As Time Warner cable this week begins their trial of tiered Internet pricing in Beaumont Texas, the blogs are aflutter over the various caps Time Warner has proposed. Time Warner’s plans start with caps at 5 gigabytes and go up to 40 gigabytes. Going over the cap will cost $1 per gigabyte. Time Warner is also bringing transparency to usage by giving customers a gauge that will allow them to monitor their bandwidth consumption the way cell providers allow you to track your minutes.
Despite all this complaints about Time Warner’s trial and claims its caps are way too low have been ringing around the Internet.
Exactly how much bandwidth do you consume? It’s hard to say as the number various from user to user. However, Plus.net put together a nice little graphic showing you what a single Gigabyte gives you - including 4 hours per day of web browsing, 10 song downloads per week, e-mail, Internet radio usage, etc.
What does all that equal? Well, NCTA member BendBroadband operated with a tiered structure and found that 91% of their customers consumed less than 10GB per month. BendBroadband found that 99.5% of their users consume less than 100GB per month and now uses that as their cap.
Somewhere above the 91% consuming 10GB per month, and the .5% consuming more than 100GB lies the heaviest Internet users. Estimates in various studies suggest that 5-10% of Internet users consume half or more of all bandwidth. Much of that traffic – though specific estimates vary greatly – consists of P2P (peer to peer) connections exchanging files. A study by SafeNet, Inc. suggests the overwhelming majority of P2P traffic may also be illegal content:
But 90 percent of P2P downloads are still of illegally copied content, according to David Hahn, vice president of product management at SafeNet Inc., which tracks the networks.
Hahn said 12 million to 15 million people are file-sharing across the world at any one time, mainly on the BitTorrent and eDonkey networks. The attraction of file-sharing is not just that it’s free – there’s also content available that can’t be had by legal means, like TV shows that haven’t aired in Europe.
Absent an exact figure of P2P usage, and whether or not you accept SafeNet’s 90% estimate, one thing is undeniable – a small percentage of Internet users are placing a burden on other users. That is one reason a number of P2P applications providers are working to identify ways to make P2P a better and more efficient means of distributing content. We believe that is a worthwhile pursuit, which is why NCTA and various cable companies are participating in a “P2P Best Practices” effort led by the Distributed Computing Industry Association.
In many of the articles written about the Time Warner experiment, detractors point to the number of movies than can be downloaded as a specific reason the cap is too low. An average movie downloaded legally from iTunes is around 1-1.5 GB. A 40GB cap would allow you to download more than 30 movies per month (or one a day) if that’s all you did. Most people, however, don’t consume one movie per day, let alone 30 per month.
Mark Cuban, one of the founders of Broadcast.com and a web pioneer, points out the folly of this argument in a post on his blog yesterday.
Its been amusing to read all the blog posts with the math telling all of us just how many standard def or high def movies tiered subscribers will be limited to. You can have 2 or 3 of your favorite SD TV shows per day, or X number of HD movies per month. Say what?
I have news for all of you that want to dedicate their internet connections to downloading movies. There is a new and exciting development. Its called an Application Specific Integrated Video Service (ASIVS). What is an ASIVS ? Its a computer dedicated specifically to downloading and playing both standard definition and high definition video. You connect it to a network that is dedicated to delivering GIGABITS PER SECOND of high quality video with ZERO buffering. It’s amazing, it always works and connects right to your standard def or High Definition TV, easily. Most of the systems I have seen have a pretty good programming guide and scheduling system and they will let you download AS MUCH VIDEO AS YOU WANT, limited only by the size of its hard drive!!
If you haven’t heard of the ASIVS, its because most people call it a DVR.
If downloading TV shows is so important to you, add a DVR to your cable or satellite service for 5 bucks a month and download all you want. If you want to watch those shows on your laptop, connect the composite video out in your DVR to the composite in on your laptop. Same with movies.
Can’t download movies illegally, tough.
The internet is a great resource for unlimited quantities of video. Downloading video is an internet given right. Using the internet to fill up your PC turned DVR at the expense of the performance of every user around you is not.
Mark’s right on the money with this. Using the Internet to download video is your right and prerogative. Using your Internet connection to consume all the available bandwidth and degrade your neighbor’s Internet experience simply isn’t.
As for Time Warner’s caps, are they too low? Time Warner will soon find out. They have described this as a test and will determine whether the model works and whether the caps are sufficient. Unlike many of their critics online, Time Warner is unwilling to pronounce something a failure before even giving it a chance to prove itself.