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Posts Tagged ‘net neutrality’

Cassandra speaks again

Posted by Miranda on January 13, 2008

Cassandra, as you may know, was one of the daughters of Priam of Troy. She was cursed by Apollo in a very creative way. He gave her the gift of prophecy. The curse was that no one would believe her. I always felt a great deal of sympathy for Cassandra and many years ago, when my mother took me to Troy I sat on the wall there and tried to establish mental contact with her. She didn’t answer.

These days I sometimes feel like Cassandra though. I read so much enthusiasm in the edu-blogging world for technologies like video, Skype, social networking.. all sorts of new things. Perhaps it is because my town still has only dial-up and so many of these new technologies are unavailable to me that I feel less than hyped up. Could just be jealousy I suppose.

But then again it could be that because I work on the IT side and have a better understanding of how bandwidth works that I feel a sense of impending… not doom, that’s too strong. But I am beginning to believe it’s all going to fall. Articles like Net gridlock by 2010 – BBC, YouTube Comprises 10% of all Internet Traffic – WebPro News or Information Super Traffic Jam – Forbes have been catching my attention.

I’ve also been having personal experience with a traffic problem that in my opinion, already exists. I volunteer as a tech for a large discussion forum, the server for which is located in Miami. Over the last several months (since school started) our users have been having trouble getting to the forum at times of high traffic. We’ve been doing some informal studies, asking our users to send us results of traceroute from their home computers. The Washington DC, Atlanta GA, Miami FL corridor is a huge bottleneck. Signals can bounce around down there for quite a while. We are planning to move our forum to a server located in the UK.

The Forbes article says:

One solution suggested by network operators is to prioritize traffic based on service tiers and use revenue from content providers in the premium tiers to subsidize the high costs of infrastructure deployment. The MoveOn.org crowd denounces this solution for creating Internet fast lanes and relegating everything else to the slow lane.

I believe this is just what will happen and it will start happening soon. Money talks and everyone else will be walking. Education will be a low priority and companies that can pay will get the bandwidth.

Sure there’ll be improvements to the global infrastructure. But they cost. Someone will have to pay and it will be you and me. Before those improvements take place, we are going to see some major slowdowns. and after they take place there will be rationing. It would be nice if the rationing was according to merit or usefulness but I fear that won’t be so.

Bandwidth isn’t infinite. But like Cassandra, I don’t expect anyone to pay attention.

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