Capping Internet Junkies

Toothpaste for Dinner” src=”http://newuword1.thomasjbaker.net/wp-content/uploads/old/libertarian-limit.jpg” alt=”Drew Dee” width=”536″ height=”435″ />

Drew DeeToothpaste for Dinner

If you have a tech-savvy friend, a pudgy, pimply little brother or know anyone else who fits the nerd mold, you might have heard them say this recently: “Dude, dude, the corporate machine is taking over, bro! They are limiting and controlling what we download, dude! It’s suppression by the Man!”
Despite the fact that nerds are always taking Internet-related feuds to the sky-is-falling proportions, this most recent issue has grabbed the attention of the major media outlets because of its potential implications. Starting Oct. 1, Comcast will begin to impose a 250 gigabyte monthly bandwidth cap on its customers. This move, which Comcast claims will only affect 1 percent of its users, is indicative of an industry-wide trend to limit Internet access in order to presumably free up more bandwidth for new customers.
As expected with any Internet controversy, users are more than happy to share their viewpoints.
“The biggest problem is that they haven’t given us any data. There’s no proof [that Comcast needs the bandwidth],” said Om Malik, the editor of gigaom.com.
He argues that if Comcast wants to limit our usage and behave like a utility company, they should go the full nine yards and give their customers more ways to monitor their usage.
I find the “1 percent” number from Comcast hard to believe, considering that just about every college student I know has downloaded some portion (usually all) of the multimedia on his or her computer. Also, I know many students who play online games, affecting Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 players as much as computer gamers. Combine this with frequent Internet usage and the 18-24-year-old demographic seems much larger than the 1 percent Comcast references.
The 900-pound elephant in the room is that this is a backdoor way to curb illegal downloading, as it would be pretty hard to reach 250 gigaabyte a month any other way. I’m not “that guy” who shuns Napster, Rapidshare or BitTorrent users who pirate software, music and games, but for argument’s sake, let’s use the largest music retailer’s (iTunes) price model to see how much one would have to spend to reach Comcast’s cap.
Assuming five gigabytes for Internet traffic (twice Comcast’s average number) and barring online gaming leaves 245 gigabytes for legal media content. It is not common for iTunes High Definition shows, which retail for $2.99, to top 1 gigabyte in size. So if you bought 245 high definition episodes it would cost $732.55 in one month.
Let’s be real here—no one does that except for maybe Steve Jobs, and I think we can assume that Steve Jobs spends more time thinking about how to screw over Bill Gates than watching HDTV.
Let’s explore other legal ways to reach the cap. ABC News reported that one way to breach the cap was to upload 25,000 “hi-definition” photos. I’m not even going to jump on the ultra-vague and semi-inappropriate usage of “hi-definition” with regard to photography by ABC.
Nor will I mention how I count the days until the technologically inept fossils that report on technology die off or retire to be replaced by reporters who won’t do exposés on “Internet scams, viruses, phishing” or any other Internet semi-threat that peaked in relevance about six years ago.
No, I won’t do that. I will just try to figure out if I could foresee anyone uploading 25,000 photos as previously mentioned. And no, I can’t. Not even the biggest Facebook and Myspace whores alive upload that many pictures.
The other main argument, besides usage, against the cap is that in five to 10 years 250 gigabytes won’t be enough! Oh no! This notion that the cap will never scale with demand is frankly wrong. The last thing Comcast wants to be seen as is an enemy of the future. When we need more bandwidth in five to 10 years, the big evil Internet Service Providers will be there for us.
So, sorry Internet rights advocates; I’m having a hard time seeing this 250 gigabyte cap as anything else but a glass ceiling below unlimited Internet porn. I’m starting to think everyone’s getting their panties in a bunch because they might have to start actually paying for software, music and “Girls Gone Wild.” Maybe this cap is a good thing after all.

Michael Boileau is a third-year business economics major. He can be reached at mboileau@uci.edu.