Why Internet Companies And Content Companies Should Oppose Broadband Caps
from the it's-going-to-stifle-innovation dept
But, my biggest reason for opposing broadband caps is that it will stifle online innovation in a variety of ways. First, bandwidth caps don't give ISPs much real incentive to invest in more bandwidth (contrary to their claims). That's because the more "congested" they can show their network is, the more they can charge more for basic usage. It sets up incentives for the ISPs to want more congestion, rather than less. Second, it will greatly limit the adoption of new and innovative services. Suddenly there's an additional "bandwidth" cost to testing out certain types of apps. This makes people less willing to even bother, and basically knocks out any (relatively) high bandwidth service before it can even get started.
For example, look at Larry Lessig's recent experience while traveling in New Zealand. He's apparently "subscribed" to the TV show House via iTunes. So, at the hotel in New Zealand, he paid for expensive broadband service that mentioned, in the fine print, that his access was limited to a grand total of 1 gig. He logged in and started checking email. In the background, iTunes started downloading the latest (high def) episode of House which itself ran 1.5 gigs. So half an hour later, not only is his broadband cut off, but a message pops up telling him he's being fined for "violating ethical rules." It's troubling enough that the provider somehow thinks it's an ethical violation -- but this shows how bandwidth caps can easily stifle perfectly legitimate activities and aren't (as many have implied) about "stopping pirates."
And, it's for this reason that many entertainment companies should also reconsider their support of caps. Many in the entertainment business have supported caps as one (of many) ways to combat "piracy." But now, as more and more legitimate, authorized content services are available online, these caps are going to do serious harm to their online business as well. Now, perhaps some of them (stupidly) think that this is okay, because it will just drive people back to the "old way" of doing things, that's unlikely to happen. It's just going to piss people off. Once you've shown them that they can do something, people don't tend to like having that option taken away from them.