Need, want, can afford - broadband markets and the behavior of users

Zachary S. Bischof*, Fabian E Bustamante, Rade Stanojevic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

17 Scopus citations


We present the first study of broadband services in their broader context, evaluating the impact of service character- istics (such as capacity, latency and loss), their broadband pricing and user demand. We explore these relationships, beyond correlation, with the application of natural experi- ments. Most efforts on broadband service characterization have so far focused on performance and availability, yet we lack a clear understanding of how such services are being utilized and how their use is impacted by the particulars of the market. By analyzing over 23-months of data collected from 53,000 end hosts and residential gateways in 160 countries, along with a global survey of retail broadband plans, we empirically study the relationship between broad- band service characteristics, pricing and demand. We show a strong correlation between capacity and demand, even though subscribers rarely fully utilize their links, but note a law of diminishing returns with relatively smaller increases in demand at higher capacities. Despite the fourfold increase in global IP traffic, we find that user demand on the network over a three year period remained constant for a given bandwidth capacity. We exploit natural experiments to examine the causality between these factors. The reported findings represent an important step towards understanding how user behavior, and the market features that shape it, affeect broadband networks and the Internet at large.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIMC 2014 - Proceedings of the 2014 ACM
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781450332132
StatePublished - Nov 5 2014
Event2014 ACM Internet Measurement Conference, IMC 2014 - Vancouver, Canada
Duration: Nov 5 2014Nov 7 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM SIGCOMM Internet Measurement Conference, IMC


Other2014 ACM Internet Measurement Conference, IMC 2014


  • Broadband access networks
  • Causal infer- ence
  • Natural experiments
  • User behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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