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Google’s Phil Harrison isn’t worried about ISP data caps for Stadia

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‘ISPs are smart [and] they understand that they’re in the business of keeping customers happy.’

Image: Google

One of the questions surrounding data-hungry streaming services like Project Stadia is how they’ll manage with things like data caps, which some home internet services place strict limits on (similar to cellular data). But in an interview with GameSpot, Phil Harrison, vice president and general manager of Google, doesn’t seem too concerned that it’ll be an issue.

“The ISPs have a strong history of staying ahead of consumer trend and if you look at the history of data caps in those small number of markets ... 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,” explained Harrison. “Then with the evolution of TV and film streaming, data caps moved up, and we expect that will continue to be the case.”

Harrison would go on to note 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,” which seems like an overly optimistic view of both the relationship ISPs have with customers in the US and the state of the broadband industry in the US in general.

Given that many Americans don’t have much (if any) choice in their internet service providers and are often forced to deal with whatever prices and plans they’re given, expecting service providers — who are the source of the self-imposed caps in the first place — simply to meet market demand without consumers being forced to pay extra seems idealistic, given the state of the market. But who knows? Perhaps the demand for streaming game services will be enough for force the industry’s hand.

Harrison also pointed out that some estimates for how much data services like Stadia will use aren’t necessarily correct, due to how Google manages compression. But in any case, we don’t have long to wait to find out how Stadia handles these issues, given that the service is set to launch this fall for early adopters ahead of a wider rollout in 2020.