It is interesting to watch the broadband fair usage debate evolve on the web. The debate on torrent shaping is raging in many geographies, with Bell Canada throttling P2P applications, Virgin UK trialing broadband caps based on usage at different times (when you hit the limit, your link is throttled for the rest of the month) and there has been much talk about the BBC iPlayer in the UK which has been a smash success while raising the ire of broadband providers as it shifts the viewing load from over air or via a TV subscription service to the Internet.

It is the fight that consumer advocates call net neutrality and broadband providers call fair usage. What becomes very interesting in this debate is that more than media is shifting to the web. It is not simply about people downloading copyrighted music or the latest bootleg movie. It is more than that. A few examples:

  • I have been doing a lot of work around figuring out our digital memories. How do I properly capture our adventures on photos and videos. I upgraded Pinnacle Studio to version 11 online which came with a digital download. The size of that download? 2.5GB. The amazing thing is that the download was unbelievably fast. Under the bandwidth with usage limits model, I would be cooked for the month. Of interest, while doing the download I had to reboot my router as I lost all Internet connectivity for some mysterious reason ….
  • Live Messenger has an amazing file sharing function. I often take my picture or video folders and simply drop them into the sharing folder with family. These folders can be as large as 2GB. What happens there?

This debate will get hotter as we watch applications evolve (software and services), new services like the BBC iPlayer launch and Internet penetration increase – after all, only 20% of the worlds population is on the net. One could hypothesize that something as simple as web cam penetration and usage will have a dramatic impact on this debate.

Personally, I always buy the top packages. I am fine with a higher price as my disposable income (and time) has shifted to the Internet over the last decade. I want a high level of service, a guaranteed quality of service and will pay the premium – but for that price I will resist throttling.

This will be an interesting debate. It has just started.

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