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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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June 17, 2008 8:10 AM

"Today's 'Bandwidth Hog' is Tomorrow's Average User"

The discussion over metered bandwidth has officially spilled over into the mainstream media as evidenced by this New York Times article about charging by the byte.

Rather than rehashing the details of what's covered therein, I want to pull out a single quote they pulled from a recent Cisco report: "Today's 'bandwidth hog' is tomorrow's average user."

I believe that this is one of the most important realities in broadband as it alludes to so many aspects of this overall debate.

First off, heavy users aren't "bandwidth hogs," they're just early adopters.

Secondly, all it takes for an average user to become a "bandwidth hog" is for them to start using the Internet and/or more bandwidth-intensive applications, and that's certainly not a bad thing.

Third, the focus shouldn't be on demonizing heavy users today but instead making sure that the networks being built can support the heavy users of tomorrow, which will hopefully be everyone.

More and more I'm finding myself irritated by this term: "bandwidth hog."

It implies that those customers who have adopted the Internet first are greedily gobbling up more than their fair share of bandwidth, but is it really their fault that they love the Internet so much?

Until recently, nothing they were doing was against the terms of their contract for broadband services, so it's not like they're criminals, they just like to use the Internet.

I sometimes worry that using inflammatory terms like "bandwidth hog" is part of what's preventing us from having a more robust dialog about the challenges we face in expanding and enhancing our Internet infrastructure in this country.

Even if it wasn't the intent of broadband providers to demonize their heaviest users, they have to be more careful, especially the bigger ones, as everyone's already expecting them to be evil and not have the interests of their customers at heart, even though in reality one of the biggest things driving this witch hunt is the need to insure high quality service is received by all.

Of course broadband providers are first and foremost interested in making money, but they also have to insure they have enough capital to support building out capacity and that they're able to provide a consistent service to all that isn't degraded by the few.

But instead of saying, "if only these early adopters weren't using our service so much," I wish they'd go down the path of saying, "we are facing legitimate issues updating our business model and upgrading our networks to support the heaviest users, especially during this time when there's such a large gap between light users and power users, and because of this we must consider all options, keeping in mind first and always the interests of all our customers."

There...isn't that better?

My final thought on this is that we should never, ever, ever tell someone they're bad for using the Internet too much. What we need to do is discover a way whereby that usage can be encouraged as much as possible.

Because for me, it's not a matter of if the exaflood is coming or not, but instead what can we be doing to bring it about ASAP. And with this mindset the goal becomes not "how do we manage the heaviest users" but instead "how do we increase capacity to support a future where everyone is a 'bandwidth hog.'"

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Comments (1)

Great points. Thank you so much for spelling them out so clearly.

Something I want to add to the discussion is incentive for capacity building. The companies have said that they need more money in order to build capacity (i.e. higher prices for more use), but as far as I have learned, monopoly/duopoly industries take the money and run.

Without real competitors in the market, there is absolutely no incentive for them to change anything.

Historically, companies in any industry have been allowed monopoly or near monopoly status, because they promise lower prices from higher efficiency. This has not happened in any other industry and nothing indicates the internet service providers will be any different.

Posted by Katie Fleming on June 19, 2008 8:14 PM

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