Is Comcast Trying to Be the Next AOL?


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Comcast has been riddled in the news lately. Bandwidth caps, overage fees all for simply the internet. However they simultaneously opened Fancast – a Video which won’t go against that cap. They also have, Disney Connection and Rhapsody Player Plus – All within their community.

There was another that tried to keep their members contained within their virtual fence. That was AOL.  However, AOL has been opening up for all to use. Still, I have to ask the question: Is Comcast becoming the next AOL?

AOL came onto the scene after the previous versions, , then Quantum Link, almost put the company into Bankruptcy.  AOL created a “Walled Garden”, or a community within their systems but also the ability to move outside the walls if needed. AOL was the most used Dial Up Internet provider – but as people started moving to cable or DSL, AOL began to lose its luster.

Recently, Comcast has been under fire because it was trying to give everyone the best experience possible. They started by curbing Peer to Peer and high bandwidth users. When they were stopped – as well they should have been – Comcast moved on to more drastic measures.

On October 1st, Comcast will be implementing a 250 GB cap on their customers internet access: That is, unless you use their community services. Fancast, the video download site, won’t be applied to the cap. I would guess that Rhapsody, Disney and any other service that is a part of Comcast will also be available to download at will. Of course, that is just a guess, but if I was a business with alliances, I would give them special preference so all customers are happy.

Comcast has been under fire with the overcast that it is acting like a Monopoly. If they continue to give unfair advantage to the internet community, it may be determined as such. However, in order to be a Monopoly, you must drive out competitors to be the only game in town. Comcast has not done such – there’s DSL, wireless and of course dial up options if you choose to leave. Comcast is not trying to affect any of those businesses.

As for their other services, anyone can sign up for and use Fancast. Therefore, as a non-ComCast customer, I can watch the same shows as any ComCast customer. The only difference is if I was a ComCast customer and want to go to a different site to watch the same content, I would be charged against the bandwidth usage. That does give an unfair advantage over a site like Netflix, iTunes or Hulu.

Of course, maybe Comcast is trying to deter the Peer-to-Peer community in another way since they have been slapped on the wrists for curbing group. If they cap at 250 GB, then give the customers a bevy of high-bandwidth sites they can use without affecting the cap, the customers may never get to that 250 limit unless they use those unapproved sites and services. Once this is speculation, but it would be a sneaky way to curb those downloading copyrighted material.

The key will be if ComCast gets paid for those services to be under the cap-free zone. I, as a webmaster, shouldn’t have to pay an ISP if I have a website that delivers large amounts of content. That would then be considered an unfair advantage.

AOL’s Walled Garden did face some questions about Monopoly. They did have content that you could only get to if you were an AOL member. Of course, all I then had to do was pop in a CD and register for a 30 day free trial. I wouldn’t be surprised if companies were charged to be inside the wall.

So is Comcast a Monopoly, or a Walled Garden? Are they giving an unfair advantage to unaffiliated companies? Will this Cap cause customers to move back to slower methods? Only will tell that, but the reality is, the average internet user might not even come close to 250 GB. Just as long as I don’t start getting Comcast CD’s in the mail…

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