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The Death of the Internet.
November 4, 2002 12:52 AM   Subscribe

The Death of the Internet. Do discuss.
posted by crasspastor (43 comments total)

 
You know what? People have been predicting the death of the Internet since companies started charging for access. Remember the World Wide Wait (circa 1995)? I remember reading stories about bandwidth back then, predicting that the entire thing would fall to its knees by 1998.

It's still standing, by the looks of things.

Charging for usage isn't going to change much either - CompuServe and AOL were doing it way back when, and I can think of a whole bunch of ISPs who have a long standing reputation for kicking off "bandwidth hogs". (Stand up, BT Internet.)

I'd even go so far as to argue that the applications that make the Internet what it is have been created by the academic establishment, which will never charge its users, and certainly not by the hour. There's even a part of me that reckons charging by the hour is a good thing for the average Joe and the stereotypical AOL user - perhaps it'll give them a little more respect for the medium and improve the experience for the rest of us.
posted by bwerdmuller at 1:05 AM on November 4, 2002


Er, of course the rest of me doesn't believe in a have/have-not society, information being the cornerstone of democracy, and thus Internet for all is a great ideal. This, then, would be a step in the wrong direction.
posted by bwerdmuller at 1:07 AM on November 4, 2002


Walled garden services have historically failed in comparison to open services, viz Compuserve, Prodigy, AOL vs vanilla internet. I have reasonable confidence that no matter how much investment is put into providing crippled network access, the market will ensure that free network access is available.

Witness the failure that is interactive digital television. High barriers to entry, crap offerings, no punters. Basically it's the web, but even worse, without the nuggets in the shite, and no bugger wants it.

My money's still on the netheads over the bellheads.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:31 AM on November 4, 2002


Is this like the death of Newgroups that has been predicted since the mid 80's?

If corporations start exerting way too much control over the Internet, then no doubt some new network will spring up somewhere else and spread, just like the Internet originally did.
posted by PenDevil at 1:34 AM on November 4, 2002


hey, with any luck Linus Torvalds will invent the first quantum computer. then we won't have to worry about a thing.
posted by magikeye at 1:43 AM on November 4, 2002


Interesting news about cable companies strategies, but with a brain-numbingly stupid title attached.

Just to add another optimistic perspective to the ones above, check out the Open Spectrum crowd's rantings here, here, and here. The handwriting is on the wall that wireless will leapfrog the cable companies and solve the last mile problem. FCC chairman Powell made a speech last week in which he gave some tentative support to the idea.

The cable companies can slow competition, but for now it doesn't look like they have the power to stop it. Microsoft's Palladium is a much bigger danger in my opinion.
posted by fuzz at 1:50 AM on November 4, 2002


I have long contended that the Internet as we know it is still in the proof of concept stage, much like the Stanley Steamer as compared to Ford's Model A. As a consumer service, the Internet product is still less than 10 years old, and only now the kids who grew up with it are entering the upper grades of high school and college. These young people will be the true innovators of the Internet; all we have done is lay the foundation.

As for so-called bandwidth hogs, heh, the market will prevail.
posted by mischief at 2:05 AM on November 4, 2002


As a consumer service, the Internet product is still less than 10 years old
it is thinking within this paradigm that ensures the destruction of the free net and its gradual but unstoppable conversion into a television-like advertising wasteland. "consumer service"? "internet product"? they already own your ass, mischief!
posted by quonsar at 4:34 AM on November 4, 2002


To achieve this, the cable industry, which sells Internet access to most Americans, is pursuing multiple strategies to closely monitor and tightly control subscribers and their use of the net.

I'm with fuzz on the title.

Charter (cable/BB ISP in MA) has just dropped upload speeds across the board on its 3 service levels for cable modem service. The gold package was 1.5 down/512K up, it is now 1.5 down/128k up. All 3 packages are 128 up now. When I asked why the cut the service they started hemming and hawing about file piracy and such. When I asked them who appointed them the file police for the internet the guy didn't know what to say. When I asked if they cut the price to match the cut in service he wanted me to speak to the supervisor.

