61 Comments

Summary:

We’ve talked before that metered access is a boneheaded idea that is bad for innovation, bad for Microsoft and Google, and ultimately bad for you. Until today, the idea seemed like an eventuality, not an immediate reality. But then NBC and TonicTV launched a new service […]

We’ve talked before that metered access is a boneheaded idea that is bad for innovation, bad for Microsoft and Google, and ultimately bad for you. Until today, the idea seemed like an eventuality, not an immediate reality. But then NBC and TonicTV launched a new service that lets you download video from the Olympics and watch it offline. Right next to the installation instructions was this “important”note:

That’s the first warning I’ve seen about a particular service not being recommended for folks with metered broadband access. But the real bummer? That is just a taste of things to come — especially if you’re a fan of video services like Hulu.

We’re not even talking P2P throttling, just straight video consumption. In fact, P2P isn’t even a huge deal for networks anymore (but not because of that slap on the wrist the FCC gave Comcast). DSLReports writes that as of June “AT&T traffic was about 1/3 Web (non video/audio streams), 1/3 Web video/audio streams, and 1/5 P2P.” Those audio and video streams — that’s Hulu and YouTube. And as they provide more content at higher quality, those streams are only going to increase.

If metered access becomes standard, there will come a day when you spend less time watching videos, and more time counting the number of videos you watched to avoid going over your cap.

You have been warned.

  1. “If metered access becomes standard, there will come a day when you spend less time watching videos, and more time counting the number of videos you watched to avoid going over your cap.”

    You mean like how we all used to count the minutes we used on our cell phones because we had like 100 daytime minutes, but 1000 night & weekend minutes, or worse pay-per-minute like I had in high school? (This was a 2nd phone, before “family plans” existed, because my mother didn’t trust my car.)

    -Adam

    Share
  2. Well part of the reason why cell phone minutes are limited and why they like contracts so much is because they use the “guaranteed” funds to build out the network and upgrade the systems (3/4G doesn’t just spring up on its own). If you notice now, the providers are starting to offer unlimited plans.

    Broadband access is going in reverse. The buildout happened back in the ’90s, but that’s when you saw the lowest rates. Which is why the providers claim they need metered internet now, since they apparently didn’t anticipate people ever actually using what they paid for. The real reason, as mentioned on this site before, is that the telcos and cablecos want so desperately to keep you on *their* entertainment model (i.e. $50/mo+commercials+1/3 channels being shopping channels) that they’ve got to find a way to either a) make up the difference in lost customers, or b) keep customers from jumping ship to the web in the first place.

    Share
  3. You mean like it has been in Australia since the days of dial-up? You won’t like it. You will get used to it. Just like we have to.

    Share
  4. Most Aussies have Metered Broadband with with hard caps and throttling yet they are the biggest downloaders of Movies and TV per capita because of the PAL/Australasia Region Distribution Window delay they have to put up with , which can be longer than 5 Months .

    Share
  5. Matt, as far as I am aware, *all* Aussies have metered bandwidth and throttling, don’t they?

    While I was down under at Christmas and last year, my fiancee and I couldn’t find one consumer ISP which offered unlimited internet.

    I think this is a *HUGE* problem for internet innovation in Australia. Especially as the rest of the world embraces high(er)-bandwidth video content on the web.

    Share
  6. After vacationing in South Africa for four weeks where you really can’t find anything but metered Internet, I definitely agree that metered Internet sucks.

    I’ve got 800 photos that about 1.5 gigabytes in size. I’d never get them uploaded to my Flickr account. I probably wouldn’t have a Flickr account if I lived there.

    I’ll just mention the 8 hours of video that I took, about 20 gigabytes.

    We truly seem to be going backwards over Internet connectivity. There always seems to be a problem, from the phone companies screaming about all the people that had 2nd lines and were using them 24 HOURS PER DAY! The ISPs making sure that you got kicked off after 8 hours, leading to programs that would automatically redial you back in whenever there was a disconnect. The problems of downloading too much from FTP and Usenet to today’s P2P and video streaming.

    Share
  7. Those that use more bandwidth, should pay more. What’s the problem with that?

    Why should someone that does not download video, music or books often, be forced to pay for bandwidth they don’t use? Why are you against those people that don’t use a ton of bandwidth paying less for their high-speed broadband Internet connection?

    Why can’t not a tiered system such as:

    Package 1 (least expensive): X amount of bandwidth per month. Good for those that do not download music or video, but want high-speed access to web sites, check email, upload a few photos per month or IM.

    Package 2 (mid level): X amount of bandwidth per month. Good for those that download one or two videos per month, upload 10-20 photos and download around 30 songs.

    And so on…

    What’s so wrong with not paying for bandwidth you don’t use? It’s like Cable TV: why should I have to pay for channels I don’t watch? Why should I have to pay for bandwidth I don’t use?

    Share
  8. “Those that use more bandwidth, should pay more. What’s the problem with that?”

    Do cable TV users pay based on how much TV they watch? Not the channels, how many minutes in a day. Of course not, because customers would never tolerate limits on TV. Customers no longer tolerate limits on local telephone use, either, and the principle of “pay by use” is the same.

