The Inauguration Got Your (Broadband) Meter Running

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We know that online video needs a fast pipe, but it also results in a lot of data being downloaded, meaning consumers with broadband caps might have to be wary.  Yesterday’s inauguration resulted in a 40 percent increase in U.S. network traffic yesterday, according to data from Cisco. The networking company took data from the major Internet exchanges at noon Eastern Time, when President Barack Obama took the oath of office (or, actually a little bit before, since the ceremony was running late), and compared it to noon on a normal weekday. That’s a lot of people presumably watching Obama take the oath online.

Additionally, data retrieved through the VNI Pulse application that Cisco offers for folks to track their own network traffic showed that yesterday individual users downloaded more than twice the amount of data they do during a normal day, at 322 MB vs. a typical average of 159 MB (using an admittedly small sample size of 100 people). Doug Webster, a marketing executive with Cisco, speculates that many people had the inaugural festivities streaming in the background while they did other things, but if one day of online streaming pushed up your data traffic by more than 100 percent, imagine how a regular viewing habit would affect you under a broadband cap — or with any tiered service that charges overage fees.

We’ve already offered up our vision of why folks may want to brave busting through a broadband cap in favor of newteevee, but few will actually do this if they have to essentially pay by the byte or hour to participate in such an event online. And that’s a damn shame, because the kind of community and transparency the web enables is exactly what we need to get people excited about public service again. Metered broadband could not only halt innovation, but also civic participation.

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