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All You Can Eat?

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These days it would seem that the surest way to get a website shut down is to broadcast that it’s great for music and movie torrents. No need to mention kiddie porn, terrorism or drugs, all you need do is to hint that you can download Shrek 2 and you’ll see the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) come stomping in with their size 12 boots. If that doesn’t work, you could try telling the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) that you got the latest U2 album for free from this really great website and its days will be numbered.

Of course I use BitTorrent myself, but I have broadband and I have to do something with my enormous 2Mbit/sec download capability, and that’s the problem.

Like most people, I pay a flat monthly fee for my broadband connection so it costs me the same whether I’m downloading the odd email or really hammering the connection by downloading loads of interesting bits and pieces.

I prefer broadband to dial-up for all the obvious reasons, and I’m prepared to pay £35 a month for a 2Mbit cable connection because it comes with a 256Kbit upload speed - a life saver when I have to email 25MB of picture files for a feature or group test.

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So I’ve got a fast Internet connection with no monthly cap on data traffic, which brings me to another point, or perhaps that should be to my first point. Every ISP touts broadband as an ‘always on, unlimited traffic’ product, although they often try to describe it as a service. Now that BitTorrent has taken over from Napster as the disreputable side of the net, there are rumours that 30 per cent of the total traffic on the Internet is due to BitTorrent, and it is safe to say that the vast majority of that traffic is across broadband - it would be far too impractical to use dial-up. This means that the cost is being carried by the ISPs. As a result they have brought in the concept of ‘fair use’ with the introduction of monthly data caps for the naughty types who took these providers at face value when they offered an ‘all you can eat’ deal. Last year I used a BT Yahoo ADSL connection and was incredibly unhappy with the email service which seemed to be designed to filter out legitimate email, and at the same time prevented me from sending email with large file attachments.

The final straw though was when BT Yahoo sent me a letter informing me that 512Kb ADSL customers would be capped at 15GB of data per month, while 1MB customers could transfer 30GB. In the Alice Through The Looking Glass world of BT Yahoo I was informed that I would be hit by the 15GB cap, but BT Yahoo didn’t have a software tool that would enable me to monitor my traffic so I could see for myself how much data I was using, and how much of my limit I had left.

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