To put it bluntly, I hate Comcast. Pretty much everything about the company and its offerings are mediocre, and now they are going to help the US become mediocre with them. Comcast recently announced that they will begin capping downloads after 250 gigs of data has been transferred per month. While arguably high compared to some other nations, the problem lies in how this will impact innovation. Just as we are beginning to see the web develop into a place where rich media is not only possible but maturing at a rapid pace Comcast decides to send us to a screaming halt.
WORKING WITHIN LIMITATIONS
Web designers have been working within a huge amount of limitations since the web was conceived. One of the largest limitations faced by designers has always been balancing aesthetic choices with technical limitations like download sizes and speeds. In one swift move, Comcast has now asked us as designers to weight the importance of rich media content. If this trend continues and it spreads to other broadband providers what is to stop them from initiating different lower bandwidth caps?
THE IMPACT ON MEDIA CHOICE
What impact will this decision have on the development of Flash? Even though I don’t think flash is appropriate for all needs, there are situations where it is not only appropriate but even more effective. Flash however demands bandwidth. Compression has improved over the years but visitors worried about reaching their bandwidth cap may be afraid to visit these sites. This is where the real effect on web design could appear. If viewers must weigh the decision to visit a site based on the trade off against bandwidth consumed, then innovation stops. Designers will be forced to design sites that are small in file size and without rich media.
ARE THEY KILLING (OR SLOWING) THE COMPETITION
The expansion of broadband has led to many new companies and services that rely on the broadband. We have seen innovation come in the way of ipTV (no doubt Comcast wouldn’t mind slowing this down), Netflix on-demand (competitor to their on-demand services?), and YouTube (pulling younger viewers away from TV). Each of the innovative services that are most hurt by Comcasts decision also seem to be the ones that compete the most with its own services. The potential of damage to these services alone is enough to see that there is a need to question their motives.
THE REAL PROBLEM IS THE SERVICE SUCKS
The real problem here is that the level of service we are paying for just isn’t meeting the demand. This new policy is just a band-aid on a gaping wound. Hopefully some of the other providers will capitalize on this opportunity and distribute their better services to these Comcast users. Either way I hate Comcast and if I had another choice of provider it most certainly would not benefit them.
What are your opinions, how do you think this will effect innovation in web design? I am also really interested in what the people in areas with bandwidth caps do now. If you already have to deal with bandwidth caps, how do you deal with it?