I can see on the horizon now, the advent of the pay for bandwidth days are coming.
posted by a3matrix at 4:46 AM on November 4, 2002


Oh, so you really bought that "free net" myth, q? The net isn't free, never has been and never will be.
posted by mischief at 4:56 AM on November 4, 2002


perhaps i should have said "low cost" or "low barrier to entry", mischief. pardon my sloppy semantics. the end will come as more and more restrictions are placed on what one may publish, what level of service is required to view / publish, etc. i predict that the usa internet will be very much a "private party" walled garden playground of commerce, government and corporate propoganda. can't speak for the rest of the world, but have a look at china and australia.
posted by quonsar at 5:24 AM on November 4, 2002


OK, here's my beef:
Most broadband companies have a strict "no server" policy. You can't serve web pages, IRC, ftp whatever from your PC using their network.
Their stated concern was bandwidth. Now many of them have instituted bandwidth caps.
So why is it still verboten to run a server? If they limit your bandwidth and if you have to pay extra for exceeding that bandwidth, what is their justification?
I have read a few op-ed pieces that suggest their real motive behind the no-server policy is to exert a greater control over the content of the internet.
Sure, they provide you with a dinky, non-cgi-enabled static webspace to post pictures of your cats, but that really doesn't count.
posted by Fabulon7 at 5:45 AM on November 4, 2002


This is the kind of uninformed rant that gives the left a bad name in the business community -- bandwidth running over someone's optical fiber and switched network is someone else's resource (the one that put in the network, monitors it, spends r&d to upgrade it, markets it, etc.); totally different from spectrum. Free speech is different from free lunch (no matter how many times Richard Stallman cries to the contrary). It's a different argument to add up the degree to which the Internet is a shared, government-subsidised resource -- but if you want to make that one, start screaming about highways, by which the rich screw the poor by orders of magnitude over the degree they do restricting KaZaa traffic.

As for why bandwidth/usage software of increasing sophistication is a good thing, not a bad one: ask your local ISP how much a drag all their DSL customers' eggdrop IRC and Nimbda infected machines are on their network? I would love to be able to "shape" that traffic -- out of existence.

Finally, until we get optical termination figured out so you don't need a William Morris-like dedication to art and craft to run optical into people's homes, forget broadband of the downloadable movie variety. Once we do, however, an entirely new era of innovation and level of service will dawn -- one that will indeed make our current Internet experience seem like the Stanley Steamer.
posted by minnesotaj at 6:08 AM on November 4, 2002


We don't pay a flat fee for our electricity, water, or telephone usage. Why should we expect any different from our internet use? I like metered (or at least tiered) internet services because that means my parents who use their broadband services to check e-mail and stocks won't have to subsidize the teenager down the block who leaves Kaaza running 24/7.
posted by gyc at 6:26 AM on November 4, 2002


Its called capitalism. It ain't perfect but it works and we enjoy its benefits every day. Get over it.
posted by squidman at 6:34 AM on November 4, 2002


Funny thing is, the more expensive DSL/Cable gets, the less traffic AOL-T-W, MSN, Rogers, etc. can expect to see on their bandwidth-intensive flash/streaming AV sites.
I think they don't care so much about bandwidth as they do about what you are using that bandwidth for. I think if you promised to spend all your online time watching MSNBC news clips or shopping in partners' stores, they wouldn't care so much about the bandwidth you were using.
posted by Fabulon7 at 6:37 AM on November 4, 2002


Capitalism sucks, squidman.
posted by Fabulon7 at 6:40 AM on November 4, 2002


... and Fabulon7, your alternative is?
posted by squidman at 6:44 AM on November 4, 2002


Sorry, I was being snarky. I don't want to derail this otherwise interesting thread into a capitalism/other government flamefest, so please ignore my comment. It's early, I apologize.
posted by Fabulon7 at 7:01 AM on November 4, 2002


no, that should read:
Capitalism sucks squidman.
posted by quonsar at 7:04 AM on November 4, 2002


My reading of servers is the ISPs want to equate them to 'business' and thus charge business rates.
posted by mischief at 7:09 AM on November 4, 2002


They won't start changing the high-bandwidth people more because it costs them more to host such people--they'll charge them more because high-speed internet access is worth a lot more to these folks, so they'll happily pay out (as long as there are no cheaper alternatives). It only makes sense. Broadband is still too expensive right now for people that are only occansional internet surfers but it is a bargain for people that spend hours and hours a day on the internet.

