Comcast has fallen under fire recently for the way it handles its Xfinity app on the Xbox 360 console; basically, the company doesn't count the bandwidth against subscribers' monthly data cap. It sounds great for Comcast customers, but critics -- including Netflix's Reed Hastings -- say the practice is a violation of Net Neutrality. Perhaps to silence the screams for blood, Comcast announced today that it plans on increasing its data cap and trying out some new data management approaches.
If you’ve watched any television over the holiday weekend, you probably saw one of Sprint’s iPhone commercials, which claims that the company “doesn’t limit the iPhone” thanks to its unlimited, unthrottled data plans – something no other major mobile carrier provides. It’s been a big marketing ploy for the company for a while now, but a new report suggests that limited airwave space may force Sprint to yank its unrestricted plans off the table sometime soon.
Netflix’s subscriber base for instant streaming seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, however, the rise of increasingly stingy bandwidth caps threaten to send it all crashing down. Netflix has introduced new methods of adjusting the video quality as a method of working around the problem, but the otherwise powerless company has finally decided to take it’s fight with ISP’s to the mass media. In an incredibly eloquent opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Netflix’s general counsel David Hyman tells us what he thinks of bandwidth caps, and why we shouldn’t put up with it.
Remember the days when unlimited Internet connections were just that? Unlimited? I’m not talking about a generational gap here—it seems like but a few years ago, that $40, or $60, or $80 you shuffled away to your favorite Internet service provider each month got you true unlimited Internet. You could download Linux distros until your router exploded; stream movies until your eyes exploded; play Counter-Strike until your… well, OK, Counter-Strike never really did use up that much bandwidth.
We live in different times now. Each bit and byte of data you transmit has an effective price tag: You’re paying for unlimited service so long as you, like many others, ignore the fine print that specifically tells you just how much unlimited service you’re going to get until your ISP gets pissy. Look, we can both agree that this practice is a complete joke, and it’s just one more way for your data providers to slowly squeeze the noose until we’re all paying $10 per picture we download on our mobile phones.
But is it really that bad?
It goes without saying that America’s Internet infrastructure (and pricing models) can vary wildly from those found in the rest of the world. But let’s not end the comparison with just a throwaway statement like that: How do American ISPs fare against their cross-cultural brethren? Does it get much worse than this… or better?