Click through for photos from the White House premiere of Lifetime's The Road to Bountiful, the party for the season-four return of IFC's Portlandia and more events for the week of March 10.
Porsches and Speed Limits
Here’s a seeming paradox: Cable operators – specifically, Comcast — are hyping their ability to deliver 100-Mbps Internet service as soon as this year.
And yet, Comcast is also placing bandwidth restrictions on network usage. The FCC is investigating Comcast for allegedly slowing down peer-to-peer traffic generated by BitTorrent. (True, the FCC is itself being probed, but that’s another story).
Comcast defends the bandwidth-throttling practice as "reasonable network management" and says it’s necessary to ensure that all subscribers get a good level of service.
Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable recently said it’s going to test tiered usage plans in Texas that would — under the most generous offer — let subscribers download 40 Gigabytes per month, then charge them for any overage like a mobile-phone contract.
So what do you get if you combine a 100-Mbps modem with a 40-Gig cap? You get to use up your monthly limit in well under an hour.
On stage at CES, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts downloaded a 4.7-Gbyte HD file of Batman Begins in less than four minutes using a "wideband" modem. Which means you could suck down 40 Gigs of data in about half an hour. Presumably, though, a 100-meg service would have a little higher ceiling.
High-speed gear will keep pushing what’s technically possible beyond what’s financially viable for operators. Cisco this month talked about a 1-Gigabit-per-second "virtual" cable modem, layered on top of a passive optical network. This is roughly the amount of bandwidth you need to teleport small mammals. But what would be the pricing structure to support that service?
The 100-Mbps wideband modem, then, comes down mainly to one thing: bragging rights. Namely, bragging rights over Verizon’s FiOS Internet. (As things stand now, at least, since the top speed with FiOS is 50 Mbps.)
There’s clearly marketing value in offering something that, in a certain sense, has no practical value. Consider that Porsche sells cars in the U.S. with top speeds of more than 200 m.p.h. Nope, you can’t drive to the mall at more than 30, or on an interstate past 70 or so. But dude, just listen to that engine as I rev it at the stoplight!