Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why the US Faces Broadband Price Hikes

The flat-rate pricing model we’re all used to only works when users consume roughly equal amounts of bandwidth, but the adoption of P2P for non-stop use by a small number of people blows it out the window.

20% of drivers on our highways make up 80% of traffic at any given time. 20% of shoppers in a grocery store buy 80% of the products. 20% of water customers use 80% of our water resources.

The dull argument that the best consumers of a product, service, utility, etc., somehow spoil it or break the system for the rest of us is, and always has been, wrong.

These best consumers built these systems. The Internet wouldn't exist without feverish downloaders. Comcast certainly wouldn't have built their system to its current bandwidth capability without its extreme users' steadily increasing needs, and Comcast wouldn't have increased their capacity if all we do is send a few text emails and post on listservers.

McDonalds is never heard complaining that a few of their customers buy too many of their Happy Meals. These more active consumers built and sustain the enterprise. Should they limit the number of Happy Meals per-customer or charge more per-Happy Meal for those who consume more? Of course not.

Comcast and other providers provide a flat rate service, and until they change to a metered service, they must not chip away at the absolute notion of unlimited. They know that the minute they change to a metered service, their growth will stop dead in its tracks, defeating its plans to use increased bandwidth to resell content.

Our society's culture, economy, security, and communication infrastructure is growing rapidly to depend on the Internet. As this need grows, like electricity and water, the market will shape the Internet as a utility, open, free, and regulated. The underlying commerce and flow of ideas will make use of this resource, but ultimately it will be up to us as a nation and a world to keep it free.

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