When I saw a recent news story about Google Stadia, and the fact that other console makers, like Microsoft and Sony, are seriously considering moving to an all online gaming platform, and away from selling consoles, I immediately began to wonder how that would work with ISPs that have data caps and charges for using too much data. Karl Bode at Techdirt had a similar thought:
Comcast, for example, imposes a 1 terabyte monthly cap on its users, who have the option of either buying buckets of additional data at $10 per 50 GB, or paying a flat fee of $50 (on top of their already high broadband bill) to remove the cap entirely. Using Google Stadia at full 4K resolution will blow through that cap in less than three days. And Comcast’s 1 terabyte cap is among the more generous. Many DSL providers (like AT&T) impose usage caps as low as 150 GB a month. Many other rural ISPs have caps as low as 10 to 50 GB per month.
Now Karl’s math involves using it all day, every day, for three days to reach Comcast’s monthly cap, but he also points out that is on the higher end. A typical family with a couple of gaming teens would blow by the ISP limits pretty quickly. So how is that going to work out exactly? Are these companies investing in a product that can’t possibly succeed because of data caps? Are they convinced that the caps will increase, or go away, once there’s sufficient content that will create a massive user backlash against the ISPs, or are they already making deals with ISPs to allow their service to not count while competitors do count against data caps, for some serious fees? (This, by the way is what the lack of net neutrality allows, ISPs are free to favor the service they create themselves, or one they get a bunch of money from, over other internet traffic.)
Since I’m not a cord-cutter, I actually have had some of the same questions about online video services like Amazon and Netflix as well. How much time do you have to spend monitoring that internet usage when watching online? Is it something you have had problems with? I am both an AT&T internet and TV customer so mine is unlimited, but I do wonder about how much these caps come into play for anyone now, let alone when you want to play 4k games online.
Of course, I don’t even know how this works once we start looking at 5G mobile devices. How are they going to live up to their promise with the caps in place by the mobile carriers?
I guess we’ll see. There’s a lot of money involved in the gaming and online video market, I’m sure some of that will grease the wheels, I just don’t know how fair of a market it’s going to end up being.