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AT LARGE: Cable query

AT LARGE: Cable query

Cable Internet is cool. I know I complained a heck of a lot while I was trying to get it hooked up, but now I've got it, it's cool. I've become a download junkie. My spare time is spent watching short films on the Web, listening to music, watching the news - I've spent hours with BBC World streaming away on my desktop, even though I could just as easily switch on my TV and watch it that way. It's cooler to watch it on the Web, don't you think?

I shop, I chat, I "instant message", I watch movie trailers, I swap MP3s. I've actually gone through the Real.com "showcase" page for people with high-bandwidth connections and watched some of the stuff available. Most of it's rubbish, of course, just filler put up on the Web so that some hype-monger could point to the "gigabytes of content" available. But the thing is, I can watch it if I want to. Previously, when I've tried to access this page, it's detected that I had a 56K modem and barred my entry. Now, I click right on through - it's like being given the key to the executive loo.

And all of this, of course, is in addition to the actual work I do - the reason I got the cable in the first place. I shuffle large files back and forth between my home in Sydney and my office in Melbourne, and I do it a lot. I tried it for a while over my old 56K and it was no fun at all. Now it's a trice. That's right, a trice. Always wanted to use that word.

Of course, cable Internet is not without its limitations, most of them imposed artificially by the vendors involved. Optus, my provider, says I can pull as much content off the Web as I want, but if I use more than 10 times the average user, I'm cut off with no course of appeal. Brutal but fair.

So it was with some trepidation that I checked my usage stats for the first time last week. I certainly had reason to fear I had exceeded my allotment - see above. Imagine my shock and wonder at being told I was running at 0.4 times the average use of the service. Less than half. And I've not been frugal - quite the opposite. I expected I'd be at the very least skating the edges of Optus's patience, and instead I find I'm a rank amateur at this bandwidth-consumption game.

Which compels me to ask: what the hell are all these people downloading?

Matthew JC. Powell really wants to know, so he can try it too. Tell him on mjcp@optushome.com.au


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