It will start by one company offering a really cheap (say, $19.95/month) broadband service with a b/w cap that's fine for normal surfing but won't be enough for serious downloading or uploading. Then all the major companies will follow suit and offer similar "discount plans." Then, they'll all start jacking up the prices little by little. Next thing you know, it will be like the cell phone market with a pricing plan for everyone, and unlimited bandwidth costing a fortune. (i.e. whatever the /. crowd will be willing to pay)
posted by boltman at 7:21 AM on November 4, 2002


I have read a few op-ed pieces that suggest their real motive behind the no-server policy is to exert a greater control over the content of the internet.

Why would they give a shit? Unless you're positing EEEEVILLL CORPORATE PEOPLE!!!!!! who sit on their moneybags and twirl their moustaches, this doesn't make sense. Why would Charter give two beans about what I do or don't say on the net, excepting stuff that might get them sued?

I can think of two reasons for a server ban. First, they're just using servers as a proxy for commercial use, and they want to keep being able to charge commercial clients more for largely the same service. Second, running server stuff opens up more avenues for your local hacker to get into your machine and turn it into a spam-spewing nightmare for the ISP.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:32 AM on November 4, 2002


No, it does make sense. They are media corporations, and they MAKE MONEY off people using their media. By limiting the choices and steering you towards the media they produce, they make more money. It has nothing to do with being evil--it's just good business.

I agree about the spam-spewing/virus machines, but I don't think that that headache is their only motive.
posted by Fabulon7 at 7:39 AM on November 4, 2002


No, it does make sense. They are media corporations, and they MAKE MONEY off people using their media. By limiting the choices and steering you towards the media they produce, they make more money.

And they're worried about people with obscure ftp servers that you'll have to know the dotted-quads for? I just don't buy it. I can certainly imagine that they don't want to be hosting the neighborhood warez server; who would?

I really don't think they care in the slightest what you serve any more than they care what you put on your space on their webservers, they just want to charge you like a commercial client for serving. Barring stuff that'd get 'em sued.

I agree about the spam-spewing/virus machines, but I don't think that that headache is their only motive.

The clever reader will notice that I also mentioned something about charging commercial clients more\ldots
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:48 AM on November 4, 2002


Why would Charter give two beans about what I do or don't say on the net, excepting stuff that might get them sued?

Because web servers on the internet can be proxy cached(the copy of Metafilter probably on every cable proxy server). One to one communications cannot be proxied(the Britney file share of a Kazaa user).

Big news story comes out, and a million people run to the copy of cnn.com on your proxy, which you only have to update once every five minutes. The hottest new single in 10 years shows up, and a million mice run in a million directions to get(and share) a million copies of the same multi-million byte file.

One is a manageable bandwidth load, the other is potentially not.
posted by dglynn at 8:10 AM on November 4, 2002


And why do they want to charge commercial clients more? What is the motive? Think about it.
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:14 AM on November 4, 2002


I can think of two reasons for a server ban. First, they're just using servers as a proxy for commercial use, and they want to keep being able to charge commercial clients more for largely the same service. Second, running server stuff opens up more avenues for your local hacker to get into your machine and turn it into a spam-spewing nightmare for the ISP.

Both of those are likely ... but add another as well: while DSL is a dedicted line, the technology behind Cable runs more like a big LAN - your connection speed, in fact, may slow down during times of high usage by your neighbors. (During the early days of Cable modems, if you made a mistake of setting share permissions on your folders to "Everyone" so that two computers in your house could exchange files, your shares would actually show up in your next door neighbor's "Network Neighborhood"). Further, hosting companies generally allocate pipe differently than last-mile ISP's do (hosts dedicate far more to the upload side, while ISP's dedicate far more to the download side).

