It’s becoming increasingly clear that the word “unlimited” does not exist in the technology industry. Companies are continuing to backtrack from policies that implied that users could get as much as they want, forcing users to pay more money if they want more.
Last week, Microsoft removed the unlimited storage plan from its OneDrive cloud storage service, after people took advantage of the meaning of unlimited. Additionally, Comcast has started billing users extra money for using more than 300 GB of data on the internet. And Sprint has started to slow down the download speeds of customers who use large amounts of data on 4G LTE networks.
Now people are wondering if an endless data plan is even possible. Most of the time, it is. However, by removing “unlimited” data plans, companies are able to make more money. They know that the most hardcore users will pay whatever it takes to get more. Companies that do make the “unlimited” claim usually quickly see their error, and switch to a plan that makes their wallets fatter.
Additionally, a small number of users blessed with unlimited data plans have been known to abuse the system, simply going out of their way to use as much data as possible because, well, they can. But once the companies realize that people are doing everything they can to try and reach the impossible number of infinity, they quickly pull the plug on the program.
In the case of Microsoft, last year an unlimited plan for OneDrive was offered for just a mere $6.99 per month. But people began using it to backup multiple computers and store DVR recordings. Some people were known to store more than 75 terabytes of data, which is 14,000 times the average amount. Now, because of “unlimited abusers”, a one terabyte plan now costs $9.99 per month.
Removing unlimited plans also allows companies to better predict costs. Usage patterns of data can change rapidly, and a major increase could prove to be major trouble for companies offered unlimited usage.
Some people might believe that eliminating unlimited plans would turn customers off and cause businesses to lose money. However, cutting these plans often leads to greater profits enjoyed by the companies. Storing more data requires more hard drives, which requires more money. Therefore, unlimited doesn’t actually exist. Not to mention, there are also the costs of data centers, technicians and servers. One simply cannot buy unlimited data.
On networks, bandwidth is dependent upon the hardware’s quality capacity. There’s no way to maintain speeds at higher usage amounts. If people start abusing the unlimited system, it slows down speeds for everyone. Networks have had to continue to upgrade their hardware to keep up with increased data usage, spending large sums of money in the process.
Even if it’s just a small number of abusers, the experience of everyone is ruined. When Sprint started slowing down the speeds of users who used extremely large amounts of data, it only affected users in the 97th percentile of data usage. Sprint was protecting 97% of its customers from price increases caused by the top 3% of network hogs.
However, some people question this logic. For instance, heavy data users on Comcast supposedly do not affect the experience of other users. The company has even published a paper explaining how network congestion is avoided without limiting the bandwidth of its customers. Instead, the company says that it’s simply fair that heavy data users should pay more.
Some have said that the internet sector of Comcast is trying to protect the company’s cable sector. Most of the data usage comes from customers who are streaming extremely large amounts of material because they cut their cable bills in an attempt to save money.
Even then, 300 GB is a massive amount of digital video. Most likely, the company recognized that it was another way to make a profit. And since most people do not use that much data, they have no objections.
Meanwhile, the people who do use that much will pay whatever it takes to get more. And since they’re just a small minority, their complaints get drowned out by people who aren’t passing the data limits. When people do hear their complaints, they simply laugh at them for using so much data.
What it all comes down to is that “unlimited” doesn’t exist. Companies that still offer “unlimited” services, simply haven’t caught on yet, and it’s only a matter of time before their service comes with extra restrictions and price tags.