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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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October 9, 2008 10:15 AM

CampFiber Cont'd: It's Not About Filling The Pipe

I went into Saturday's CampFiber in Lafayette with the belief that the primary topic of discussion would be how to fully utilize the 100Mbps intranet LUS subscribers will have access to, but then a funny thing happened: that wasn't what everyone else was interested in.

The developers asked many more questions of LUS about their set-top box as they wanted to learn how they could get apps onto TV sets, and there were multiple times at which people brought up their interest in wireless geo-aware apps, whereas figuring out what to do with 100Mbps was a secondary issue at best.

And in fact the few times we got into the mindset of talking big bandwidth applications, some in the room expressed astonishment that we'd ever have the mindset of trying to fill up the pipe. Developers couldn't understand why you'd be expressly trying to load the network to capacity, and LUS is ever cautious about maintaining the integrity of their network.

So on the front of figuring out what to do to fully utilize the connectivity of a full fiber infrastructure, we didn't make a lot of progress.

Yet I also learned some things that may explain why, namely that there just isn't a lot of need for 100Mbps pipe today.

While you all know that ultimately I clearly see the need for that kind of capacity, and that even 100Mbps is only one step along the way to even greater demands, we shouldn't ignore how little bandwidth we're really using today, even in scenarios where multiple users are aggregated on the same network.

For example, Adam Melancon runs the IT network for Lafayette's libraries. He shared that he's got hundreds of simultaneous users the vast majority of which are watching online video and he gets by just fine with 35Mbps.

Another came from Logan McDaniel, Lafayette Parish School District's CIO, who shared that he has 12,000 computers running through a 90Mbps pipe that only occasionally peaks and typically averages closer to 45Mbps.

Again, in no way is this to suggest we don't need big broadband everywhere. Melancon gushed over having been able to grow from a few T-1s to 35Mbps over the last few years, and McDaniel talked about his plans to get 1Gbps to the schools. They see demand growing and want to make sure their constituents are properly prepared to utilize whatever comes down the pike.

But we're currently in a transitionary period. After years of last mile bottlenecks constraining apps, now capacity is starting to run ahead of demand, and yet it's not happening broadly enough to incentivize developers to build the 100Mbps killer app as not enough people have access to that kind of speed, plus while network operators would kill for an app that differentiates fiber over copper, they also don't want to have to go back to dealing with overloaded networks again.

This dichotomy was one of the more interesting takeaways I got from CampFiber. It made me realize that the goal isn't filling up the pipe, it's figuring out how not having to worry about capacity constraints can free the minds of developers to worry less about compression and squeezing things down and more about the functionality, usability, and overall impact of their apps on improving society.

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Comments (1)

I may be the black sheep of the fiber network. I was thinking about all of the Final Cut Pro machines sitting out on the network. Between the distributed rendering of video files and 3D apps like Maya, maybe we will be the ones pushing the pipe.

I think developers and users are looking more at the mobile computing world then the thick pipe one. The lack of bandwidth in the past has forced companies and developers into creative situations (MPEG4 for example).

While I don't want to seem like a bandwidth hog, I know that there is great potential in the "fat pipe" past the P2P / torrent use that some are waiting for.

Posted by Kris A. Wotipka on October 9, 2008 11:00 PM

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