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Devil’s Advocate: Future of the Net

Is this the beginning of the end? or the end of the beginning?  Comcast’s recent bandwidth cap announcement has netizens across the interwebs abuzz with speculation about the future of the Net.

While some of us still remember the days of pay-per-hour access (from the likes of AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve, to name a few), most users have come to expect/take for granted “unlimited” access.  The truth of the matter is that a 250gb monthly cap will only affect a small percentage of power-downloaders (aka college kids) with the rest of us feeling little to no squeeze, yet.  Besides, downloading movies/tv shows/music is so 6 months ago…

As network speeds continue to ramp up, and as access becomes more and more ubiquitous (see e.g. WiMAX), users will no longer need/want to download content…we will just stream it.  All one needs to do is take a quick look around the Net.  For example, this fall will mark the first time in (NBC/Fox) broadcast television history that season premieres will be available online before being broadcast over-the-air (see Hulu Launches Fall Lineup).

In no way am I advocating/condoning abusive web-access policy…simply trying to keep some perspective. The Net is still in its infancy.  In just a short time (scientifically speaking) we have seen the Internet evolve from Web 1.0 (static information – text, images, links, etc) to Web 2.0 (dynamic content-on-demand – video, VoIP, IPTV, etc) and, in the near future, to Web 3.0 (some form of reliable cloud computing – seee.g. Meet Chrome).

As the lines between traditional media/communication/content continue to blur in the online medium, access providers will be forced to evolve as well, or be left in the dust.  In the same way that many of us have given up hard-wired phone lines in favor of mobile, most of us will give up hard-wired Net access in favor of nationwide wireless.  If Comcast, TimeWarner, and others continue to play by the old rules, they might just go the way of the telegraph