You Don't Promote Innovation By Holding Back Those Who Push The Boundaries

from the push-the-limits,-find-solutions dept

Mark Cuban has weighed in on the whole Comcast bittorrent kerfuffle, siding with Comcast, noting that he wants it (and other ISPs) to block P2P traffic because such traffic clogs the last mile and that’s inefficient and a problem. This is, unfortunately, the same kind of thinking that the telcos love: that the internet is somehow running out of bandwidth, and the more controls that are put on it, the better. However, that’s static thinking. It assumes a steady state, or, at best, linear growth of innovation and change. Unfortunately, that’s not how innovation works. The more people push the boundaries, the more demand it creates for better, more efficient solutions, and the more incentive there is to create such solutions. Rather than begging for artificial barriers to be put up, Cuban (and others) should be encouraging such uses. They push the boundaries to the point that people learn where the next big friction point is, and they innovate to get around it. When people are using up last mile bandwidth, all it’s doing is creating additional incentives to solve the problems and provide much larger pipes into and out of homes. For a content distributor, such as Cuban is these days, you would think that would be a good thing.

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Comments on “You Don't Promote Innovation By Holding Back Those Who Push The Boundaries”

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Benefacio says:


You manage to proclaim boundaries both good and bad in the same post. On the one hand the more barriers and restrictions that are placed, the more pressure to innovate around those barriers and restrictions builds. On the other hand, the more the pressure builds the more difficult it becomes to wait for the innovation to occur. Rough no matter how you look at it.

For me, I say bring on as many barriers and restrictions as it takes to break us out of the current mold we are in, I can stand it. Obviously, though, Mr. Cuban can’t.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Fascinating

He is speaking of two different kind of barriers. The technological or intellectual barriers that people have to work around, and the litigious boundaries that are forced upon the intellectual by the bureaucrats. The first are good because it forces innovation (necessity is the mother of all invention) and the second are bad because they halt innovation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Last Mile Bandwidth

You make two bad assumptions:

1- Resource Scarcity Will Drive Innovation
It MIGHT promote new networking technologies, but there are no guarantees when it comes to innovation.

2- Bandwidth is an ever growing and infinite resource
Bandwidth does grow, but only to the limitations of the network you are on. Be it your buddies LAN or the internet, your network connection speed will never exceed the media connected to it. While ISPs (Both Telcos and “other” ) are always improving networks, you have to keep in mind that total network capacity is a static and measurable resource, especially in the last mile.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Last Mile Bandwidth

1) Yes it will, there will always be people who push innovation to it’s limits just for fun. Look at all the people who are breaking the DRM on Blue Ray and HD-DVD just for the hell of it.

2) You act like my network is slower that the telcos. The fastest Internet connection that I have ever seen is 80M down (Japan I think where the telco monopoly doesn’t exist). I have a 100M network and can upgrade to 1000. Unlimited innovation will take us to places no one has ever dreamed of and technology will keep up if allowed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Last Mile Bandwidth

1) You’re repeating what I’m saying. Yes, innovation will happen, no, scarcity does not guarantee it. Like your example, Codec hacking is done for fun, not as a response to scarcity.

2) I didn’t say your local network was slower. I said it would be limited in speed by the capabilities of your media. In your case your current limitation is 100M. If you upgrade, your limitation will be 1000M. Your network speed (and bandwidth) is a finite, measurable number. In his little rant, Mike implies unlimited bandwidth on the internet.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Let The Sell It Their Way

For me, I see arguments on both sides of this issue. I think that ultimately the ISPs should be able to sell their product with throttling – if they’re honest about what they’re selling, and if they are agnostic about what they throttle.

– Honest: If an ISP wants to cap monthly throughput to prevent heavy users, then just say so. “Comcast HSI: $60/mo unlimited or $30/mo for 5GB of throughput.” Of they could simply say: “After 10GB of throughput, we throttle your throughput down to 256kbps.” I don’t like any of those offers, but it IS a case of a company selling me a limited shared resource, and if they are honest about what they are selling, then it seems fair. It’s the dishonesty in the marketing, sellign “unlimited” but then limiting it, that we hate.

