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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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February 8, 2008 12:09 PM

Cable's Big Bandwidth Problem

Everyone knows that cable companies have some problems with their broadband service.

Theirs is a shared network where one neighbor can have dramatically negative impacts on another's service.

There's the Comcast/Bittorrent brouhaha over the cable giant blocking or degrading sometimes-legal P2P traffic.

There are the mysterious bandwidth caps that punish users from consuming too much bandwidth.

And the deployment of FTTH networks like Verizon's FiOS are usurping cable's throne as offering the fastest advertised broadband around.

But even still the reality of where cable systems are and where they're heading still shocked me a bit as I read this DSLReports article about Canadian cable provider Videotron rolling out North America's first sighting of DOCSIS 3.0, the technology that's supposed to enable cable to hit those magical 100Mbps speeds.

The first thing that caught my eye were the packages Videotron is offering. While downloads at 30, 50, and even 100Mbps are fantastically impressive, they stood in stark contrast to the 1 or 2Mbps upload being offered.

That disparity is remarkable to me, and it suggest that the move to DOCSIS 3.0 while potentially great for downloading movies and the like will have next to no impact on the aspect of the Internet that makes it truly revolutionary: its capacity for two-way interactivity and communication.

This reality is especially depressing in light of some testing I've been doing of a videocalling-on-the-TV product called TVBlob I've been doing over my Comcast consumer cable connection, which despite my paying for the fastest service they offer couldn't deliver more than 512Kbps upstream, leaving a lot of real estate on the TV screen unused.

But that's not the most frustrating part. Alongside these massive upgrades in download capacity come pretty restrictive bandwidth caps. While I do have to give credit to Videotron for being transparent in the fact that they do have caps and clearly stating what those caps are, I'm not sure what good having an ultrafast connection is if I can only download 30 or 50GB a month.

Don't get me wrong. I'm almost positive I don't move that much data around today, but once I get my HDTV if I had 30Mbps to the home you can bet that I'd want to start downloading HD movies. And last time I checked, a single movie on Blu-ray can take up 30GB.

It's like giving me a bigger straw to drink from an endless smoothie, only the more I get used to drinking faster because I like it the more it's going to cost me.

It's not that I'm against metered bandwidth (more to come on that next week), it just seems like we're rapidly entering a world where bandwidth should be more available but it's coming with more restrictions.

We need to find a path to a future where we have more bandwidth and fewer restrictions while still acknowledging the need for whoever is making that bandwidth available can make their business viable.


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