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Wait. What?! We wasted HOW many GB on American Idol?

June 16, 2008

Last week, Time Warner made headlines with it’s decision to try out a new business plan: metering internet usage. Essentially, this new plan means the lucky consumers in Time Warner’s test market get to choose among various capping schemes – slow internet capped at 5 GB per month for $30 up to $55 for fast internet capped at 40 GB per month. 

As you sit reading this post over your unlimited broadband connection, aren’t you glad you aren’t living in the test area?

I WISH I was.

Here in Belgium, the Time Warner announcement didn’t make the news. In fact, when I mentioned it to one of my Belgian coworkers it was actually met with disbelief – shock at the fact that Americans are used to getting unlimited internet.

Here, capped usage is your ONLY option. Where I live, you essentially have two choices when it comes to internet, phone and cable providers – Telenet or Belgacom. Both are a joke.

We went with Telenet since it offered the highest speed and highest cap at the lowest price.

For a mere 62 Eur per month (i.e. $96 at 1.55 $/Eur) we get a whole 35 GB per month at a speed of 20Mbps. Yes, NINETY-SIX DOLLARS for THIRTY-FIVE GIGABYTES. (I don’t know about you, but spelling things out makes them seem more serious to me than straight numbers and abbreviations) 

Currently, we do not have a tv. An unfortunate series of “Oh Britt who let you out into the world on your own” type events led to us believe that we could not get our “high” level of internet AND tv at the same time. (These events may or may not have involved a lying Phone House salesman, a spiteful engineer and an ill-informed computer illiterate Frenchman.)  So. Sans-tv, we use our computers for all of our entertainment-needs. We are constantly watching American tv shows on surfthechannel, talks on TED and downloading podcasts in iTunes. 

Basically, we use up our monthly allowance in 25 days. And that’s when I work long hours. If I get home early – say 8-9pm – multiple times a week AND we don’t go on weekend trips, Poof! Internet is gone in 18 days.

At which point we have to call Telenet, get an extra gig added for a Euro and then only read text-based pages until our internet is reset.

On the surface, you might say “Oh, get over it. Read a book.” Which is true. To an extent. Sure, the lack of internet is nothing more than a minor disruption. But, personal annoyances aside, I think this business plan has serious flaws. Including, but not limited to:

1. In the U.S., we are moving towards online distribution of entertainment. Netflix online. iTunes. Radiohead’s In Rainbows experiment. HDTV on the major network websites. How is this evolution of the entertainment industry going to continue if the major ISPs start capping internet? Download a few songs and movies a week, and you are done.

2. What about the Green movement that (in a great way) seems to be bombarding us from every angle? Distribution of media via the internet leaves a MUCH smaller carbon footprint than the distribution of a physical product. Under the current cap scheme, there is more motivation to rent or buy a movie than to try and download one.

3. Legitimite Peer-To-Peer sharing (i.e not LimeWire) is almost impossible under the cap scheme. BF had to do quite a bit for his work and we ended up using 27 of our 35 GB in ONE day. ONE DAY. (yeah… May was a rough month)

Ugh. I don’t know. I just hate seeing policies that are inneficient, stifle creativity and essentially move us BACKWARDS.  Hopefully Time Warner’s test goes poorly. Or the free market system kicks into gear and consumers move to Time Warner’s competitors (something that is not an option where I live).


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