Now imagine Matt, for instance, running MeFi out of his house over his cable connection. Imagine also a couple of spam farms operating on the same cable network ... i.e., a very small number of people could make certain that most of the rest of the users on the system had a much slower experience.

So far as variable charges go, this too actually makes sense. Cable companies do not magically pull bandwidth out of the air, they have to pay for their pipe to the internet (multiple T3's, etc.). And their bandwidth costs are metered. They currently average these costs, and distribute them equally across all users. As they add more and more customers, they need to buy more pipe. When they examine usage, however, and understand that maybe one fifth of the users (who engage in heavy peer-to-peer or rich media downloads) are eating over half the bandwidth ... of course it makes sense to meter usage.

This conversation is slightly tilted towards a perspective that implys an accusation - that Cable companies are trying to figure out how to screw people that use large amounts of bandwidth - however, another - equally valid - way of looking at it is by understanding that unusually high bandwidth users are currently being subsidized by the low-bandwidth users on the system.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:45 AM on November 4, 2002


I personally don't care how much they charge "bandwidth hogs," any more than I care how much they tax cigarettes -- I don't smoke, and I don't download music and video. Not out of moral considerations, mind you; that just isn't what the internet is for (to me). What I love is the instant access to all kinds of information, poetry (hi y2karl!), and other stuff that (as bwerdmuller points out) isn't going to go away no matter what happens. When I want to hear music, I turn on the radio or play a CD.
posted by languagehat at 9:08 AM on November 4, 2002


And why do they want to charge commercial clients more?

Because they're willing to pay more for the same or very similar service, because they make more important use of it. Same as with airline seats and phone service.

I don't think they give a shit about the content of the web server, as such, any more than United gives a shit why people are flying to Boston, or Ma Bell gives a shit who people at J. Random Corporation call and why.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:29 AM on November 4, 2002


because they make more important use of it
Now that is crazy talk.

I agree that more bandwidth usage should cost more, but on the whole, if I'm paying per GB of transfer, I want to be able to do whatever I like with that GB.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:55 AM on November 4, 2002


Slightly off topic, but I do wish that people who say things like this: "Free speech is different from free lunch (no matter how many times Richard Stallman cries to the contrary)" would please read this.
posted by wobh at 9:59 AM on November 4, 2002


The FPP links to an article which links to a subsidiary article that offers this telling industry quote:
"Let's face it: A small percentage of users are using a much greater amount of bandwidth," a Bell Canada spokesperson said. "Most people won't be affected by it."

If it is only a small number of people being hogs, and cable modems are already capped
then it appears that they are really disguising a rate hike by blaming p2p filesharers and in the same breath say, relax this won't hurt you a bit. Their rationale stinks on ice says I.

But, I agree, in the end, this will only spur the freenets and other alternatives like DSL or "creative" work arounds.

Was there ever a time when cable providers didn't suck ass every which way they could think of? Just wundrin'...
posted by BentPenguin at 10:18 AM on November 4, 2002


Though I'm no fan of the telecom industry, if folks are out there bogarting bandwith, then perhaps they should pay a premium for that privelege. Though the web tends to be regarded as the great free frontier or whatever, the simple fact is, it costs somebody money to provide the access/service to folks.

If a roomful of folks chipped in for a pizza, and one person chowed half of it themselves.....hmmm...I had a great analogy here but all of a sudden Im hungry.
posted by timsteil at 10:32 AM on November 4, 2002


why do they want to charge commercial clients more?

Because when the online equivalent of Public Service Commissions gain some control, it will be easier to hike the rates of commercial customers than on private consumers, very much like utilities are charged now.

If you have difficulty wrapping your head around that, try this: why do governments TAX commercial enterprises more?
posted by mischief at 10:38 AM on November 4, 2002


Pepsi Canada payed $0 in income tax in 1997. I paid a lot more than that.

