Sorry Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Blockbuster, and iTunes... We're Out of Internet

In just the past few months:

Netflix has struck more deals with more and more CE partners, now offering on-demand movie streaming capabilities through both the XBOX 360 and TiVo set-top DVRs.

Blockbuster has teamed up with 2-Wire to create their own set-top receiver, where customers can stream rented movies instead of getting them on disc by mail or in one of their stores.

Sling Media, creator of the Slingbox, let loose the SlingCatcher and web portal. SlingCatcher lets Slingbox owners watch their home cable or satellite box on other TVs around the house, or over the web at a remote location. is a lot like Hulu, poised to offer on-demand TV and movies to a PC web browser and (eventually) their SlingCatcher set-top. Uniquely Sling, it also offers an online SlingPlayer app that let's Slingbox owners watch their own TV right on the site.

Speaking of Hulu, they’re gaining ground fast, quickly becoming the go-to source for classic and current TV shows and movies for the web-savvy generation, some going so far as to forego traditional TV services and opt for online delivery. On top of this, many analysts predict Hulu will eventually overtake YouTube as the number one online video destination site.

As you can see by the examples above, the consumer electronics and entertainment industries are continuing to innovate in the digital frontier, coming together to make devices that pull TV, movies, and other digital media from the Internet and display it on PCs, TVs, cell phones, and other mobile devices. But there's a huge problem inherent to this trend - it's reliance on the Internet; something driven by an industry going in the completely opposite direction. Without drastic change from one side or the other, an all out war is brewing between those using bandwidth and those providing it. In other words, it’ll be CE vs. ISP vs. pocketbooks.

And pocketbooks win. Sorry guys... we're just running out of Internet.

It wasn’t long ago that Comcast, the largest broadband provider in the United States, announced they would be implementing measures to prevent service abuse on their network. Their argument that a small percentage of their customers downloading TV shows and movies over P2P networks were using a significant amount of bandwidth. It started with traffic-shaping technologies, slowing down certain kinds of traffic (like P2P traffic), but eventually escalated to the implementation of a monthly bandwidth cap. Go over that, you get a warning. Go over it again, and you incur additional fees or can have your service terminated.

Now, other ISPs are jumping on the bandwagon. AT&T, one of the next largest Internet service providers around, recently announced it would be testing a monthly data cap for customers in Reno. The new cap allows for 20GB or 150GB of bandwidth per month depending on which speed tier the customer subscribes to, then $1 extra per GB after that; far less than Comcast’s seemingly generous 250GB of bandwidth per month.

AT&T isn't alone either. Many ISPs are looking into, or have already implemented, monthly bandwidth caps, filters, and traffic throttling initiatives to help curb data usage. All-you-can-eat data is reaching extinction.

I can understand why these measures would have made sense two or three years ago, when P2P really meant illegally downloading music, movies, and TV. It was (by far) the most data intensive thing you could do online. We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think P2P (now mainly BitTorrent) isn't still consuming a good deal of Internet bandwidth for nefarious activities, but what's different today from yesterday is there are now several LEGITIMATE and LEGAL bandwidth intensive devices and services.

To name a few:

  • Netflix on-demand streaming
  • Vudu (a movie rental service)
  • Slingbox (placeshifting)
  • Blockbuster Online (movie rental)
  • Hulu,, Joost, etc. (TV and movie streaming)
  • YouTube
  • XBOX Live!, PS3, and other forms of online gaming
  • VoIP and telephony
  • Online data backup services
  • Apple TV and iTunes
  • Internet radio (Pandora, ShoutCast, etc.)

Any one of these things alone (with reasonable use) probably wouldn't chew though Comcast's bandwidth cap, but add the ones you use together, tack on regular web-browsing and e-mail, then multiply it by a family of four. It should become clear that 250GB simply won’t take you all that far over the course of a month, and AT&T's paultry 20GB max could be used up in a matter of days.

With the CE industry serving up compelling, legal solutions for entertainment delivery, there's only one question that remains to be answered. Are people going to continue using these services once the $300 bandwidth bill comes in the mail? We not be able to answer that today, but what I can tell you is that it's going to get messy very, very soon.


I'm wondering if the ISP's simply want to protect their bottom line, and that they KNOW that people are going to be going over their bandwidth caps due to the rising popularity of these services. Perhaps they're slowly setting the stage for more (and higher) bandwidth-tiered pricing.

I agree that it's going to get messy, especially when you average family, who is doing nothing wrong and certainly not "abusing" their network connection by watching streaming videos (that they may PAY for), gets a huge bill from AT&T or a cancellation notice from Comcast.

I, for one, am using more and more streaming services... hope it doesn't happen to me, too...

Interesting article.
It made me look to see what I used last month.
On the WAN 20.5 GB Down and 5.5 GB up. But my average is 25 GB an 6 GB.

The limits are just a way companies can create a revenue stream. Similar to Cell phone plans.

I don't like it but I think its coming. :(

Pffft. They have said the same thing about bandwidth and processing power before. The solutions are there, but companies like comcast and AT&T are backwards and refuse to innovate. They would rather clamp down on progress and give you poorer service.

This is why they want government regulation on the matter. That way, everyone is playing the same game. Right now, when they clamp down, other players have a chance to steal their lunch when they're willing to innovate to find ways to provide the needed bandwidth (or other solutions).


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