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"All-you-can-eat" bandwidth expectation shenanigans
Submitted by Scott Cleland on Mon, 2008-06-09 19:23
I wanted to follow up and build upon my post of last week: "The logic of Internet Pricing Diversity and the Fantasy of free limitless bandwidth."
- I keep hearing this backward-looking refrain from net neutrality proponents that because some people characterize dial-up and early broadband bandwidth as unlimited or as an all-you-can-eat usage model -- that that model should never evolve or change.
- Balderdash! This is some people's wishes being presented as analysis.
I believe U.S. Internet access consumers have come to understand at least two truths:
- First, there is a wide diversity of market prices for Internet/broadband access based on what one gets.
- One can get "free" broadband from a hotel, Starbucks or elsewhere, if the WiFi hotspot owner chooses not to charge separately for it.
- One also can pay for a WiFi hotspot a little or a lot, or one can pay a national hotspot provider.
- One can get different prices and speeds for slower dial-up wireline access ~$5-10.
- One can get slower broadband for ~$15-20 a month and can pay $30-50 or more a month from different providers for different speeds.
- One can pay a satellite company yet another pricing model.
- In much of the country, one can also get wireless broadband access from 4-5 providers at different prices depending on how much bandwidth one uses.
- The point here, is it is obvious to any Internet consumer with eyes or ears that Internet/broadband access pricing depends on how much bandwidth one needs/uses and how it is offered.
- In reality there has never been unlimited all-you-can-eat Internet access like the fantasylanders now claim because the speed limitation limited how much bandwidth one could naturally consume!
- Second, another reality of Internet access is that users are limited in how much the can "eat' by the congestion on the Internet at any given time.
- Any Internet/broadband user has said to themselves countless times, boy the net is slow...
- There is a natural limit on how much bandwidth anyone can eat given how much of it is being 'eaten' at any time by others.
Let's use the analogy of the all-you-can-eat buffet. Is it literally all-you-can-eat? Of course not.
- Its limited by time to how much one can eat at that sitting... not all day or week.
- Its limited per actual one user/eater, one can't share the food with all one's friends at the table.
- Its limited by location, one can't take home whatever food one wants to feed the neighborhood.
- Its limited by method, one has to use a plate and the serving utensils they give you; one can't legitimately take a shovel and a wheelbarrow up to the buffet bar and expect all-you-can-eat to mean -- one can shovel as much food as one's "innovation" can conjure up.
- What's most outrageous here is that those who are whining the most -- are those who want to bring a backhoe to the buffet table and load up their dump-trucks with all the food they can transport -- because they think they are being cute by screaming it says unlimited!
- That kind of shenanigans simply is not reasonable.
One of the biggest problems in the net neutrality debate is that there are many proponents that are so selfish and self-centered that they don't appreciate that the Internet is a shared medium that does not have unlimited bandwidth for everyone all the time.
- No one can afford building a gold-plated network for maximum potential usage. That would be like building 20-50 lane highways everywhere so no one ever gets delayed in traffic.
- That's ridiculous!
- However, its not ridiculous to many in the net neutrality crowd who are so self-absorbed at what they feel entitled to and what they demand, that they have totally lost sight of how their exteme bandwidth hogging could affect anyone else.
- Their response to any natural limitation of bandwidth is to scream conspiracy that capitalists are somehow trying to deny them the "economics of abundance" -- that they have decided that the world owes them -- because that's what they demand.
- Apparently they plan to kick and scream a net neutrality tantrum until everyone agrees to stuff an unlimited bandwidth pacifier in their mouth to shut them up.
Bottom line: The Internet is like any other community -- it can't allow a few to ruin the experience and utility of the Internet for everyone else. Free market experiments of high-usage bandwidth fees, or restrictions of extreme bandwidth usage during periods of heavy congestion are logical, sensible and reasonable solutions to real Internet capacity problems.