In recent months businesses with an online presence have been forced to consider that what was once their bread and butter may become toast very soon if Internet service providers follow through with their plan to limit the amount of Internet data their customers may consume in a particular billing period.
Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert only to have the waiter bring just the appetizer and half the entrée because he decided you’ve had enough for one day. That’s essentially what ISP provider Comcast, the country’s largest provider of cable services and one of the world’s leading communications companies, is doing by imposing a cap of 250GB a month on user Internet data consumption. And where one leads, others follow. Time Warner, Frontier, and Cox broadband service providers have begun implementing their own bandwidth caps. Time Warner has been testing caps ranging from 5GB to 40GB in Beaumont, Texas, with the threat of spreading them across the country and ultimately dictating how users will surf the Internet in the future.
Although companies such as Comcast and Time Warner state that less than 5 percent of their users will be affected by these caps, it could mean users will have to choose a lot more carefully which Web sites they view and what they download.
The ISP gate-keeping logic is simple: heavy users are a burden on Internet lines, slowing the experience down for others who don’t consume as much. By setting caps, providers will be able to halt heavier users from hogging broadband connections, thus setting a medium for everyone across the board and allowing faster connections and greater downloading rates.
It’s also speculated that because the Internet has allowed people to put down the TV clicker and instead view their favorite shows, videos, and movies online, that the providers of cable TV’s on-demand services are behind the cap. Is it coincidence that cap levels are around the same size as a movie download?
Companies that rely heavily on the Internet for doing business may see this as a clear and present danger, especially video and media businesses that rely on customers to download copious amounts of data; customers will be forced to choose what they consume and advertisers will have to choose where they spend their dollars, adversely affecting these companies’ revenue and possibly putting them out of business.
It’s speculative but it’s not hard to imagine that ISP providers would begin building a tier-style structure where businesses will have to guess at and choose their level of usage or participate in a pay-as-you-go-type system, which would immediately affect heavy users with high prices or even cut them off for exceeding bandwidth limits.
Whether it’s the ISPs’ intention to limit competition or actually benefit customers, it’s most certain that businesses with heavy Internet usage will either be hit with extensive charges or be pushed out and forced to fold.