Home Comcast Wants to Cap Downloads: Puts a Damper on Innovation

Comcast Wants to Cap Downloads: Puts a Damper on Innovation

Today, Comcast announced that it will amend its Acceptable Use Policy and add a clause to it that will establish a “monthly data use threshold” of 250 GB per month. This effectively puts a cap on the amount a Comcast user can download per month and codifies an informal policy Comcast was already enforcing. While 250GB is a large amount of data right now, it won’t be once a large number users start watching HD streams which can easily take up numerous GB per hours.

That’s a Lot of Data

Comcast’s announcement tries to put this limit into context. According to Comcast, 250GB amount to:

  • 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
  • 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song)
  • 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)
  • uploading 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)

It’s interesting that, judging from this, Comcast seems to add up uploads (photos) and downloads to get to these 250GB, making it an even smaller number – especially for those who upload large numbers of photos or videos, and, of course, for those who share a lot of files on Bittorrent. In Comcast’s defense, the cap is agnostic to what service you use to burn up those gigabytes.

But Not if You Are a Power User

Comcast also cites that the median monthly usage be customer is 2-3GB a month. While some commentators have thought that this number is too low, we don’t think it really is. For most broadband customers, broadband is simply always-on Internet. They don’t necessarily make use of al the services available to them.

The problem here, however, is that the more advanced users also tend to use an exponentially larger amount of data. A standard movie might clock in at 2GB, but an HD movie can take easily take up more than 10GB.

It’s All About Video

Also, these kind of limits are bound to stifle innovation in the streaming video business – and not even necessarily because people will start running out of bandwidth, but because there will always be a little voice that will keep nagging Comcast’s users that they might be hitting the data cap if they download that movie.

We have to admit, though, that 250GB are a pretty high cap and, as Larry Dignan points out, it sure beats having metered Internet access. However, looking into the future, 250GB might be nothing once more people start using more data-intensive applications.

Will it be the end of the Internet as we know it, especially once other ISPs start announcing similar caps? Probably not – but it might just put a damper on the Internet we had envisioned for the future.

Flickr image courtesy of dmuth

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