A Data Cap Might be Technically Bearable, But it’s Consciously Limiting

An interesting statement emerged on NewTeeVee today. Post author Chris Albrecht quotes Roku VP of consumer products “It’s unfortunate that the limitless possibilities are being capped by an ISP [Comcast], but it has no direct business impact on us.” Roku, for those unaware, is in a partnership with Netflix to deliver streaming movies on a $99 buy-in deal fully subsidized through one’s monthly rental subscription cost. Comcast, meanwhile, will be initiating a bandwidth limit of 250GB for residential broadband users per month starting in October.

Let me say that 1) the limits to be enact could have a direct business impact on Roku, and 2) of course the company will say otherwise. The reason being that it is in Roku’s interest to disregard changes at Comcast. If it were to complain in ways that prospective users would notice, it might risk cutting into sales by dissuading shoppers concerned about hitting the data limit. And at this point in time, Roku likely doesn’t need such disruptions to its output.

VP Tim Twerdhal says that consumers’ choice of downstream video bitrates allows Roku to safely stay within the bounds set by Comcast. A valid point. Equally valid is his explanation that visual quality will be sustained while bitrates drop as the technologies involved improve and advance. But such progress is a relative unknown to Comcast’s very real “cut-off.”

Furthermore, it only takes knowledge of existence a limit - not too big or too small - to influence consumer decisions. Give a user warning of what might be if he/she were to seek the full potential (or close to it) of modern conveniences like high-quality media downloads, and that tricky thing known as deliberation creeps into the picture. A user might begin to weight the pros and cons of his/her situation. And that eventually eats into interconnected economies. With the movie/TV download sector being one of the hungriest around today.

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