Tax is a much, much different issue than fee for service agreements.
posted by Fabulon7 at 11:40 AM on November 4, 2002


I just recently gave sympatico the boot after enduring two months of 5 gig bandwidth caps (and am now a happy look dsl subscriber), and it's divx and mp3 feeding frenzy time. I figure they will cap all highspeed internet connections in time, and they will also find a way to put the kibosh on p2p movies and mp3. So get it while the getting is good!
Now, to go install my new 60 gig for all the divx i'm about to download.....
posted by timecube at 11:45 AM on November 4, 2002


The economics of this situation are not what you all seem to think they are. First of all, boom overspending left us with a massive bandwidth glut that effectively reduces the real current price of bandwidth to a fraction of what you are all paying for it now. Second, bandwidth technologies have been following an exponential Moore's law curve for many years now (but your bandwidth bill isn't). Third, Intel has just announced that their core strategy is to make communications services free with every chip they sell.

So why are we still arguing over how much we pay to send bytes? Because the telecom and cable companies are trying to avoid writing off billions of dollars in bad infrastructure investments at their true current value. Their situation is a bit like a company that was carrying a billion 386 PCs on their balance sheet, desperately trying to find a way to charge customers for them.

This is the meaning of the "Fail Fast" manifesto I linked to earlier in the thread. In the meanwhile, the cable companies are limiting upstream bandwidth and trying to get control over customers' Internet usage because they hope they can start making money off broadband content, in collusion with Hollywood and Congress, before it becomes apparent that their bandwidth business is insolvent.

Little do they realize that there is now a content glut of almost the same magnitude as the bandwidth glut (have you paid a subscription for MeFi's great content lately?). This stuff doesn't want to be free because Stallman saw the Virgin Mary and she told him so, it wants to be free for the same reason that no one charges you for every e-mail you send or every time that you use the calculator bundled within Windows.

In the future, the cost of bandwidth will be the cost of buying your PC with a wireless connection to someone else's PC connected to the wireless grid. You'll give up some of your built-in communications power to route messages for others, and they'll do the same for you. This isn't communism, it's just the consequences of exponential technology improvement in an industry that is still trying to make money off investments with 30-year depreciation schedules.
posted by fuzz at 11:45 AM on November 4, 2002


We don't pay a flat fee for our electricity, water, or telephone usage.

What's this "we" white man?

My water's a flat fee, as are local land-line calls. As is my DSL contract, which lets me connect anything I want on my end (guess I lucked out there). Cable's pretty much a flat fee, once you've picked your channels, it's not like I get charged extra for watching more of it, or get a rebate because I didn't watch any tv this weekend.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:16 PM on November 4, 2002


What's this "we" white man?

I second the motion. I pay flat fees too.
posted by oissubke at 12:29 PM on November 4, 2002


fuzz -

Do you really think wireless grid is going to either a) support unlimited broadband usage of the type whose disappearance is bemoaned in the TomPaine piece (download video/audio)? or b) isn't going to require shaped/monitored/billed traffic from a network provider building out the loop or connecting it to the backbone?

(Off topic reply: wobh -- I've read the Stallman pieces (and the Raymond, which are smarter, but still not quite right) on free software -- and the definition on the GNU is one of free lunch -- not free speech. Change/Modify source? No problem, buy a source code license (and sign an NDA). Redistribute for free? That becomes free lunch. Or, more accurately, publicly available subsidized lunch -- which is sometimes a very good thing: Linux, Public Schools, Highways -- and even, possibly, fuzz's wireless loop; just remember to pay your taxes and be honest about what you consume and what you give.)
posted by minnesotaj at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2002


Well minnesotaj it looks like we're going to have to disagree and call it a day.
posted by wobh at 10:22 PM on November 4, 2002


"Free electricity for everybody!"
honest. though obscure, the reference does make sense in context of this thread if you think about it.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:33 AM on November 5, 2002


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