    I don’t know about other providers by my DSL already provides a tiered service, including tiers the company (ATT) specifically for video download. Here I am being encouraged to download video, only to have the company then come along and say, “Oops, we really didn’t mean you should use that increased speed to actually, you know, download movies. Pay up!”

    Should I as a site developer now worry about how big my photos are? How much video I embed into pages, because I might inadvertently push a friend’s bandwidth over some insane 5GB limit.

    How about all those ads at sites? They take bandwidth. Should we be forced to pay for such trash? I’m sorry GigaOM folks: you must remove all ads. Oh, you need them to pay salaries? Tough. The ISPs have spoken.

    The Australian gentlemen mentioned about caps in Australia. Yes, but I bet there is nothing even close to 5GB, which is what is bandied about in this country. You can’t even read weblogs for 5GB a month.

    We are finally getting to the point where we can begin to challenge the stranglehold the cable and dish companies have on video; to actually have a choice in this country, only to have it blocked, because all of a sudden, the ISPs (who happen to provide these paid services) have suddenly decided such services put an unnecessary burden on their systems. The same systems that have not been upgraded since they were first installed, years, maybe even decades ago.

    Those who think that ridiculously low caps are justified because “not everyone is using the bandwidth” forgets that innovation is not customer-demand driven in this country. Didn’t Henry Ford once say something about if you asked the customer what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse?

    Another story on Techmeme at the moment is, ironically enough, about the Dr. Horrible webisode shows, and how the web provides a new and potentially fertile area where we can expand on what we can do with video. Not just we, the amateur we, on YouTube; the professionals, also, such as Josh Whedon, who no longer have to be blessed by some network in order to try out their “crazy” ideas. Crazy ideas, which give us something more than Most Talented Dog in America, or Dancing with Stars. The networks feed us pap. Our only hope for true creativity now, is on the web.

    We cannot innovate on the internet, though, if the most critical component of that innovation is stoppered even before we start.

    You all might want to consider some of this before you become self-appointed guardians of the interests of the corporations who would have no compunction about running their profit-obsessed steamrollers right over your butts.

    Share
  9. Jonathan Walls Sunday, August 3, 2008

    Not to agree or disagree, but to point out the various faulty arguments:

    “Do cable TV users pay based on how much TV they watch? Not the channels, how many minutes in a day.”
    – The internet is not analogous. For instance, P2P is mostly not people watching the movie as a live stream.

    “Customers no longer tolerate limits on local telephone use”
    – Actually, they do in countries other than the US. Besides, it is just naive to suggest the companies are proposing a system that no-one will tolerate because then they wouldn’t get paid. The reason local calls are free is because (surprise!) under the overall pricing scheme they do charge for calls. Free local calls, your first 10GB free – there’s no substantial difference here.

    “Here I am being encouraged to download video, only to have the company then come along and say…”
    – A company encourages behaviour which increases its profits? Shocking! Likewise, changes in terms and conditions and failure to anticipate the consequences of ones actions are a necessary fact of life. If the change is a bad one then it is a bad one regardless, not because of how you felt about it. But the fact it is negative to your self-interest does not make it a bad change.

    “Should I as a site developer now worry about how big my photos are?”
    – Site developers must have be capable of understanding and working to constraints. If you are capable of inadvertently going over a 5GB download, you are too incompetent to develop sites.

    “How about all those ads at sites? They take bandwidth. Should we be forced to pay for such trash?”
    – Let’s go back to your TV analogy, which is now relevant because we are at the PC looking at it. Advertising is part of how the system works. You are not “forced to watch it”, but the various products you enjoy do have advertising as part of the business model. Don’t like it? Don’t watch that program or visit that site, close your eyes, use AdBlock, whatever.

    “the ISPs .. have suddenly decided such services put an unnecessary burden on their systems. The same systems that have not been upgraded since they were first installed, years, maybe even decades ago.”
    – So you’re saying money should be invested, but not paid for by the customer that benefits? Or maybe that companies shouldn’t be allowed to make mistakes? Or that when an industry makes a mistake, no part of the costs to correct that mistake should be passed on to the customer who benefits? Whatever the point intended, it is most likely as nonsensical as those interpretations.

    “We cannot innovate on the internet, though, if the most critical component of that innovation is stoppered even before we start.”
    – The internet was born through metered connections. So what is the supporting evidence to your contradictory assertion? Why is differentiating between heavy and light use “stoppering”, which implies an absolute?

    “You all might want to consider some of this before you become self-appointed guardians of the interests of the corporations”
    – Piss off, you self-righteous twat. It’s the same shitty standard of logic (of the opposite flavor) that drives the right-wing corporate mentality. Pointing out that your argument sucks is not defending the corporation. If you can’t think straight, don’t be having a go at those of us who can.

    Share
  10. Om, you needn’t warn those of us who understood the implications from the get-go. But all you’re doing is focusing on a provincial item — online video. This issue is HUGE because it will affect our NATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS. How are kids here going to compete with their Chinese counterparts if China Internet access runs like free tap water? Metered Net access puts us all back in the days of rotary telephones and operator-assisted long-distance calls. That is NOT the direction we should be taking, dammit!

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post