Every few months, my good friend Jeremy finds a reason to write another post against bandwidth throttling and usage-based billing. Unfortunately, all the blog posts of this world will not change the basic fact (sometimes known as the first law of thermodynamics): there is no free lunch. Applied to this particular issue:
- Any form of fixed Internet pricing is effectively an “all-you-can-eat” buffet. Such a buffet works as long as the visitors’ stomach sizes have comparable capacity. In the high-speed Internet world a torrent user can consume two or three orders of magnitude more resources than a regular user.
- In an environment where a minority of users consumes most of the resources, you’re simply forced to treat the large consumers differently. Otherwise, you’re forcing the majority to pay for the excesses of the few and the majority will eventually revolt (which is why the big socialist experiments didn’t work).
- Obviously you need to upgrade your network as the average use increases, but being forced to upgrade due to a few large consumers and distributing the costs across the whole customer base simply does not make sense (not to mention the fact that providing Internet connectivity is far away from being a lucrative business).
Unfortunately, the basic facts are usually obscured by controversies like companies choosing PR disasters over fixing their networks or Service Providers incompetent enough to call port scanning a DOS attack. It’s also highly unreasonable to expect the users to consume less than 5GB a month and charge any over-the-quota traffic without any safeguards.
There are technical solutions (for example, Cisco’s SCE) that allow the Service Providers to give each user a fair share of the bandwidth (or even limit the number of TCP/UDP sessions in a time period). However, without end-users and bloggers adopting a realistic view of the world, we’re facing a lose-lose scenario. Whatever the Service Providers do, however much they might invest in their network (and charge everyone), however reasonable their throttling/capping decisions might be, the all-I-can-eat zealots will cry foul … or am I yet again completely wrong?