Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don't Bogart That Bandwidth

If you get your Internet service from Comcast, I'd suggest you start watching your bills—your fees may be going up after October 1. The company says their cap, 250 gigs a month, is approximately 100 times "the normal usage" and equivalent to 125 feature film downloads. People like my parents have little to worry about: if tomorrow my mother decided to e-mail our family every digital photo she's ever taken (and she's taken a lot), my folks couldn't use 250 gigabytes this month (assuming each JPG is less than a meg, which most are).

However, a family of four—like my sister Kelly's—that has two teenagers? There are videos and films, iTunes, Internet radio (to which I, personally, am addicted) or other streaming music, Facebook (which refreshes constantly when you're logged, whether you're looking at it or not), online gaming (whether on a Playstation or a computer, it's the same pipeline), newspapers, blogs (to which Kelly is addicted), IMs, e-mails with mega-attachments (those dancing cat videos add up if enough people send them to you)... and those are just the bandwidth uses I can think of; I've no doubt there are hundreds (if not thousands) of others. In my sister's family, each person gets 62 gigabytes, which is plenty for most people now; but as more and more video content becomes available, that will change. And remember: just like on your cell phone, you're using bandwidth whether you're sending or receiving.

How long until Comcast et al, like the cell phone providers, realize they can make more money by offering tiered pricing? Sure, you can get an Internet plan for $29.95... as long as all you do is e-mail without attachments. Want to read a newspaper? We suggest our $34.95 plan. Have a child? You'll find our $49.95 plan fits you perfectly. Two kids? Try the $79.95 family plan. Oh: they're both teenage boys? Our deluxe Gamers' package at $99.95 is just what you need.

Just don't go over your monthly allotment...

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