As some of you may know, I have chimed in several times on the debate on Internet access and the games ISP play to block certain types of traffic (Bittorrent). I have leaned toward the side of Internet providers and defended some of their restrictive practices. I took quite a bit of heat for some of my previous positions. For example, this excerpt was posted in a discussion forum as a reply to an opinion piece I wrote recently for Extreme Tech magazine:
“So I was wondering why Extremetech would allow such blatant misinformation and FUD on their site…”
First off, please understand my point of reference before assuming I am an industry shill. I am an unbiased observer sitting on the sideline.
Secondly, you can villainize providers all you want, but they exist to make a profit. It is, after all, a business. And now they are facing a new threat with the explosion of YouTube and other video content. Here are some trends that we have seen.
Back in 2006, on a typical footprint of usage patterns on an ISP network, streams exceeding 200kbs (that is 200 kilo bits of data per second) averaged around 2 percent of the users at any one time. Almost all other streams were well under 50kbs. The 2006 ratio of big users to small users allowed a typical Internet provider to serve approximately 500 people on a 10 megabit circuit without any serious issues. Today we are seeing 10 to 15 percent of the active streams exceeding 200 kbs. That is about a 700 percent increase in the last two years. This increase is mostly attributed to increased online video with YouTube leading the way.
The ramification of YouTube and its impact on bandwidth demands is putting the squeeze on providers– like it or not they have not choice to but to implement some sort of quota system on bandwidth. Providers invested in certain sized networks and capacities based on the older usage model and smaller increases over time, not 700 percent in 2 years. Some providers did build out higher capaciites with the hopes of reaping returns by supplying their own video content, but as the caption says, running other people’s video content without sharing the revenue was not planned for.
Was that a mistake this lack of capacity an evil greed driven conspiracy? No, it was just all they could afford at that time. Video has always been out there, but several years ago it was just not in any form of original content that made it compelling to watch from a public content site . I am not predicting Armageddon caused by overburdened Internet access, however, in the next few years you will see things get ugly with finger pointing and most likely Congress getting involved, obviously to saber rattle and score brownie points with their constituents.
With all that said, we will do our best to stay net neutral and help everybody sort it out without playing sides.
See our recent article on net neutrality for more details.