Network end users to pull down 2 gigabytes a day, continuously?

Joe Abley jabley at
Mon Jan 8 18:17:50 UTC 2007

On 8-Jan-2007, at 02:34, Sean Donelan wrote:

> On Sun, 7 Jan 2007, Joe Abley wrote:
>> Setting aside the issue of what particular ISPs today have to pay,  
>> the real cost of sending data, best-effort over an existing  
>> network which has spare capacity and which is already supported  
>> and managed is surely zero.
> As long as the additional traffic doesn't exceed the existing  
> capacity.


So perhaps we should expect to see distribution price models whose  
success depends on that spare (off-peak, whatever) capacity being  
available being replaced by others which don't.

If that's the case, and assuming the cost benefits of using slack  
capacity continue to be exploited, the bandwidth metrics mentioned in  
the original post might be those which assume a periodic utilisation  
profile, rather than those which just assume that spare bandwidth  
will be used.

(It's still accounting based on peak; the difference might be that in  
the second model there really isn't that much of a peak any more, and  
the effect of that is a bonus window during which existing capacity  
models will sustain the flood.)

> If you limit yourself to the Internet, you exclude a lot of content
> being shifted around and consumed in the world.  The World Cup or  
> Superbowl are still much bigger events than Internet-only events.  
> Broadcast
> television shows with even bottom ratings are still more popular  
> than most Internet content.  The Internet is good for  
> narrowcasting, but its
> still working on mass audience events.

Ah, but I wasn't comparing internet distribution with cable/satellite/ 
UHF/whatever -- I was comparing content which is streamed with  
content which isn't.

The cost differences between those are fairly well understood, I  
think. Reliable, high-quality streaming media is expensive (ask  
someone like Akamai for a quote), whereas asynchronous delivery of  
content (e.g. through BitTorrent trackers) can result in enormous  
distribution of data with a centralised investment in hardware and  
network which is demonstrably sustainable by voluntary donations.

> "Asynchronous receivers" are more expensive and usually more  
> complicated
> than "synchronous receivers."

Well, there's no main-stream, blessed product which does the kind of  
asynchronous acquisition of content on anything like the scale of  
digital cable terminals; however, that's not to say that one couldn't  
be produced for the same cost. I'd guess that most of those digital  
cable boxes are running linux anyway, which makes it a software problem.

If we're considering a fight between an intelligent network (one  
which can support good-quality, isochronous streaming video at high  
data rates from the producer to the consumer) and a stupid one (which  
concentrates on best-effort distribution of data, asynchronously,  
with a smarter edge) then absent external constraints regarding  
copyright, digital rights, etc, I presume we'd expect the stupid  
network model to win. Eventually.

>   Not everyone owns a computer or spends a
> several hundred dollars for a DVR.  If you already own a computer,  
> you might consider it "free."

Since I was comparing two methods of distributing material over the  
Internet, the availability of a computer is more or less a given. I'm  
not aware of a noticeable population of broadband users who don't own  
a computer, for example (apart from those who are broadband users  
without noticing, e.g. through a digital cable terminal which talks  
IP to the network).


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