Jan 192011

While HD streaming may be possible in Southeast Asia with their super fast broadband Internet, our (USA) infrastructure is chronically bandwidth-deprived and except for the early adopters which many of us can’t be due to nonexistent quality connections (in my downtown Chicago building for example), not many people can really have what nowadays should be called the high speed Internet.  My ISP, AT&T ADSL (perhaps the last letter in the ISP abbreviation should be changed, particularly if it’s used together with ‘broadband’ – it is more of an internet service disabler than the internet service provider) has been unable to give me anything faster than 6 Mbps for many years and that’s slower than what I currently get when I tether or use the WiFi hotspot feature on my new 4G phone. Moreover, their download speed keeps getting lower and further away from the nominal one.  Currently the tests rarely show above 5 Mbps, sometimes lower.  That is really not enough for HD streaming.

A true HD streaming of Blu-ray quality would require over 30 Mbps, but no Internet company nor Netflix is currently streaming at that bandwidth since they don’t have enough customers capable to do it, Verizon FIOS perhaps being the only rare exception (which I still can’t get downtown Chicago).  So, since they can’t stream in such a high bit rate, they lower their HD quality and compress, compress. Since as I said, we can’t get FIOS, U-Verse or Comcast in this relatively big and new building in the middle of a major city, I doubt many people in the USA have what it takes to watch streaming movies in HD, not to mention the rest of the world.

I have many more examples from work where I learned that all these big companies that are using the “cloud” can’t transfer large files overnight from and to the cloud (the Internet) and their only fail-safe strategy is to ship the hard drives overnight via Fedex or UPS. Happens all the time and it can’t be improved overnight because this country is so incredibly widespread, still using the Bell telephone wires from many decades ago.

Even if we neglect the infrastructure problems, the “High Definition” streams from Apple, Sony and the others should NOT be allowed to carry the HD label because their movies have to be compressed so much more to lower the file sizes and the necessary bandwidth that they look subpar to Blu-ray HD video (and moreover sound) quality. So, as I wrote before (so I’m not plagiarizing anybody but myself), with bad infrastructure, highly compressed HD quality (or lack thereof), and too few people worldwide with speedy Internet for quality streaming, maybe the DVDs may get hurt with downloads and streaming, but Blu-ray will be around for a long time as the media with the highest video and sound quality that unlike the streamed video you can also lend, borrow and collect, and most of all, use it at any part of this planet that has electricity or somehow charged batteries.

True movie lovers will find a way to watch their movie in any possible way.  I was still a teenager when my hometown had a power outage when our favorite movie was on TV and my dad fired up a little Honda generator and we watched it in otherwise pitch dark town.  The little critter couldn’t power a light bulb aside from our old TV, but it held through the movie.  (Ask me what brand of mini van I drive and love nowadays.)  People will do amazing things just to get to movies and arts that feed their hungry souls, and these are the things you remember forever, and I’m sure there are some kids somewhere in some desert or rain forest watching somebody else’s Blu-ray who will talk about that, some of them perhaps in this country, decades from now.

But I digress.  Let me copy some reasoning from one of my old posts about digital downloads: One of the main prerequisites for digital downloads is high speed internet. With my current maxed out 6 Mbps (Megabits per second) speed which roughly equals .6 MB (MegaByte) per second downloads, it will take about half an hour on a good day to download a standard resolution (not HD) DVD size movie. Major US cities have similar maximum speeds available, but for that you have to be close enough to central office. Even if you have a whooping 10 Mbps which has so far been predominantly cable, it will take you about 20 minutes to download a DVD, again, on a good day and without many neighbors competing for bandwidth.

However, if you want to download a HD movie of a BD (Blu-ray disk) quality it will take you half a day at 6 Mbps to download one single layer BD, or one entire day at 6 Mbps (two days at 3 Mbps) to download a dual layer BD on a good day. Now, let’s have a little paradigm shift.  We assume that most people have access to high speed internet, but is that really the case?  Not in majority of the world, excluding southeast Asia, not even in the USA. On the other hand, every single place on this planet already has access to Blu-ray technology today which is already quite affordable and it will only keep getting cheaper.

Therefore, maybe the digital movie downloads are the future, but downloads and streaming of true HD digital movies are long time from now in a galaxy far far away.  I don’t know why Netflix is taking the queue additions from their streaming devices.  Perhaps they believe everybody is happy with their forged, “HD” streaming. I’m not, not because of them, but because of my ISP, and I don’t see good prospects for the most of our ISPs improvement for a while in this segregated monopoly they so nicely share among each other so they don’t have to improve.

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