Time To Start Thinking About Infinite Bandwidth

from the it-changes-things dept

One of the things that is truly amazing is how difficult it has been for anyone to accurately predict what happens as bandwidth becomes more and more commonplace. Most of the original assumptions were based on faulty views of old technology — i.e., the internet would become more like “tv” since it could handle the bandwidth. While there has been some of that, the more interesting elements have actually taken advantage of what the internet is good at: multi-directional communication, rather than one way broadcast communication. We already have television. We don’t need another one. But a platform that allows anyone to communicate with anyone — and with higher bandwidth? That starts to get interesting…

But, even now, as average bandwidth rates are orders of magnitude above what they were just a decade ago, people are having trouble recognizing the next revolution — when bandwidth is effectively infinite. However, it’s time to start thinking about what that allows, because bandwidth is only going to increase, and it’s only going to increase unique opportunities, applications and services. The article discusses a connected-Coke machine, which may seem like a small thing, and nothing to get excited about, but as you think about the progression, from simply alerting the company to when the machine was low, to increasing information about a variety of factors, to allowing customers to interact with the machine, you begin to recognize how the entire concept of even a basic “soda machine” starts to change. And those are all still low bandwidth exercises. What made that work wasn’t the increase in bandwidth, but the increase in general connectivity. If you start to increase the size of the pipe significantly as well, you start to get even more possibilities.

So, all these arguments over “net neutrality” and “metered billing” are missing the point. Bandwidth is going to increase. Those who attempt to cap it or limit it are only going to make their own pipes significantly less valuable. However, those who recognize how empowering more bandwidth can be, and how approaching “infinite bandwidth” opens up the possibility for new services and apps that we can’t even fathom today, will start to realize that providing ever more bandwidth increases value and clamping down on bandwidth kills value.

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Comments on “Time To Start Thinking About Infinite Bandwidth”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Upload speeds are still slow. For example, when someone is uploading a bunch of photos to one of those social network thingies it still takes some time.

If upload bandwidth increases significantly this would be good if I want to keep a network drive on (and password protected) with all my stuff on it and then access it from anywhere through my laptop (via vpn or something). Who needs flash drives or CD’s/DVD’s, everything would be directly accessible via the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Perhaps Operating systems can be bottable online too. I can go into my CMos and choose a web address/URL and it would boot the operating system right off the Internet. I change something in my operating system and it saves my preferences on the server over the Internet so the next time I boot my computer the changes are saved. I can make documents and save them and then go to any other computer anywhere else in the world and boot that operating system (with my saved changes) and load the documents and such (while maintaining my preferences). Virus scans would be done via the remote server so there can be a centralized virus scanning system that scans every ones personal data for viruses for them. We know the operating system isn’t infected because many computers share the same unmodified (read only) operating system with the changes being saved to separate data files for each user. I can save multiple URL’s in my CMOS (with each server having different operating systems) and choose which operating system, from which server, I want to boot from. Each motherboard would have multiple server (and operating system) URL’s saved in them when you get the computer (as part of the OEM).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps Operating systems can be bootable online too. *

What are some of the dangers of increased bandwidth? More monitoring of the population by authorities? More personal data over the Internet? People can already access a lot of your info from many of these social network sites and it’s probably not very hard for crazy psychos to find everything they can about someone over the Internet these days. Privacy is also a concern as well and I think we should weigh the benefits and costs of increased bandwidth.

We may end up with a state where public cameras are everywhere and those public cameras feed into the Internet giving everyone access to them. Do we want anyone to be able to view cameras situated everywhere (ie: on freeways)? What other dangers can this pose?

Sarah Black says:

Re: Re: Re:

Paranoid much?

If you dont publicly make your writings (and files) available – and keep what you want to have kept, under lock and key… the results you listed should not affect the people who are aware of the dangers.

…just as now, the persons who posted about their “drunken-fun” on [insert social networking site here] are now dealing with.

Moral of the story thanks to Benjamin Franklin, “The only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead”, ie; if you want something truly kept a secret don’t tell anyone alive!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Perhaps increased spread of computer viruses could be a consequence. My point is that we shouldn’t only think of the pros, we should try to think of the cons. By anticipating them ahead of time perhaps we can avoid them. I don’t claim to know what the cons are but I was just throwing in suggestions.

SRS2000 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t care if there are cameras on freeways.. But I definitely don’t want it to be a tool for petty law enforcement.
The USA definitely does not need to be like the UK where there are speed cameras calculating your average speed. We don’t need ANY speed cameras.

I live in Houston… No one drives the speed limit in Houston..

Eeqmcsq says:

We're not there yet, not in the US, anyway

“Bandwidth is going to increase.” – Not unless there’s competition to force ISPs to invest to increase their bandwidth supply. Otherwise, ISPs will rather sit on their existing supply and milk it for all its worth while demand for bandwidth continues to increase.

Anonymous Coward says:

Have to echo the latency sentiment. Working on a global corporate network bandwidth is occasionally the issue, but more often the latency, especially as many (web)applications insist on making a round-trip to the server on every update or field change.

Next bottleneck: processing/storage. What is the benefit of unlimited bandwidth if you can’t handle or store all that feed anyways.

