Steve Cisler on Sun, 10 Nov 2002 17:51:49 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Jeff Chester: The Death Of The Internet

On Wednesday, November 6, 2002, at 05:52  PM, geert lovink wrote:

> The Death Of The Internet
> How Industry Intends To Kill The 'Net As We Know It
> By Jeff Chester

The phrase you should pay attention to is not "Death of the Internet" 
but " we know it."

At the recent Global Community Networking conference Jeff was on a panel 
I moderated (on short notice) and presented ("Why most of you don't have 
broadband). He admitted his outlook is very US focused, and others from 
Japan, Korea, and Canada presented their own views which were much more 
optimistic--partly because the consumer use of high speed DSL and cable 
modem services is so much higher in those countries (Korea is #1 in the 
world). Canada has some amazing examples of citizen initiatives that 
have brought low cost high speed service to very rural areas.

Over the past a lot of network administrators in industry, at 
universities, and in government and non-profit institutions and 
consortia have been dealing with net capacity and load management in a 
variety of ways.  When I worked a Tachyon, a VSAT service provider, the 
company spent an enormous amount of time trying to assess and plan for 
the ways clients were using their capacity.  Because satellite 
transponder space is so expensive (compared to a land transport system 
of similar capacity), the schemes to manage the resource became very 
sophisticated. There was special quality of service pricing and 
technology to manage it. This is now being applied to other kinds of 
networks where the load is increasing.

The kind of "eat all you want" unlimited access that Jeff may have 
valued in the 90's and thinks the industry wants to take from us (in 
North America, at any rate) now, has been the cause of a lot of problems 
between consumers and companies.  Here's an early example: AT&T had an 
early cable modem service in Fremont  in Silicon Valley. In 1997 the 
company tried to get consumers/subscribers to move from dialup 
($20/month) to the cable modem service for $35. They promised 10 
Mbits/sec bi-directional and for a while just had some early adopters 
see the value. I visited my friend's house in Fremont in early 1998  to 
make video clips of the speed of the service in order to show a 
conference where few people had ever seen a fast connection. Most of the 
stuff that showed the transfer speed were movie trailers and maps.  
Signups to this service were slow, so the early users on this big 
neighborhood LAN were like a small group of Ferrari owners who had a 
nice stretch of the autostrada to themselves.  Pretty soon they were 
joined by more users and everything slowed down. There were a number of 
policy changes (terms of service) and technological impediments placed 
on the system to inhibit certain types of use.  People began complaining 
about the speed (upload speed was dropped to a tiny fraction of the 
original 10 Mbits/sec offering).   My friend no longer even uses the 
service. He's a special case in that he switched to a dedicated T1 (1.5 
Mb/sec) line. Others went to DSL, and a few to a short-lived wireless 
broadband service.

The point I want to make is that the marketing for broadband raises the 
expectations and once the system is loaded with users, it deteriorates 
and the organization (not just big media firms) change their policies.  
For instance, at one large university the load from dormitory MP3 
servers (some student's Mac on the campus network) was far greater than 
all the academic servers running, so the head of the network limited 
distribution to just that dorm (sort of like a community radio station 
except that it crippled the peer-to-peer sharing).

There has been a cycle of unrealistic promises about service on the part 
of all kinds of transport providers: VSAT, cable, DSL, and wireless. 
there is a disconnect between the engineers at those companies and the 
people in marketing who promise to much.  This has caused class action 
suits among satelllite users and complaints to DSL and cable modem 
providers. And a lot of it is due to the new way people (especially 
young people) are using the network (not just MP3 and digital video).  
In Hong Kong and Korea, there is very heavy interactive network game 
traffic. Jeff interprets these restrictions and claims as the industry 
trying to take away the boundless cornucopia of a high speed network 
where everyone can use it without limits. I'm not going to bring up the 
much debated "tragedy of the commons" again, but the policies Jeff calls 
"monetizing bandwidth" is certainly one way the companies are trying to 
deal with the load, totally apart from whether the content is 
pirated/shared/sold.  Economists talk about "congestion-based pricing" 
where you pay more for a resource (mobile and fixed line phone calls, 
toll highway use) at the times when demand is greatest. We may even see 
that happening, except that users need a relatively simple scheme or 
they won't buy the service. When companies see what users are willing to 
pay for SMS service vs "all you can eat" broadband for a flat rate, they 
will try new pricing schemes in other realms.

I think the restrictions area reaction to the current economic 
depression in the telecomms industry. The former head of the FCC in the 
US thinks we won't emerge from it for several years.  I live about 10 
kilometers from MAE West, a major switching point for the Internet, and 
I cannot get consumer broadband service from any phone, cable, or 
wireless company. Evereyone is pulling back, laying off people.  I guess 
I could buy a satellite service more suited to rural Bolivia or China 
than to a Silicon Valley suburb, except the leading one is technically 
bankrupt. I'll probably just keep using my dialup service and enjoy this 
unlimited trickle of spam, files, web pages, and mail.

Steve Cisler
Steve Cisler
4415 Tilbury Drive
San Jose, California 95130
"Go on the country, not on the map."
-Axle in Tim Winton's "Dirt Music"  (web log on ICT4DEV)

Nettime-bold mailing list