Ever watch video or TV shows over the Web? How would you feel if this became one of your preferred methods for doing so and your cable or internet provider said, “No…that’s not allowed?”
Even the most naive and casual observer can see that the threat from services like Hulu; both Apple’s TV and movie offerings within iTunes; Joost; and the accelerating number of media center software offerings (providing access to ANY video on the internet), pose a huge threat to the cable TV companies and other broadband providers increasingly positioning themselves to deliver multimedia services.
With recent strategic moves it’s clear they are trying to get out ahead of the user market (and the maturity of video provider business models as well as the open source media center software) and put caps on broadband use in place before wider adoption occurs and alternative providers gain a foothold in your home.
As a tail-end baby boomer with enough of a geek nature to be involved far too deeply in the ‘net, web and social media in my business, I realize I’m atypical within my demographic on how I, and as a result my family, use our Comcast broadband connection. With Comcast’s 50mbps down/10mbps up DOCSIS 3 setup in my office (Note: we were one of two companies in their Minnesota rollout of this new technology) and 16mbps down/2mbps up at home, I’m dealing daily in video, photos, moving around large Zip files, screensharing, personal publishing, and numerous other online activities. These activities are mission critical to our small business, my wife’s and my client interactions, as well as family activities and connecting with others.
Comcast, one of the largest providers in this space, directly affects all aspects of our digital lives. With my family and my current, and increasing, use of the internet for an ever expanding array of online activities (Skype calling; my son’s video gaming; Flickr and Vimeo for photo/video sharing; online backup of our computers; use of our new Mac mini media center), we are certain to end up violating Comcast’s draconian 250GB bandwidth caps (er, I mean, Network Management Policy).
The kicker? According to Comcast’s executive escalation group, I can’t even pay them more for higher tiers of service with no cap or, as one representative told me in March, “…the cap is the cap, regardless of the tier of service.”
Did you also know that, in Comcast’s case, they can simply cut you off for exceeding that 250GB cap with no warning and that their promised metering tools are still missing in action?
While I’ve been concerned for some time, I read this recently about Time Warner’s laughingly low caps and realized that, if Time Warner gains traction with this approach, Comcast will undoubtedly follow suit and we’ll all have to watch and do whatever these providers allow us to do online.
If you buy my argument that caps are, in fact, an anti-competitive strategic move instead of what Comcast claims (i.e., network management), then it’s no surprise they don’t offer heavy users more bandwidth for additional money since most of us are also heavy influencers and would undoubtedly motivate others to emulate our “overuse” of Comcast’s bandwidth (I know I do all the time).
UPLOAD SPEEDS WILL STIFLE WHAT YOU CAN DO ONLINE
The issue is not just companies providing your internet, with bandwidth caps in place keeping you from watching TV streamed through your internet connection that is the issue. Slow upload speeds are also limiting what you’re able to participate in online.
Om Malik, a journalist and blogger who is an expert in telephony and internet matters, had this post recently about upload speeds which is another, architected-by-broadband-provider strategy to slow down or eliminate certain uses of their network.
The reason that slow upload speeds matter to you — and any innovation occurring in “the cloud” (i.e., as hosted Web applications) — is that you uploading videos, photos, using backup services, sharing or collaborating with others online, talking over internet voice services, are all negatively impacted because of upload speeds which are substantially slower than your download speeds.
As I’ve written about previously (see “Railroad and Minnesota Broadband“), ubiquitous broadband is as fundamental to the future competitiveness of our State as the railroad was at the turn of the last century or as the interstate highway is today.
Though this internet control of bandwidth issue will be a problem for you and watching TV, it goes far beyond that to innovation and your overall participation and interaction via this 21st century railroad, interstate and connection for our minds.
What can you do? If you care about this high speed broadband and your access to it, I’d urge you to make your voice heard by connecting with the Minnesota Ultra High Speed Task Force members and let them know why and how this issue matters to you.
Very clear, strong and straightforward guidelines from this Task Force (which is their mandate from the Legislature) for bandwidth caps must be an integral part of any law or public policy (and the Obama Administration is on top of this…but off to a rocky start). In addition, I would expect our State Legislature to enact guidelines — for any bandwidth provider delivering their service in our State — to at a minimum deliver metering tools to customers at all levels in order to eliminate arbitrary, unknown and sudden cessation of internet connections…connections that are becoming as important to our digital life as the telephone was in the last century.
Minnesota Ultra High Speed Task Force Member Emails (full contact info here). Just cut-n-paste these into your email “To” field:
Rick King <email@example.com>,
Barbara Gervais <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Brent Christensen <email@example.com>,
Chris Swanson <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Craig Taylor <email@example.com>,
Dan McElroy <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Dick Sjoberg <email@example.com>,
Glenn Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Gopal Khanna <email@example.com>,
Jack Geller <Gelle045@umn.edu>,
JoAnne Johnson <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
John Gibbs <email@example.com>,
John Stanoch <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Karen Smith <email@example.com>,
Kim Ross <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Mary Ellen Wells <email@example.com>,
Mike O’Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Peg Werner <email@example.com>,
Robyn West <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Stephen Cawley <email@example.com>,
Tim Lovaasen <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Tom Garrison <email@example.com>,
Vijay Sethi <firstname.lastname@example.org>