I do not know when the ISPs and backbone carriers of the world are going to wake up to the fact that the average broadband product that they offer to ordinary consumers is not fit for purpose. Not even close.
We’ve outgrown contended (shared) bandwidth provision. I know lots of families all over the globe that exceed their download quota every month. The lack of symmetric network access (SDH – where the upload speed is equal to the download speed) is holding back small businesses of every kind and hence innovation. If you have kids, they can burn through your allowances for bandwidth in a single afternoon on YouTube. And when they do, they still do not get faultless playback at high quality. They get buffering and blocky, over-compressed images with poor audio synchronisation.
Some carriers offer managed internet connectivity (the sort of product that most ordinary households actually need) to small businesses, but at outrageous prices. You would think that Moore’s Law, Gilder’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law had never happened. http://www.jimpinto.com/writings/techlaws.html
Why should a 2 Megabit dedicated, uncontended, synchronous line that permits access to the internet cost “from £399 a month”? I can’t understand the economics, other than to presume that there is a great deal of profiteering going on. Why would anyone sane pay that for such a slow and out-dated speed?
Many will think “What’s the big deal? So you can’t watch YouTube for a month. Who does that hurt?” Well, that’s the narrowest view. What it ignores is that YouTube ought to be a 24 x 7 proposition for all, at reasonable prices. It’s not like the digits have to go via a satellite, or anything quite as exotic and expensive as that. Beyond that are all the e-commerce, telepresence and video-enriched applications that are not possible with today’s broadband. That’s the real problem and the real cost. Piracy is not a good enough reason to limit bandwidth. Piracy has some very simple social solutions (more on that in a future post).
That’s the real reason we need respectable, reliable and unlimited connectivity. Applications. The future is cloud computing, federated, mashed-up software services that you access by usage and on demand, which you don’t install on your computer at all. It’s all served. The future is distributed and highly available file systems, databases and application services.
That’s the important innovation that is being stifled. Our ISPs are preventing us from creating globally useful applications accessible anywhere, by anyone, with the ability to continue your work from wherever you left off, no matter where you next log in and which device you log in from. We’re missing out on this because our potential customers have such inadequate internet connectivity and bandwidth provision. This also holds back meaningful media commerce. The lack of unlimited bandwidth provides a powerful incentive to steal and hoard media, rather than using it on demand, for a fee, without hassle, like turning on a light switch.
If we ever want to cut our carbon footprint by eliminating commuting (or most of it) and if we ever want to work meaningfully on-line, using powerful collaboration tools, then the current and planned broadband provision is not going to cut it. We’re crippling our planet and our innovative capacity, hence our economic prosperity, by allowing the current ISPs and bandwidth providers to pretend that bandwidth is scarce and rare, then charge us through the noses for the trickle they deign to offer.
The time for a two order of magnitude increase in bandwidth and download provision went by some time ago. When will this be noticed by the providers and the regulators? When will somebody with genuine understanding and insight be in charge of policy? When will everybody realise that high speed internet is not about entertainment and about Hollywood protecting its investments in productions of dubious quality. The next generation internet is about enabling service federation, peer to peer storage, cloud computing and collaborative working. These applications need to leverage telepresence and high quality audio and video.
The time is now, but those that can make the necessary changes and plans appear to be fiddling while Rome burns.