Piracy-free world to aid NBN business case?

All the brouhaha over whether NBN Co's pricing structure might kill off 1TB plans made me wonder whether NBN Co might be relying on changes to copyright law reducing user downloads.

All the brouhaha over whether the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co)'s pricing structure might kill off 1TB plans made me wonder whether NBN Co might be relying on changes to copyright law reducing user downloads.

Debate around NBN's pricing structure that charges $20 per 1Mbps of bandwidth has been heated, particularly on Whirlpool, where some have suggested that this could lead to the end of unlimited or 1TB download plans because retail service providers (RSPs) would not be able to afford its customers using that much bandwidth constantly.

When iiNet cancelled AAPT's unlimited downloads plan after it took over the company last year, CEO Michael Malone said that people on unlimited plans tended to be "leeches".

If customers were not downloading mass amounts of illegal material would they need such large download quotas?

I'm going to preface this by saying that I'm sure that there are many legitimate and legal uses for 1TB plans and I have no doubt that in the future, these sorts of plans will be commonplace with all the applications and streaming video and other content we will undoubtedly use on the NBN. However, I'd be pretty confident to wager that the average terabyte downloading customer today uses the majority of their quota on BitTorrent.

Yet all this might change. Despite iiNet's recent victory in the appeal of the copyright infringement case brought against it by the Australian Federation, one way or another, it looks like RSPs in Australia are eventually going to be forced to start cracking down on piracy in Australia. This may be through a future High Court ruling on the iiNet case, through RSPs developing their own industry code or through legislation introduced by the government.

Whichever of these scenarios occurs, it means that in the long run, Australia's biggest downloaders will be forced to curb their enthusiasm for piracy or risk paying the price.

So when people slowly move onto the NBN over the next ten years, if they aren't chewing through as many GBs in fear of being caught out by the cops, they'll likely initially opt for a download plan that is much lower than what we're seeing today, which will be cheaper for the RSPs to offer.

The sticking point will be if the content owners such as AFACT get with the game and find a way to offer their products to consumers to download online at a reasonable price and in a timely fashion. And I hope they do.

But then NBN Co's pricing model might be in a bit of trouble.

However, it might be a problem we don't really need to worry about right now. Looking at recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the three months to 31 December 2010, Australians downloaded over 191 petabytes of data. While this represents an increase of 20 per cent on the prior three months, when you divide the figure by the 10.4 million internet subscribers, it only equates to roughly 18GB per customer in that three month period. That's roughly 6GB per month.

What this means is that the average Australian internet consumer probably doesn't care if 1TB plans will be affordable on the NBN. So, sorry to the unlucky few.