The Growing Bandwidth Crunch That Isn't…

from the this-again? dept

InfoWorld is running a long article all about how we’re running out of bandwidth, and that’s leading broadband providers to need to implement broadband caps and tiered pricing. The article mentions that some critics don’t believe we’re really running out of bandwidth, but then brushes them off by saying: “But assuming a looming bandwidth shortage — whether widespread or local to certain areas — analysts agree that two things must change….” And then the article does just that: it assumes that there must be a bandwidth shortage, and only talks to analysts who agree.

Except, as we’ve seen repeatedly, there’s almost no evidence of an actual bandwidth shortage. The article talks about ever increasing bandwidth usage, despite the fact that folks who actually have the data have been noting that bandwidth growth has actually been slowing, and in some areas declining. Then the article claims that infrastructure improvements alone aren’t enough, and that broadband providers need to implement tiered service and caps — even though when you talk to the actual technologists at various broadband providers, they seem more than willing to admit that bandwidth growth can be handled just fine with normal infrastructure improvements.

But, of course, instead of quoting those actual technologists, the article focuses on the big analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester which are trying to sell research reports, and which make bigger headlines if they warn about impending problems. It’s a pretty weak report to simply assume away the actual evidence and then focus on what needs to be done based on the non-evidence.

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Comments on “The Growing Bandwidth Crunch That Isn't…”

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Bill says:

Mogilny, did you not read the article?

Besides, I’ve worked in the industry. There was very large supplies of unused fiber optics all over the country before I got out of the business. Admittedly that was about 6 years ago and a Lot has changed in 6 years, but even then they were still laying cable, right next to dark cable.

I will give you credit for accusing ISPs of over subscription. But that overage is because they themselves are not buying enough bandwidth from their backbone provider, not because the backbone provider is short of bandwidth. And that is called Greed.

Mogilny says:

Re: Re:

Will be a problem.

Obama wants to increase minimum bandwidth speed to 20Mbps and he wants to make it universal. Keep in mind, many folks are still on dial up.

Greed is everywhere in this business. Japan paid a lot for their network, but household can get a 100Mbps connection for $55 a month. I get up-to-but-never-been-seen-before 5Mbps for $50.

bjc (profile) says:

I just got me the “running water” at my home, and lemme tell ya’ I’m washing everything in sight. No more drinking lukewarm, I’m letting it run until it’s COLD. I’m filling that bathtub to the top for once.” …

… It wasn’t that long ago that homes didn’t have running water.

Bandwidth is the new water. It’s not unlimited, but it IS abundant.

I dream of the day when everyone has realized that bandwidth is a commodity, just like water, just like electricity.

When will my local utility give me a ‘pipe’ that offers as much water/power/bits as I need and charge me me accordingly?

Your local power company says:

Re: Your New Power Bill

Dear Mr bjc,

In an effort to align ourselves with the broadband industry we have implemented a new billing plan! You now have UNLIMITED* power usage on your account for one low monthly rate. For $50/mo you can get our economy plan which allows 10Amps* of usage at any given time! Don’t worry about using too much, because we’ll just brown out your power anytime you go over to keep you at 10Amps*. Not enough Power for you? we also have tiers at 20*, 40*, 50*, and 100* Amps as well!

Worried about using too much electricity in your home? Don’t want to get cut off or browned out for over usage? We also now offer our own line of refrigerators, stoves, Air Conditioners, Heaters, and most other high usage devices! These will only cost 3 – 5 times what they would cost on the market, and don’t have anywhere near the quality of equivalent products, but they don’t count against your Amperage maximum or you maximum monthly usage cap!

*Due to growing power needs in your area your selected rate of power is not guaranteed during peak usage times, and we reserve the right to brownout your account at our discretion if we believe your power use is excessive. Due to excessive power usage under these plans we have decided to implement usage caps. If you go over your cap, your electricity will be canceled.

Matt says:

Bandwidth Crunch?

Seems to me that imposing any sort of rate-shaping or traffic limiting on the internet won’t actually solve any problem. People are going to download what they want, regardless of how long it takes or how much bandwidth it uses. Considering that whether you rate-shape or not, the same number of bits still have to go through the network, it really doesn’t help at all other than as a temporary fix to ensure fair service during high peak utilization periods.

Isn’t it best to just get the customer their data as quickly as possible and then free up the pipe for other traffic? Why limit them which only causes the period of time they are chewing up bandwidth that much longer and causes even more bandwidth contention?

Telcos/ISPs: If you are oversubscribed, then you need to invest more in peering connections and backbone upgrades. Get with the program, spend the money to keep your business growing.

psycheval says:

Bandwidth Crunch

I usually refrain from blogging much but stupidity overwhelms me. WHAT BANDWIDTH CRUNCH?!!! I live in a rural area that has T1’s all over that aren’t used. The ISP’s won’t even let end users get connected to them. $70.00 a month for 512mb down on DSL and you actually see 35mb down on downloads. ISP’s are making millions and wanting more! We can’t even get Digital Cable service and live less than half a mile from an Interstate with multiple T1’s going down both sides. We’re even relegated to a extremely small Telephone COOP that serves 2 counties in the corner of my state. 12 miles away and running on the same T1’s is SBC Yahoo with 512mb down and getting 100mb + actual down and costs $35 a month. So who’s getting screwed us or them?

Bob V says:

I’m not sure if i really understand what people are really saying is the problem with a bandwidth crunch.

