Comcast Corp, New York, officially announced its plan Thursday to limit its subscribers' data plan. This plan for 250 gigabytes of upload and download per month will be in effect as of October 1. The cable company has been considering this action for months now, and already slowed down the internet speed for specific members using "excessive" amounts of usage, without clarifying what exactly that is. Now the specific amount will be clearly visible, and high-level users will be contacted by Comcast and requested to curb their usage. How much data is 250 GB? Articles have been enumerating what that actually means in terms of media usage. It is easier to understand the abstract data levels when translated into specific amounts of songs or movies. Comcast's Network Management Policy counts these below:
Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song)
Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)
Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)
Critics of the plan say that this will establish a precedent for other Internet Service Providers since Comcast is the 2nd largest ISP in the country. Other providers are testing lower caps, possibly implementing tiered services that charge more for higher data levels. Qwest has an identical cap , which when reached redirects customers to a special page notifying them of their usage level, and restricts HTTP access. After testing Internet billing by usage last June, now Time Warner Cable "is testing caps between 5 gigabytes and 40 gigabytes in one market."
Comcast has a great business idea here. As a big player it can set trends toward restricting access on its networks. Instead of encouraging them to invest in newer conduits such as fiber, the limit allows them to simply terminate service for high-bandwidth users. Other companies have been and will do the same, which will lead to a system similar to cell phone carriers: minimal new technology implimentation and maximum consumer restriction in the form of locked gadgets and customer contracts.