Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bill Thompson on two tier service

The BBC have an article by Bill Thompson on their site. He makes the case against two trier Internet service.

This is an important battle and in the end I suspect that the carriers seeking rent from large content providers are going to lose. But this is not necessarily the Pareto optimal outcome.

Verizon's attempts to get Google to pay for bandwidth are doomed to fail. I doubt Google management bother to return calls. What is Verizon going to do if Google refuse to pay up? If they try to cut access to Google they will face a subscriber revolt. If Google did pay of Verizon they would guarantee similar demands from other carriers which would only escalate over time.

As a business proposition paying money for something Verizon's subscribers think they are paying for already makes zero sense. It is old style telcothink.

The idea that Congress is going to help with this scheme is even more absurd. Congressmen may be clueless about the net but their staffers are not. What tool does Verizon think the staffers use every day for their research? Even if Congress could be bribed into helping with the scheme the success would be shortlived. Whatever party went along with the scheme would be sure to get punished by the voters.

There is a possible win-win scenario but I doubt it is reachable. It makes no sense for Goolge to pay more for what subscribers are already paying for but it might make sense for blockbuster to pay more for Verizon to deliver a video on demand movie over the net at high speed. DVD quality video requires about 1 Gb/hr using MPEG2. That works out at about 2.2 Mb/sec, rather more than the raw bandwidth that cable provides. Take into account framing issues and contention and the maxiumum sustained throughput one subscriber can expect is maybe 0.1 Mbs. Even with MPEG4 we are far away.

It would make every bit of sense for blockbuster to be able to pay Verizon to boot a subscriber's bandwidth for a couple of hourse to download a movie. Getting to that point would require development of a new set of protocols, net routing technology &ct. That is the easy part, much of the technical work is more or less done.

What I don't think is going to happen in time is settling the political issues. Steady increases in performance are what net users expect as a matter of course. Unless an agreement is reached soon the potential purchasers of the bandwidth are going to think that they can get what they want by just waiting a little longer until the standard net bandwidth rate is high enough for their needs.

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