Increased Data Technology Usage Exposes Broadband’s Limits but Solution Not So Clear

Source: Noozhawk

Original Article here

Santa Barbara experts debate net neutrality and the future of consumer access to the Internet

As the Internet becomes more accessible and Santa Barbara’s reliance on smart phone technology increases, experts warn that technology’s limitations may become more apparent.

“At some point we’re going to run out of bandwidth on wired and wireless Internet,” said Andy Seybold, a globally recognized mobile computing consultant and founder of Andrew Seybold Inc. “Data usage is doubling and doubling.

Seybold, who has his roots in radio transmission and frequencies, has been predicting trends in mobile computing and convergence for more than 20 years.

Many people use broadband technology, or high-speed access to the Internet, whether it’s at home or their workplaces through ethernet, or accessed through smart phones.

Applications like FaceTime, or video calling through smart phones, and peer-to-peer sharing sites like Pirate Bay, require high bandwidth usage over long periods of time.

More than half of the content online is video and Netflix and Google TV serve as emerging examples that occupy significant bandwidth.

“Think of FaceTime, if we have video conversations, that’s going to quadruple the bandwidth requirements,” said Jacques Habra, founder of SBClick, an app that aggregates local deals, news and information based on geographical location. “It’s a tremendous wear on the network.

“Look at the YouTube and Vimeo software. The technology has been around for more than 10 years, but the infrastructure has finally caught up.”

Although the technology is innovative and useful, there isn’t enough infrastructure to support increased demand in data usage, and the Internet will slow when demand exceeds capacity, Seybold said.

Until there is incentive to do so, infrastructure won’t be built. Internet service providers are wary of making an investment in infrastructure because there is no guarantee it will be profitable, and the private sector needs to create that motivation, said Russ Sharer, Occam Networks’ vice president of marketing.

“The network should be totally available,” he said. “I believe you should not block content, but if everything is shared and open it blocks their return on investment.”

While many agree that the current broadband infrastructure has its limits, there is not as much consensus on how to best manage increased data usage and whether it can be done on a neutral Internet.

The principle of net neutrality would guarantee that every Internet user is equal in terms of access, bandwidth and inter-connectivity — regardless of size or purpose — and prevent corporate interests like local cable and telephone providers from using fees to manage or otherwise limit network traffic. This week, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to adopt a policy that includes a ban on unreasonable network management as well as a basic no-blocking rule.

But if certain entities can monitor data and prevent the “data hogs” from using large amounts of bandwidth, customers will benefit by having equal access to data services, Seybold argued.

“We have to manage the networks somehow,” he said. “Net neutrality allows everybody as much access as they want; that’s going to crash the Internet. What’s needed is to give the operators the ability to manage the amount of data we have access to through pricing and managing access by time of day.”

Seybold advocates data-access management through different levels of pricing and charging more for high usage during peak times. He cited Cox Communications, which offers four levels of broadband to better manage its network.

“If you look at the Internet as a fire hose, you can fill it with so much water,” Seybold said. “If someone is using half of the fire hose, other people only have access to half its potential.”

On the contrary, Habra defended the freedom of the Internet as similar to the freedom of speech.

“If you allow broadband carriers to control what people see and do on the Internet, it completely undermines the principles that have made the Internet a success,” he said. “A neutral communication medium is the only way you are going to allow a ‘mom-and-pop’ Web site to compete with an Amazon.”

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