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What Is Uncapping?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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Uncapping is a process by which a person removes the limitation on his or her Internet bandwidth provided by the modem and Internet service provider (ISP) he or she uses. ISPs use various methods to place a limit or “cap” on the bandwidth a person can use to upload and download files and programs over the Internet. When this limitation is removed, then the “cap” is taken off and the user can utilize higher bandwidth speeds than his or her ISP intends to provide. Uncapping is often considered illegal, and typically violates the terms of service (ToS) agreement between a user and his or her ISP.

The first thing a person interested in uncapping his or her modem should know is that doing so is quite difficult, if not impossible, and attempts to do so may result in termination of his or her Internet service. Depending on the way in which a person attempts such uncapping, and the modem he or she is using, such actions can also be illegal and result in criminal or civil charges. In other words, someone interested in uncapping his or her modem and Internet bandwidth should typically not even try to do so.

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Uncapping was quite possible with older Internet technology, especially older modems. The way it worked in the past basically involved the way in which a modem connects to the Internet. A configuration file on a modem provides information to that modem on how to connect to an ISP network, including the cap speed for that connection. Different configuration files can be used by a single ISP for multiple users, allowing the same basic service to provide different bandwidth rates for customers who pay different amounts for such services. In the past, uncapping could be achieved by altering this configuration file or the firmware on a modem to remove the cap placed on bandwidth speed by the file.

Altering the firmware on a modem typically does not work anymore, as this does not always bypass the configuration file installed on the modem. This file is typically downloaded from a user’s ISP every time that user initially connects to the ISP network, and can be refreshed throughout usage as well. Using a fake configuration file, therefore, does not also typically work, as a new file is usually downloaded and installed while connected to an ISP. Altering the firmware on a modem that is rented from an ISP is usually considered vandalism and can result in legal consequences. ISPs are also typically able to detect when users attempt to use an altered configuration file or use other methods for uncapping, and can terminate service for that user as a consequence of such actions.

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