– Agnostic: Funny how “neutrality” now has political strings. Anyway, the network they sell should be totally agnostic about the bits it transports for me. If I’m paying them to carry my bits, then they should bloody well do so. Snooping into my bits is an invasion of my privacy, and interfering with them is a violation of my trust, in conflict with our agreement that they will provide “Internet service”, possibly censorship, possibly anti-competitive, and possibly an interference with First Amendment rights. By trying to control the content, they also risk losing their status as common carriers, and actually might take on responsibility for all the traffic they carry.

In fact, many ISPs around the world work as above, charging per MB, or putting on caps, or throttling back after a threshold. People have noted that the US model of “all you can eat” promotes more innovation (of the Silicon Valley startup type). I might even agree, but innovation is not the responsibility of an ISP. Their job is to strike a fair deal with you for data transport, and then shut-up and carry the bits.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Let The Sell It Their Way

That’s fine if they do it that way. They’re not. They are blocking ports, monitoring traffic, and packet shaping. All these will negatively affect perfectly legitimate programs. Like lotus notes and comcast.

This also takes them out of the neutral 3rd party standing and makes them an accomplice in any illegal activity allowed over their network. It’s like letting someone borrow your car and they rob a bank. If you don’t know than your not at fault. If you do your an accomplice.

Combo X3

Richard says:

Mark Cuban may just be making amends with the Cabl

I think perhaps that there is another reason for these public statements from Mark Cuban.

I think its pretty well known that the cable system owners/operators are not happy with Cuban lately. They have consistently blocked his ability to promote his media offerings on most networks. If he wants to present any new channels on cable TV or wishes to purchase any other sports franchises (the Cubs?), then the cable operators and league owners will need to see that he is ‘concerned’ with their needs at the expense of the consumers. Statements like this recent one would go a long way towards that end.

Jim Harper (user link) says:

Don't Get Drawn Into Cuban's Vortex

I think maybe the incoherence of Cuban’s post might have rubbed off on you a bit, Mike.

As I understand it, the cable infrastructure is poorly designed for the protocols BitTorrent runs, which, after all, cause end-users’ computers to act as servers. A critical mass of BitTorrent users on one node collapse the entire thing and no traffic moves.

Resetting upstream BitTorrent traffic was Comcast’s solution. It seems to me to be sensible, and it is at least a matter of debate whether that approach was wrong.

What was pretty clearly wrong was Comcast’s failure to be clear about it in their public communications. This wrongly hampered competition by not making clear to BitTorrent (and similar)users that Comcast can’t handle them. Making users aware of this would mean that such users can opt for other service providers. Both Comcast and its competitors would have incentives to upgrade their infrastructure to meet the demands of BitTorrent and similar programs – bigger upstream traffic in general.

Cuban is wrong to argue that P2P is bad. But I think Comcast probably should block this traffic (at select times and locations, as it does) and be clear about it so that consumers can decide whether Comcast is right for them.

Comcast didn’t do this because it wants the Internet to run out of room. And I’m not familiar with the idea that telcos want the Internet to run out of room or want us to believe that it will run out of room. For example, Verizon was leaping on the Comcast kerfuffle to tout its phat two-way FIOS offering.

Your earlier post claiming telcos want to forebode “the end of the Internet” points to an industry-funded piece *promoting investment*, and here’s the spokesmodel in the story you were riffing on: “We’re not trying to play Paul Revere and say that the Internet’s going to fall,” says IIA co-Chairman Larry Irving. “If we make the investments we need, then people will have the Internet experience that they want and deserve.”

So, long story short – oops, wwaaayyyy too late for that! – Cuban’s wrong, but your answer here doesn’t have that clear pro-competition, pro-innovation vision that you so reliably bring. (It’s a high standard to meet, day after day after day!)

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Don't Get Drawn Into Cuban's Vortex

Bandwidth is a two way street. There is no difference between 20M down 1M up and 11M down and 10M up. Same bandwidth. The limitation is artificially imposed by comcast and every other ISP. Has been since dial-up times where it actually made sense. That’s the exact way T1 and T3 connections work. You are given a set amount of bandwidth (3M for T1) and you can split it any way you want (Usually 1.5 down and 1.5 up.)

