Capped bandwidth? Beware of the HDTV shows in iTunes 8


I could easily write about the new Apple iPod hardware but that’s getting covered to death and frankly, it’s just expected evolution. All good news, but there’s something more important to me as a mobile device user who’s also a self-proclaimed HDTV snob. iTunes 8 has the hidden gem… and pitfall… in my book.
I’ve got the new version of iTunes 8 installed and went to check out the new HDTV shows. We’re at the point in our house were I can’t remember the last time we watched a television program or movie that wasn’t in high-def so I wanted to see what they have. Now for $2.99 an episode, we can grab episodes a-la-carte. That can add up for sure but I appreciate the extra audio and video quality that high definition offers. But what will that do for our bandwidth here at the house? We’re not capped by Verizon in our home, but what about folks that have a 250 GB cap from Comcast? I think there’s both good and bad to report here.

I decided to see how big a single episode would be and luckily, one of my favorite shows is available as a freebie. I hit up a 43-minute Battlestar Galactica ep that’s available at no charge and see that it’s a 1.38 GB download. Now I don’t think many Comcast customers are going to grab 180-odd high-def TV episodes from iTunes in a month to bump their cap, but these can add up quickly. That’s the minor bad news if you want to call it that.

The related good news (which is actually even more bad news for capped customers): iTunes will also download a smaller version of the episode which is already encoded for mobile device screens. That’s great in one regard: it allows for a quicker way to get content on your device so you can watch on the go. The possible downside: in my case, it added another 521 MB download… again, something to watch if you’re capped. Oh, and I wouldn’t even think of downloading any of these files while on 3G. It will take longer, but that’s not the concern: you’ll hit those 5 GB caps pretty quickly at this rate.
While you can pause the second, smaller download, I currently see no way to stop it from starting in the first place. Perhaps there’s a preference I’m missing, but I’d like to see this configurable so people don’t add to their bandwidth usage if they don’t want to.



Another Aussie here!

Our plans are so restrictive i’m not even sure what i’d do with 250GB…

I use about 30GB in a month because it’s a good cost/bandwidth ratio. I still download a lot of TV shows (I prefer HD too) so at the moment I don’t think it’s a problem.

However, It’s a very good point that in the future 250GB will be insufficient. What I think is even worse are the mobile data plans. Crazy prices. Even something like an SMS (not “real” data I suppose, but still). In reality it’s less than 1kb of data yet here they charge 25c on many networks here – although here again, no one pays to receive calls or messages.


Caps introduce nothing for the customer and are just a way for ISPs to lay the groundwork on additional revenue. The logic they use to justify them is flawed or outright lies, sadly your average customer is too shortsighted to understand that 250gig (if that isn’t reduced soon) will quite rapidly be consumed as more online services move to the internet.

They tried the net neutrality route and failed. Now they’re looking to penalize any business that will be bandwidth heavy. Who’s going to bet with me that they’ll offer such companies local hosting which their subscribers will not be metered on but will probably have to pay extra for just like premium tv channels.

Not sure I can honestly live by this but I’m prepared to give up on the whole internet thing the minute Caps and limitations on usage become my primary concern. It isn’t a matter of greed (unused bandwidth is not stockpiled) it’s enjoying a medium for which it was designed and ISPs would love to re-design the internet into a similar model as telecommunications and television where they can empty your wallet as often as they please.

I hope Google and other internet innovators pay for some lobbyists introduce legislation that outlaws this kind of cornering of the consumer. At the very least we should see all franchise rights removed from the big operators and access granted to smaller companies.


I just downloaded both versions of 30 Rock (free episode) HD – 719.8mb and sd – 256.8
I am a Comcast subscriber and I downloaded both at the same time. Still waiting for HD to finish – halfway home, SD finished about 2 minutes ago. I started the download 22 minutes ago.
I am glad you brought this up Kevin. I had not thought about the implications here regarding the pending cap.

Rick Huizinga

I’m also very worried about Comcast’s upcoming “protocol agnostic” network management implementation. According to reports, the new method does not only perform slowdown on P2P traffic, but to any user who has used a fair amount of bandwidth in the previous few minutes (20mins was reported).

It sounds like this will slow down HD movie downloads from iTunes and Apple TV.?.?.? It sounds to me that Comcast is introducing policies on their ISP customers to unfairly protect their cable & video-on-demand business.

In my neighborhood, I do not have a choice to switch broadband providers and I wish the FCC will step in before Comcast implements their new “protocol agnostic” network management.

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