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Are You Ready for Exabytes? Are Broadband Providers?



pipeleakI say it over and over again. The Achilles heel of most of the innovation we are seeing in computing is how broadband develops to keep pace with the demands we are placing on the pipes. To be honest, I’m not overly optimistic that the pipes will ever be big enough to keep up. The cost to improve networks is apparently so high that the broadband providers, while attempting to upgrade their systems, can’t keep up currently with the demand. They haven’t figure out how to deal with the current reality, much less any future potential. Apple and AT&T’s iPhone story is going to be on interesting look back years from now when it comes to examining those issues.

So, when I read this piece on Read/Write/Web that in eight years we’ll be measuring video content on the network in exabytes (that’s a billion gigabytes if you’re counting), I have to shake my head and wonder if we’re talking 8 years, 18, or 80. Sure, technological advances happen in huge jumps, but at the current content vs delivery pace, I can’t see it happening that quickly, but maybe I’m just being overly cynical.

With the current pipes we have, broadband providers are already looking for ways to cap or charge for how much data is used. This smacks right up against business models like online backup services, LiveMesh, and others that require connections to be on all the time to really take advantage of them. So, if we’re taking exabytes of video coursing through the network it isn’t just the width of the pipes that will be changing, it will be how the flow through those pipes is paid for that matters as well.

Love to know your thoughts here.



  1. Charles

    09/08/2009 at 11:58 am

    Broadband providers will be obsolete in less than 10 years. No one will remember how to spell Comcast just like they don’t remember how to spell AOL now.

  2. Xavier Lanier

    09/08/2009 at 12:36 pm

    I think the growth in content production/consumption is going to outpace available bandwidth for the foreseeable future, at least here in the US. I have the biggest pipe Comcast will sell me and I still can’t use some services effectively.

    @Charles- speaking of AOL…I sure hope we never go back to the age of metered connections and only being able to use one computer at a time. However, I do miss the old-school way of being able to dial up form just about anywhere in the world and not having to pay extra to get online when traveling.

  3. Sumocat

    09/08/2009 at 1:01 pm

    Xavier: Don’t count those days as done quite yet. Today’s rate plans may not measure usage by consumption, but they are based on connection speed. Technically, that should be considered “metered” (particularly since users can be throttled). And the use of one computer at a time is still the norm for mobile broadband. The Mifi hasn’t let us outgrow that yet (and its usage is metered by consumption if you exceed the cap).

  4. LeeN

    09/08/2009 at 1:20 pm

    LOL, I remember when AOL couldn’t keep up with demand, it was so annoying paying for a service that you couldn’t connect to most of the time.

  5. Xavier Lanier

    09/08/2009 at 2:14 pm

    @LeeN yes. AOL definitely had more than its share of hiccups :-)

  6. ThomasB

    09/09/2009 at 1:51 pm

    I believe that charging for the amount of traffic could actually be part of the solution.

    The problem with the flat rates is that it is not in the primary interest of the providers to give you lots of bandwidth, rather they just give you enough so that you don’t go somewhere else.

    When the provider would charge per traffic, it would be much more in the providers interest to enable you to consume more and I believe capacities would increase much faster.

    The flaw with the old metered connections was that they were often either metered by time, which makes things worse, or prices have just been ridiculously high.

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