I’m a Comcast internet access customer, and I don’t have a television here in Ann Arbor. There, I’ve said it. I remember thinking when other people used to say they didn’t have televisions that they were just being sanctimonious cranks. I swear I’m not being a sanctimonious crank.
With a good internet connection, and a big/friendly enough monitor, you don’t need to subscribe to cable content any more. I was thoroughly content watching the convention this week on C-SPAN. But I was watching C-SPAN.org – and I was also following the Twitter feeds of thousands of people. Plus I was watching the comments on DailyKos. It was the most convivial, richest way to watch a major speech that I have ever experienced.
Having cut all of those cords (no landline phone either), I’m worried about a future in which Comcast gets to say that I’ve used “too much” bandwidth and have to be cut off. : That future is coming on October 1, when Comcast will implement a 250 GB monthly cap. (Hat tip: Karl Bode.)
Comcast sees a future in which people use the internet to send a few emails or look at a few web pages. They don’t want people watching HD content from other sources online, because that doesn’t fit their business model. So rather than increase capacity, they’d rather lower expectations. 250GB/month is about 50-60 HD movies a month, but we’re not necessarily going to be watching movies. Maybe we’ll be doing constant HD video sessions with other freelancers, or interacting with big groups all over the world in real-time. Who knows what we’ll be doing – it’s all in the future.
But rather than build towards a user-powered future, Comcast wants to shape that future — in advance — in its own image. The company is not offering additional bandwidth packages to people who want more. They just want to be able to shut service off at a particular point – a point of bandwidth use that most people aren’t using right now, so that they won’t be unhappy. By the time we all want to be doing everything online, Comcast users (the company hopes) won’t expect anything better.
Here’s a comment that makes the competitive picture clear:
Q. How does this factor in with users of your Digital Voice service? On average how much bandwidth does that service take up?
Bill G. [Comcast]: Digital voice has no affect [sic] on this, the 250 gig cap is allotted for just downloads
So Comcast’s own services won’t be limited, just downloads of other peoples’ services and material. And don’t get us started on those asymmetric uploads.
What business doesn’t want to build capacity to serve the future?: I’ll tell you — listen, now — a business that’s confident it can plan for the future it wants. A business whose plans don’t include serving as a neutral transport platform for other peoples’ material. A business that is focused on maintaining scarcity.