Beginning October 1st, Comcast, one of the country's largest ISP's, will begin capping bandwidth at 250 GB per month for its residential customers. Two violations and they will shut you off forever, no questions asked.
While I do not want to paint as bleak a picture as the celebrated cognoscenti who believe that this move is "the end of the Internet as we know it", this does represent a quantum shift - and will most likely fundamentally change user behavior.
I do not believe this is a slippery-slope either - capping bandwidth will not eventually lead to black helicopters descending on your home when you surf to a site that is not friendly to the state.
However, this greatly affects the publisher and content producer's internet strategy.
There as long been a tenet on the Internet that "today's geeky power user is tomorrow's average user". This has not eluded those at Comcast. Today, those aforementioned geeks consume information at a massive level - including video. Lots and lots of video.
It is pretty obvious to see what leak Comcast is trying to plug. Hulu, Netflix, Amazon On-Demand, CelebTV.com (an ePublishing client) now have a new challenge. The cost structure of your delivery channel just changed overnight and a third party is imposing their will on your clients.
To give you some idea, the average 2-Hour HD movie is 8GB. Comcast claims their average user only consumes 2GB per month, so they state 250 GB is "plenty". So, why are they metering it at all if this is the case? Why not get people to pay incrementally for more usage? Quite simply, I believe Comcast is simply being prescient and protecting their Video-On-Demand business.
A greater problem is that publishers are now having a third party mediate content between them and their reader. And that third party is now making editorial decisions for you. How? We all spend resources trying to encourage more "time-on-site" - and the explosion of video has created a built-in and viral method for doing so.
Your users may now spend less time on your site - avoiding "heavy bandwidth" applications such as video and webinars. Unfortunately these are the exact features and functionalities that publishers spend lots of time putting together to generate revenue. Historically, much of our clients' traffic is from those users who like to "wander" in a site - be that a B-to-B website or a B-to-C website.
If wandering in a website now costs the user more, they may start reducing their time-on-site, and if they start to think twice before racking up a lot of page views - that is not good for anyone.