with Netflix, but also come supported by internal business cases that have to show how quickly each new major upgrade will pay for itself through new services or the ability to support more subscribers.

Upgrades justified to regulators by saying Netflix is about to bring down the Internet go into the books under the category Gravy, and slide straight down to Net Profit at the bottom of the page.

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