Anonymous Coward says:

All you need now Mike is declare money as infinite and you will be rich.

Don’t be fool by fancy naming people, it’s all just part of the Masnick spin.

Mike, the soda machine thing is older than the commercial internet. I think it was MIT that had the first one, because the computer lab was one floor about the soda machine. So the geeks wired it up, and they could connect and find out all sorts of things, like how many sodas of each type, temperature, etc.

Innovation? Nope, been there, seen it.

It is also a pretty horrible example, mostly because the bandwidth required to do something like that is very small. That isn’t a good example of “infinite” bandwidth. Perhaps Ubiquitous Bandwidth, but not infinite – there is no infinite.

I know it’s easier for you, it’s maybe another attempt to turn a Streisand effect phrase, but it’s just not reflecting reality – another reason why your infinite distribution really isn’t true either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

We already have bandwith systems where if new huge file comes out (say a video) then local ISP’s would store the bandwidth locally and every time a user requests that movie, instead of grabbing it from the original server (which costs the ISP and the server much more bandwidth because that means the ISP must download it each time someone requests it and the server must upload it each time the ISP requests it) the local server will just send its local copy over (instead of one download + one upload, that just amounts to one upload per request for the ISP and the server doesn’t have to upload it each time someone requests it). This substantially increases bandwidth. More efficient distribution = a lot cheaper and more distribution. Perhaps not infinite per – se, but more bandwidth than would be demanded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Walked away, and came back – I have to add a few more things.

In think this attempt to define “infinite bandwidth” has exposed the black box mentality applied to things around here. The black box is observed for a certain amount of time, perhaps a trend is noticed, and then it is extrapolated until it meets the “Masnick Theory of the Universe (MTU)”. However, unless you understand the what the black box does and it’s movings parts, you might mistake the results for something other than a random series of events.

Your ISP cannot get an unlimited or infinite connection to the internet. They are all on “the more you use, the more you pay” plans with their connectivity providers. The reason is because there is a limit to how much goes down any connection – even the best piece of fiber is limited – yes, the number is big, but it is limited.

Bandwidth costs right now are quickly reaching the bottom of a curve, where in the 15 years the prices have dropped dramtically, they will no longer be able to drop as fast. Much of what goes into connectivity costs are physical, location of equipment, cables, staff, etc – all stuff that cannot be outsourced to India or cut back on to save the bottom line. If anything, there is potential that the cost of bandwidth may start to rise over time, at a level similar to inflation, as the costs for maintaining the network pace inflation themselves.

So no, there is no “infinite bandwidth”. There is a lot of it out there, but is sure isn’t infinite.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I disagree completely with Mike regarding metered broadband, and I don’t completely agree with him on this post, but when you say:

“The black box is observed for a certain amount of time, perhaps a trend is noticed, and then it is extrapolated until it meets the “Masnick Theory of the Universe (MTU)”. However, unless you understand the what the black box does and it’s moving parts, you might mistake the results for something other than a random series of events.”

It makes me wonder. Did you read any Techdirt early in the century? Mike said a lot of wacky, stupid, controversial shit, I’m sure you would agree. Lots of sensible people like you popped up in the comments to set him straight, but the stubborn bastard just argued his points.

Then skip back to the present, and…WTF? He was right about a lot of those things? Oops. Of course, the original crop of Anonymous Cowards have long since dropped off, so they’re not around to say “Mea culpa”, but are replaced by a new crop like you, who think that his current predictions are whacked.

This blog has a 10-year record. It has correctly predicted “improbable” futures for years. Mike should scrape together a bullet list of the things he predicted through the decade, and had to argue, which turned out correct. OK, so as a contributor here, I’m biased, but the record speaks for itself.

In contrast, I have found the Anon Cowards to have had very little predictive reliability.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Honestly, if you throw enough crap at the wall, some of it sticks. Mike is an expert and not being very specific at all. Just ask him what his model is for the music business, and he hems and haws and blurts out “reznor-radiohead-corey-smith-jill-sobule” and changes the subject.

if I post today “the yankees will win the pennant” and then do that for each of every other team in the league, I will be right on at least one of those predictions.

A broken watch is still accurate twice a day.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So when he said long ago “The music industry does not need DRM, nor disks, nor vinyl. Creative artists will find new ways to sell their wares, new wares to sell, and music will survive and even thrive.” You’re saying he was throwing shit at the wall.

Sure enough, a bunch of creative businesspeople/artists are coming up with new business models and new ways of making money. Mike trots them out on his blog – not to prove he was right, or he’d link to his ancient posts predicting it – but to make current arguments to try and convince the die-hards and the Luddites that it is possible. But those people deny the current reality just as they denied his predictions before.

Well, he predicted it, and the Anon Cowards of the day told him he was stupid then. No, he’s no demi-god, and he’s not the only one to have been right. But he has mostly been right, and that counts for a lot.

