The stupidity of internet caps

The internet. The great invention of our time. Well, moreso the public acceptance of it versus the invention, but you get the idea. Just a few hours ago I got an alert on my tablet about severe weather in my area. Think about that for a second: you could have an internet (and other things) portal in your house that’s not being used audibly notify you that something’s up. I’ve got a weather radio in my house and frankly it sucks. Yet my wonderful little 9″ tablet sitting on my bed warned me about some dodgy weather in the neighborhood by making a noise. A certain noise, too, as I instantly recognized what app had warned me of what. Isn’t technology great?

It is when it isn’t run by people with a bottom line to worry about.

Several months back (perhaps two years or more), my internet provider announced it would start enforcing the caps for usage. The limits had always been there, but never enforced. Unfortunately, Comcast started enforcing them. First it was 250GB a month, now it’s 300GB. Now, most people would probably look at that number and wonder who would ever use that in a month. I wasn’t particularly happy about having a data cap, but I was pretty much in the same boat: I only used perhaps 15GB a month on a regular basis. Not a big deal.

That was a long time ago.

We live in an era now that is more common than ever for people not to pay for cable or satellite TV. We became one of those households some time back. Our TV entertainment now is either streaming, or Blu rays. Mostly streaming. We only ever came close to hitting our cap in one month, but it was only by about 10GB. Until this month. It’s the 24th and I’m already over by 10GB. Why? Gaming.

Video gaming these days is completely different than five years ago. Then, digital distribution was still pretty rare, and I attribute it to pricing. Steam started over ten years ago, and in that time frame you really saw a shift from physical to digital distribution for PC titles. Microsoft and Playstation eventially got on board and really started pushing digital, this time with sales and free games with their subscription services. Nintendo, the only people in developed countries who still don’t understand how the internet works, even started having sales. At last, digital distribution became a viable alternative to buying retail copies. Particularly GameStop’s ‘new’ copies.

With the last generation, titles weren’t overly large to download. There were a few, but usually you’re looking at titles that are a few GB. Nintendo’s Wii U digital library generally still aligns with this. However, sometimes you’re talking 40-50GB downloads for major titles. A 50GB download would be 1/6 of my entire month. And patches? We don’t need no stinking patches! Unless…you actually want to use the game. What’s a 10GB patch between friends? There’s 1/5 of the month’s allotment.

Oh, but what if your console or PC goes boom? The horror? Well, at least you didn’t lose your purchases, they are all right there on the cloud for you to grab. RIP, your data cap. Or, you can try to download the games over the course of a few months. Nothing like owning a game and not being able to play it.

One would think this would be a great deterrent to digital distribution. I would agree, but the failure of a system doesn’t mean the product itself is a failure. I started calculating how much room it would take to store all my games, and beginning a project to do just that. Just what I had was a ton. I started thinking more about going digital. I get some pretty good games each month on the various Xbox and Playstation consoles and handhelds, free. Those would have to be digital regardless. Then I started looking at some sales available for digital titles, and wondered what the benefit of having them sit on a shelf would be. I could resell or trade, but I don’t usually do that anyway. It became even more enticing when my little one broke my Mario Kart 8 disc – never would have happened if I had gone digital.

So, I’ve started to go digital. In fact, I have one console that right now is exclusively digital. No real reason, I just found some good sales on the software. My internet cap, though is in tatters. I’ve used up one free extension of my cap that gives me 50 free GB, but I don’t think even that will be enough for this month, thanks to a SoA marathon my wife is on. I think her goal is to finish the series in four days. That’s what it is, unfortunately. This month though was hit by one of my consoles failing and having to redownload a bunch of games. I went too far, and should have spaced it out more. But I shouldn’t have had to.

I’ll have the decision to make in a few months about whether to go to fiber. I get 300GB and 50 down for about $75 a month. And a handful of basic cable channels. Or I can get 1TB and 1TB down for about $150. $75 is a lot to pay for speed and some extra insurance. Perhaps there will finally be some competition though.

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