Many rural fixed wireless ISP's meter their service for network management and costs reasons. The spectrum is finite, which means that wireless ISP subscribers can only get a set amount of bandwidth from that tower. The backhaul from the tower would be the other limiting factor.
In cable systems, the backhaul to the neighborhood is the bottleneck. The next bottleneck is the Internet gateway - how big is the pipe to the Internet that the cable system uses locally (and just how congested is it).
The DSLAM is the bottleneck for most neighborhoods. And the backhaul is the next bottleneck. It's tough to backhaul a 48 port mini-DSLAM with 2xT1, but it is done. Often.
As you have seen on the commercials, VZW and Ma Bell limit your mobile data to 2GB and 5GB. Sprint does too, except on your smartphone, but according to reports today, will be stopping that practice and moving to caps as well. T-Mobile has caps.
Ma Bell and TWC both trialed caps on consumer broadband. Supposedly this bombed but we know that Comcast and others have bandwidth caps for consumer broadband.
Now CenturyLink is capping DSL. CenturyLink is announcing the following Excessive Usage Policy (EUP), which will become effective in February 2012:
CenturyLink's EUP applies to all residential high speed Internet customers and is only enforced in the downstream (from Internet to customer) direction. Video services provided by CenturyLink PRISM™ TV are not subject to the usage limits. The policy has the following usage limits per calendar month:
• Customers purchasing service at speeds of 1.5Mbps and below, have a usage limit of 150 Gigabytes (GB) of download volume per month.
• Customers purchasing service at speeds greater than 1.5Mbps, have a limit of 250GB in download volume per month.
This will be one more pinch point for the consumer. Consumers are streaming music, movies, TV, living on social media, and sharing media with their friends. Stores this holiday season are selling TV's and DVD players that are all Internet-enabled to stream GoogleTV, Netflix, HuluPlus, Pandora, YouTube, CinemaNow and more. (Heck, you probably read my rant about all the buffering I go through with BHN.)
Not only that, so many tele-workers are using consumer broadband from home, working in The Cloud (so to speak).
VoIP, web/video conferencing, Skype, Citrix and virtual desktop, VPN and security wrappers, CRM, backup, virus and software updates - that cap will be hit quick in 2012.
The funny thing is that most of it was poor planning on the network operators part. And because they are a slave to The Street, who still see telcos as rate-of-return dividend checks, the consumers will get pinched. So too will providers, when the consumers find out that the backup or the VDI app or whatever is costing them $10 extra a month, it's out. Watch.