After their usual ritualistic scramble to get there first, owners of the new iPad are finding that the device’s super-sharp Retina display gobbles up their monthly data-plan allotments within a matter of hours — especially when they watch TV shows and movies. A standard data plan, which once spread before smartphone and tablet addicts like an unlimited Sizzler buffet, is now about as filling as eating a baggie of baby carrots in the age of 4G.
Everyone’s simply outraged, as only privileged people in 2012 can be, placing the blame on the big plan providers (Verizon and AT&T, namely) for not having anticipated the increasingly entitled appetites of a wired world. They have to blame someone, and of course, they can never blame their beloved Apple for dreaming too far ahead of what the broadband spectrum could presently bear.
I’m trying not to laugh.
In almost three years as The Washington Post’s TV critic, I am routinely informed by my readers and peers that they no longer watch TV. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t watching TV shows, because they are, online, all the time. They stream entire seasons of the boutique cable dramas — legally, but not always — as well as the dregs of the reality genre. They watch on their phones, their iPads, their laptops and even a conventional flat-screen set that has no cable or satellite feed. I, too, watch a lot of my TV workload on something other than my home and office televisions.
This cut-the-cable trend has become self-perpetuating and is always tinged with revolutionary brio: It’s better this way, claims the hyper-techie TV expat. I never have to watch ads. (Not true.) They talk about it as if spending one’s day on the iPad is some sort of health movement, while watching TV is for suckers.
I’d feel more sorry for these maximum broadband types if they hadn’t been so neener-neener about it. In this era of hubristic and even pompous demands for constant upgrades, the piggies have run smack into a wall that almost anyone could have seen coming.
Funny how the old things occasionally come out ahead. That great crank Fran Leibowitz once observed how, in the beginning, you could plug a television into any socket in your house and watch it for free. Then came “progress”: We had to start paying for it and tether the TV to a cable outlet. Now you’ll get an enormous Verizon bill because you just had to watch five episodes of “Community” in a Starbucks.
You want to watch gobs of TV? Then get a TV.