In an interview with Gamespot, Google Stadia VP Phil Harrison says that he’s not worried about data caps because he trusts that internet service providers will adjust and remove data caps in order to accommodate new technology.
“The ISPs have a strong history of staying ahead of consumer trends and if you look at the history of data caps in those small number of markets—and it’s actually a relatively small number of markets that have [data caps]—the trend over time, when music streaming and download became popular, especially in the early days when it was not necessarily legitimate, data caps moved up,” said Harrison. When pressed to answer whether he really believed ISPs could be trusted to raise data caps, Harrison responded that “ISPs are smart [and] they understand that they’re in the business of keeping customers happy and keeping customers with them for a long time.”
There is certainly plenty of room for debate about the whole “ISPs are smart” thing. It’s an especially surprising statement to hear from Google; the company whose own ISP is designed, in part, to encourage ISPs to improve their services and lower their prices.
There is some truth to what Harrison is saying, but he fails to address a few disturbing bits of information. First off, if you want to use Google Stadia at its highest settings (which is part of the appeal of the service), then you’ll not only need about a 35 MBPs internet connection, but it’s rumored that you’ll need a connection that can accommodate about a 15.75 GB of data an hour.
Internet caps vary (some providers don’t use them at all), but many major companies utilize a 1TB internet data cap while charging about $10 for every 50 GB you go over. Assuming you don’t use your internet for anything but Stadia (which doesn’t seem likely), then you’ll hit that 1TB limit after about 65 hours of 4K Stadia play. That issue doesn’t even account for the possible consequences of recent net neutrality rulings.
The point is that we’re excited about the future of Google Stadia and other cloud gaming services, but it does feel a bit naive to suggest that possible practical limits to those services won’t be a problem because of the goodwill your friendly neighborhood internet service provider.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.