Comcast Caps Will Stifle Internet Video

Limits on downloads appear generous, but only for today's common uses.

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Having announced it will cap monthly Internet downloads, Comcast is reassuring its broadband customers that few of them will be affected. Fewer than 1 percent now exceed the monthly cap of 250 gigabytes, the company says.

It does look hard to reach the cap, according to Comcast's estimates. It involves millions or at least tens of thousands of the E-mails, songs, and photos that most all of us download every day.

Wait. What about the next great thing—movies across the Internet? Comcast's estimates drop to earth with a thud. Comcast says the cap would allow 125 standard-definition movies a month, or about 250 hours of programming.

That initially sounds like a lot. But look closely. A family of four can regularly have three TVs going. Each TV could only watch three hours of video a day. In America these days, that's not a lot.

Then throw high-definition fare into the mix. Comcast doesn't say, but it could mean between 40 and 120 hours of high-def video, depending on compression and how good the "high definition" is. Let's say 80 or 100 hours for the sake of argument, and quality.

A family hits that ceiling with no problem.

That's without other uses on the horizon cited by Josh Lowensohn on the Webware blog. Subscription music services will change how we listen to music, online storage sites will change how we store our data.

Not many of us are using those yet. There also aren't many who regularly download high-definition movies. And it'll be a while before the services mature enough that we'd want to entirely depend on any of them.

A company like Vudu can already deliver consistent, great-quality video across the Internet. Others will quickly get better.

If caps like Comcast's don't cripple them.


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