Combo X4

Andy says:

Re: Re: Re: Don't Get Drawn Into Cuban's Vortex

Bennett’s comments are highly suspicious. He claims that TCP resets relieve congestion at the local MAC level and that conventional throttling via TCP ‘slow start’ doesn’t. But that doesn’t make any sense and I’ve seen no explanation of why that should be so. Slow start works by sending packets less frequently if they aren’t getting through (routers will drop packets if they can’t handle the load). If packets are being sent less frequently then why wouldn’t the local congestion likewise decrease? What is keeping congestion in check at all if not transmission rate?

bob says:

I think cities should follow the same guideline to alleviate traffic congestion.
Too many cars are clogging up the roadways.
We should institute mileage limits but not tell people what they are that would just encourage people to drive up to the limit.
We should also limit people to two wheels per person since that’s all you really need.
You can drive a bike or a motorcycle if you are single.
People can pool their allotment to get cars. People can also sell their allotment if they only use mass transit.
Families can even have multiple cars.

Doesn’t it sound unreasonable and silly when you apply it to roads?
What is the internet except an electronic road for bits?

TechnoBill says:

This sounds familiar.

Back in 1993 (summer/fall), I was really enthralled with this brand spanking new application called Mosaic, and loved what it could do on the university network during the day. But at night, via my blazing 28.8 kbps dialup connection, was a different story.

My statement at the time was along the lines of “this thing is great, but the images take up too much bandwidth… this thing will never fly.”

boomhauer (profile) says:

gotta wonder tho

is there a limit to how much bandwidth a consumer can possibly use? i mean you can only consume so much media at a time right? so if you can download a dvd in 2 seconds instead of 2 hours, you still gotta spend 2 hours watching it.

but thats probably what really is the issue here, since a consumer on average will only consume a small amount of data per month, no matter how fat their pipe becomes. The p2p apps are really the only thing that can continue to consume all the remaining bandwith.

The funny thing about p2p is that it really would be a better use of network resources to serve those same files from a collection of servers instead of via last mile consumer connections, since p2p will typically result in the same data being sent over a consumer-grade connection twice (uploader + downloader)

perhaps there is some form of p2p that needs development which would allow client-side management of server-hosted files to be shared via a p2p protocol… and thus keep this unecessary bandwidth usage from occurring. but.. wow how did i ramble on this long hahah

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: gotta wonder tho

The funny thing about p2p is that it really would be a better use of network resources to serve those same files from a collection of servers instead of via last mile consumer connections, since p2p will typically result in the same data being sent over a consumer-grade connection twice (uploader + downloader)

There are P2P caching systems that greatly reduce redundant transfers and network transit by hosting files from a ‘local’ server. ISPs do not implement them partly from fear of liability — even though they theoretically have explicit immunity for such caching per DMCA safe harbours (but so does Youtube and they get sued anyway) — and partly because they do not want to encourage people to use P2P for various reasons. Users are hesitant to request files from the cache since it would trivial for the ISP to implicate the user if the material was infringing.

boomhauer (profile) says:

gotta wonder tho

yes, for the server caching scheme to work, it would need to be user-owned and likely employ security/encryption measures… before anyone would feel confortable using them.

perhaps something to offer as a third-party service… offer part of a server for a monthly fee, and incorporate secure p2p as part of the package..arranged such that the service provider has no access to the content, only the subscriber. etc etc etc blah blah blah google will own us all anwyay 😉

mb says:

Trolling through this thread a thought comes to mind, –innovation is always one step away from failure. That boundary is what either attracts or distracts development from occuring or being avoided. The network and bandwidth are moot issues (infrastructure defines limits here). Ultimately it’s access that is the root problem/solution. Then once access is acquired, who is accountable for the traffic? Like it or not, in the societies of the ‘current’ world ‘rules’ either bind you or set you free. Who makes the rules? Therein is the rub. Oh yeah, and Cuban, like he doesn’t have his own self-satisfying agenda anyway, but then again….who doesn’t?

chris (profile) says:

STFU and run fiber

all this last mile nonsense is all about putting off replacing copper. it costs money and telcos hate spending money. so they are trying to squeeze the last bits of easy money out before paying to upgrade.

the sooner the telcos and the cablecos sack up and deliver what the public wants, the sooner we can all get past this nonsense.

we want access to information without limits. every control that you put in place is a limitation. it’s a limitation that will be subverted.

so telcos, you can give us what we want, or you can go broke trying to stop us from subverting your limitations. the choice is yours.

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