The race to cap bandwidth in the consumer market will have the opposite effect desired by the network providers. How can I know? Simple, these companies are just not very nimble. The very fact that they are trying to hold the dyke back with their thumb (and a straight face) is proof that they have no clue what the future holds. This reminds me of the days when they tried to enforce a ban on home networking and WiFi. These same guys thought they could tell consumers they must buy a separate connection for each computer in a household. Wise up guys, I will gnaw off my arm before I become your hostage.
The short term effects could pose a threat to businesses who rely on customers to consume large files such as video, the backlash will come quickly when people realize they are getting gouged. Look for the following new technologies to emerge shortly:
1. Network resource aggregating tools - I've often wondered when someone will make a tool that let's me subscribe to multiple services and manage them through a single network hub. When my Cable connection goes down, I roll over onto AT&T fiber for example. I suspect this will come out very quickly if caps are enforced.
2. WiMax - This is already rolling out but it will get more traction when people start feeling shafted by their hard-line (pun intended) provider. I will go out of my way to punish a provider who is acting in bad faith. Most of us feel that way don't we?
3. Shared Services - From my house I can see three of my neighbors WiFi networks. The more we feel screwed over by the cable company, the less guilty we start feeling about setting up a nice shared secure network.
Don't despair, we consumers are a lot brighter than the guys running these cable companies. The biggest risk we really run is that we put these guys out of business when we punish them, that would reduce choices (but right now, it looks attractive to me).