From what I understand there are three segments of the internet. The line from my house to the ISP, the ISP and the backbone which ties the ISPs to each other. Each of these have a certain amount of capacity. Are they saying that the backbone can’t handle the amount of data, or that the various ISP’s can’t handle the data or the current pricing system is failing to net the ISPs money because data usage is up. Everyone of these are completely different problems with different solutions.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is stupid. Is everyone ignoring the fact that if new subscriptions are coming in every day, there must not really be a bandwidth crisis? I mean this crazy-ass idea of mine is kind of supported by the fact that instead of just capping bandwidth to save us all from the shortage they’re actually wasting time figuring out how to make money on their big scary internet apocalypse.

There is always an angle says:

It's Simple Really

The whole “sky is falling” charade is to get the caps in place so that they can give their content preferential treatment, (does not count towards your cap) and squeeze out their competition (their content does count toward the cap).

What is sad is that there are so many (media) who just regurgitate the paid for “studies” without any real thought or fact checking.

teknosapien (profile) says:

I worked for an ISP

In 1998 While going to college I worked for an ISP that placed and lit up so much fiber that they could have supplied AT&T Verizon and several other larger ISP’s with all the bandwidth requirements. to this day They have hundreds of miles unlit in ground just waiting for need to light up so I don’t believe that in the US this is an issue. probably more a ploy to get caps in place so that the ISP’s can start charging more for access.

Rekrul says:

If any bandwidth crunch exists, the ISPs have created it themselves.

They build a network and then sell 10x the capacity that they’re actually able to handle, on the assumption that not everyone will use all the bandwidth that they’re given. When people do start using it, they claim that they’re running out of bandwidth.

So eventually they upgrade their network and are now able to handle the capacity that they’ve sold to their customers. So now everything is fine, right? No! They offer an even higher tier of service that they can’t possibly supply to everyone who subscribes and the cycle starts all over again.

No matter how much capacity they add, the ISPs are constantly selling more than they can deliver. It’s like a power company having enough power to supply 1 million customers, but signing up 10 million on the assumption that they probably won’t all be using the power at once. When they upgrade the powerplant to actually supply 10 million customers, the execs in charge sign up 100 million.

They’re never content to offer what they can actually deliver.

Jason Phillips (user link) says:

bandwidth is not a commodity

First, really, we don’t need to compare the Internet to water or electricity because we have an even better parallel: Telephone. Now that we can look back on the telephone as a fading technology we can ask such questions as “Why did we pay more to talk to family three states away than we did to talk to our neighbors?” the circuit may be longer, but the over-all cost of both phone calls is the same. The lines to and from both points have already been lain, and any extra switching costs nothing. In the early 90’s consumer backlash and competition from the wireless industry struck down outrageous pricing schemes and proved out that ‘premium features’ like long distance were in no way premium. The biggest draw for early cell phone adopters was a pricing plan based on minutes, not distance.

How does that compare to today’s internet industry? Glad you asked. There are just as few players in the broadband provider market today as there were for phone service ten to 15 years ago. They have the same level of collusion, strange ideas about what constitutes access and the same transparent contempt for anyone who asks for more. In the case of the Internet however, they have managed to find a nice little straw man that the like to call the “bandwidth crunch.” but the bandwidth is a lie. It always has been a lie, and always will be.

The chosen pariah in the bandwidth crunch is the massive downloader. It’s been said that 20% of users use 80% of the bandwidth. I say: “OK. And. . . ?” That has always been the case. From the days of the dial-up BBS until today there have always been power users who make the most use of the technology that is available to them. Metered bandwidth, pay-as-you-go access plans failed even before the widespread adoption of broadband. It died before the sun set on the telephone modem, at time when there were actual limits to the number of connections an ISP could accept. Metered bandwidth died at that time specifically because of those 20% who used the most bandwidth and stayed connected for days, rather than hours, and there is no need to resurrect it, because even if we did, it would change nothing.

Metered bandwidth died because the bottom 20% caught up with the to 80 when it came to data consumption. Once more and more people heard, and finally understood, what this Internet thing was all about they began to jump onto the Information Superhighway in greater numbers. Almost immediately they began to bitch about the speed and mileage limits imposed by their ISPs. The thing is these two groups of people, the 20/80 split, will always make up the users of the internet. That top 80% introduces to the rest what is available and possible with any communications medium. This action is not cyclic in nature though, it is a straight line. Bandwidth will always get faster, consumption — bigger. And that’s what the ISPs are really afraid of. They sure have done well in pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes though. The ISPs are not afraid that their networks will be filled to capacity. What they are afraid of, is that when it happens, they’re going to need to take money out of their profit margin and actually apply it upgrading their aging equipment. Their unwillingness to deploy new equipment for the benefit of their customers is only eclipsed by their willingness to do so to stifle competition, and increase the size of their coffers. Even when AT&T, for example, decided to deploy new equipment they tried to do so through subterfuge as to avoid regulations placed on them by local and state governments. Then the ISPs tell us that they need to raise prices to compensate for the roll out of any new equipment. HA! That would be the same as telling your boss that your company should be required to pay for your car, because that’s how you get to work! Yes, that’s the real fear the ISPs are feeling. Not just that the 20% is consuming more, but that the 80% are too, and there are no signs of them ever slowing down.

That is why all of the ISPs are scared. They are scared that they will actually need to allocate funds to building out their network, and they are scared that once they do they will miss out on what they wrongly believe to be an opportunity to create partnerships with media companies and make more money. I suppose they didn’t pay attention to what happened with AOL, CompuServe, Cox@home, et al. They have built their future on the hopes that they keep pushing upgrades further and further out that the money they spend on buying congressmen and women will pay off with an Internet and media delivery system where they have 100% control and 100% profit.

Caliuser says:

The comments and the column are interesting. There has been a lot of discussion about bandwidth caps on forums of ATT customers and Uverse. I hope you will check it out and add your opinions. If we the consumer are not heard then these caps will be fed to us as a big turd to swallow and like it.


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