Be cautious with the wording of any highspeed Internet Access contract and ask what they mean by "average bandwidth of X b/s".

Sometimes it means they lower the max bandwidth per user (at the ISP level) during peak hours in order to 'more fairly' distribute possible usage (har! har!). Rather than everyone suckling what they can from the ISP's metaphorical teat - the Right Way.

The problem with "sucking what they can" is actually quite simple: When a router or switch is saturated with traffic, packets are lost. When packet loss increases beyond a certain percentage on TCP/IP network, performance for everyone goes way down hill. It is much better to cap everyone's pipe at a lower (but still reasonable) data rate so that packet loss does not ocurr.

If all connections were TCP/IP, packet loss would not be that big a problem; since a lot of people are using streaming protocols that use UDP these days, though, routers can become saturated very easily.

A "real" ISP has a Service Level Agreement that will deal with things like the delivery of usable bandwidth. A true SLA would cover things like downtime, latency and delivered bandwidth. Use a true tier one ISP and you should really have all the bandwidth your willing to pay for, but be prepared to pay for all you use.

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