Like I said, he should produce a list of his predictions, and then the outcomes. Then perhaps you could do the same, and we could compare grades.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Most of what he predicts I consider, and have always considered, common sense (though he has been great at keeping track of it and substantiating it to everyone, which I appreciate of course). Monopolies are bad, people act in their own best interest and monopolies give little incentive to innovate. Why should someone spend the money and resources to innovate when they already collect monopoly money on what exists? The answer is that they shouldn’t. Monopolies create incentive to lobby the government to prevent new firms from entering the market by creating barriers to entry. Monopolies also provide more resources (money) to do so. Common sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

But of course people have always considered me a crazy deluded conspiracy theorist, but over the years many of my conspiracies have turned out to be right and I have been able to substantiate them moreso. Now my conspiracy theories aren’t considered as extreme and unlikely by the general population as they used to be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You are forgetting that in other countries one can get way more bandwidth for much cheaper prices than in the U.S. This suggests the problem isn’t that we are reaching limiting factors, but that ISP’s are creating artificial scarcity. However, if it weren’t the case that bandwidth in other countries is getting cheaper (because monopolies were preventing it from getting cheaper) then people like you can keep on brainwashing us with the delusion that limiting factors, and not artificial scarcity, is the reason for bandwidth not getting cheaper, and most people wouldn’t be able to substantially argue against that lie. This is why people should be more skeptical of people like you who always claim, “industry is always doing what’s right, the problem isn’t lobbyists it’s natural limiting factors.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“industry is always doing what’s right, the problem isn’t lobbyists it’s natural limiting factors.”

Of course industries have incentive to make us believe this lie and they’re willing to invest resources (ie: by controlling the media and such) into convincing the public of their lies. They have incentive to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“industry is always doing what’s right, the problem isn’t lobbyists it’s natural limiting factors.”

Of course industries have incentive to make us believe this lie and they’re willing to invest resources (ie: by controlling the media and such) into convincing the public of their lies. They have incentive to do so.

Robb Topolski (profile) says:

Net Neutrality - Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

— QUOTE —
Bandwidth is going to increase. Those who attempt to cap it or limit it are only going to make their own pipes significantly less valuable. However, those who recognize how empowering more bandwidth can be, and how approaching “infinite bandwidth” opens up the possibility for new services and apps that we can’t even fathom today, will start to realize that providing ever more bandwidth increases value and clamping down on bandwidth kills value.
— ENDQUOTE —
Of course I agree with the above paragraph, but the line that preceded it, ‘So, all these arguments over “net neutrality” and “metered billing” are missing the point.’ is a problem.

The USA has moved from Internet leader to Internet laggard. We can’t invent the future of tomorrow on the network of yesterday. It’s hard to see the road ahead from last place.

If I’m developing an application for Asia, I have to imagine a low-end customer as having access to 20 Mbps on fiber. For the U.S., I don’t have to imagine — it’s 1.5 Mbps on twisted pair. Have you seen those Asian social websites? They take a long time to load here in the U.S. because they’re very bandwidth intensive (plus the distance-added latency which further affects speed).

Our broadband overlords are wasting time looking fondly at the past of CompuServe charging $12.50 an hour ($6 if you were at 300 baud). Their bumper sticker says, “As a matter of fact, I do own the God-damned Information Superhighway.” That thinking is holding us back. We could ignore them if we could get some competition, but aside from having 14 different junction boxes on every home in America, these same overlords are in charge of the competition as well.

They are in our way.

Greg T. says:

Overlords own the God-damned Information Superhighway

I don’t know what it will take to get ISPs to upgrade their tech instead of keeping it in the stone age while increasing their rates, citing BS like “physical location of equipment, cables, staff, etc – all stuff that cannot be outsourced to India or cut back on to save the bottom line.” ISPs sell us bandwidth and make a killing because it’s finite and the average user doesn’t know the difference between 1.5Mbps and 20Mbps. I thought it was funny reading about the public outcry for more bandwidth on I-phones because a lot of people shell out big bucks for data plans and end up finding the sad reality that broadband users have known for a long time: In the USA, you may pay for bandwidth, but there are no guarantees on the speed.

CrushU says:

Net Neutrality

Actually, Net Neutrality and Metered Broadband is very much an issue. You’ve got the right idea, that uncapped lines offer more value, except the reality is that the greater bandwidth offers more value. The telcos KNOW that More Bandwidth = More Value, and want to CHARGE for it, at expansive rates, though it costs them little to nothing. THAT is the argument of metered broadband, that they are overinflating their price to value ratio.

Which of course would be fixed very quickly by competition, as you’ve stated elsewhere. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Other negative consequences could be things like, if operating systems are bootable via a remote server perhaps companies may try charging you a monthly fee for using an operating system. Computers may not have hard drives anymore, everything maybe conducted on some remote server where the government monitors everything and you have to pay a monthly fee to use it. Can anyone else think of some possible problems this could lead to? I think infinite bandwidth is good but we should certainly not ignore the potential negatives as well. Understanding them ahead of time might be a good step in preventing them.

The Mad Hatter (profile) says:

You missed one point

What if the builder of the “Pipe” holds a monopoly on delivery in a geographic area? In that case, they have no incentive to improve their network.

And since most providers don’t like to compete, they try to arrange it so that they do have a Monopoly and don’t have to. The cable internet situation in Canada is a good example.

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