Monday, December 13, 2010...11:35 am

What will broadband usage restrictions mean for journalism?

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In a very interesting analysis from tech site GigaOM, Joe Weinman looks at how more tightly metered broadband services will affect web content.
As broadband services become more finely tiered – ie you pay for what you use and real “unlimited” broadband becomes a thing of the past – many of the services and content we are taking for granted will come up against a brick wall.
Take video. Web users and the media are taking on board the idea that web video is the future and will become more and more ubiquitous. Yet, as telecoms companies make their pricing more specific to usage, heavy video consumption will carry more of a cost for users (and possibly producers, if ISPs are allowed to create a two-speed internet).
Among other possible effects, Weinman suggests there will be:

  • Less random streaming video – consumers will seek out content specifically, thus demanding better quality
  • Pressure on peer-to-peer (p2p) sharing – ISPs may achieve through pricing what governments and copyright owners have failed to achieve through legal action
  • Data efficient apps and content – file sizes will start to matter again

Very interesting stuff – well worth a read. We often forget that the creative technology is not the only factor driving innovation in the media – often it’s our technical infrastructure that lies behind creative change.


  • Here in New Zealand we’re a long way from the rest of the web, international traffic needs to paid for, so we live with tight data caps.
    Typically a user might have 4 or 5GB a month. This doesn’t last long when random, unexpected videos turn up – so a lot of people block this content. It certainly doesn’t help publishers to add video to their pages.

  • We dont have this problem in the UK,broadband in most cases is unlimited so it doesnt cause any problems when using Internet and browsing various sites with or without videos.

  • Actually broadband in the UK is increasingly not unlimited – most services have a usage limit now, which is quite easy to exceed (as I have discovered, to my cost). It’s only the premium end that offers unlimited (BT’s 24.99/month product, for example). I suspect that this is the way broadband will go. Bill’s experience is at the more restricted end of the spectrum – but ours will head that way…

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