HomeMoreBroadband Operators ‘Contemplate’ Consumption Tiers

Broadband Operators ‘Contemplate’ Consumption Tiers

If NewSite, Joost, and other Web media businesses prove viable, their subscribers may face policies that limit broadband data consumption in an environment of inevitable bandwidth scarcity, say cable and telco operator executives.

Neither last-mile broadband connections nor the public Internet itself could accommodate a significant shift of TV viewing from the living room to broadband-connected PCs and other devices, warn chief technology officers for cable operators Time Warner Cable and Suddenlink, who spoke at the cable industry’s Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ annual Cable-Tec Expo, June 20 in Orlando, Fla.

At the same time, DSLPrime.com quotes AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson vowing that AT&T will “control the video on our network.”

Rather than blocking any Web service, both types of operators would likely employ quality of service (QoS) policy automation to develop and enforce tiered services, each tier being defined by various monthly data consumption limits.

A policy server would contain and enforce rules associated with each subscriber account, allowing the network to automatically decline to authorize a data session if the subscriber has reached his or her limit. Policy technology suppliers suggest that operators could offer an upgrade to a higher consumption tier at that juncture.

“To support even one-quarter of TV viewing would bring the public Internet to its knees,” Time Warner Cable CTO Mike LaJoie said during a conference almost entirely focused on increasing usable cable bandwidth through switched digital video, broadband channel bonding, and other emerging technologies.

“If a real business model evolves [around over-the-top Web video services like Joost], introduction of QoS would have to come into play. There has to be an economic return.”

During the same panel discussion, which closely followed an announcement by Cox Communications CEO Patrick Esser that he has given his engineers marching orders to recover enough bandwidth from existing networks to accommodate 50 high-definition TV channels by year’s end, Suddenlink CTO Terry Cordova said, “Setting up tiers with consumption limits is something we’re contemplating.

For a high-end user, maybe they sit in a 2-gigabyte package, and a more casual user is happy with a hundred-megabyte package.”

According to DSLPrime.com, when asked before taking the helm of AT&T whether MovieLink, Google or other media portals will be able to stream full-quality, live video over AT&T’s networks without partnering with AT&T, Stephenson, then COO of the company, said, “Oh, no! They’ll have to make a deal with us. We‘re going to control the video on our network.”

Assuming Web video services continue to gain traction as direct-to-broadband-consumer alternatives to operator programming packages, video traffic could threaten to overwhelm limited broadband pipes, and contemplation of consumption tiers could evolve into actual policy implementations. Whether such a turn would transform currently quiet ‘Net neutrality’ discussions among lobbyists and legislators in action on Capitol Hill remains an open question.

As reported in ScreenPlays, March 2007 (page 6), Google’s own TV technology chief Vincent Dureua has conceded publicly that “The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s doesn’t scale” for a video-intensive Internet. “It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.”

Prakriti Paudel
Prakriti Paudel
With a passion for both gaming and storytelling, Prakriti has established herself as a prominent figure in the gaming content creation sphere. With a sharp attention to detail and a talent for captivating writing, Prakriti crafts compelling articles, reviews, and guides that resonate with gamers worldwide.


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