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« Pretty picture | Main | Human trafficking awareness »

Apr 08, 2009


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His point further brings into focus TWC's absurdity when considered in light of the fact that TWC recently upped their bandwidth (the speed) and that is now a central "selling point" in their marketing.

Still, I've often wondered, when the geek takes hold, does allowing me to download something lighting fast so that I am done and "out of the way" quicker also help relieve stress on the system?* Does a two-lane mile-long road operate more efficiently if only two cars are allowed at a time, but they may travel at 180 mph or if eight cars are allowed traveling at 45 mph?

(* We seem to default to a premise in these discussions that TWC does actually have a capacity problem in this market or is close enough to one that it has to take action to stave it off. I don't buy that and not just because some corporate PR hacks are saying it, but because I don't see them taking other actions one would expect if this were true, like putting caps on their other data products traveling over the same cable, like digital TV and phone.)

Ed Cone

Faster pipes should ease congestion...but they'll also encourage more traffic.

I don't think the default position is that TWC has a current capacity problem here, just that capacity is a reasonable concern as video traffic grows. It's been a hot topic since Metcalfe literally ate his words more than a decade ago. That's the frame I've tried to put around this from the start, it doesn't make TWC's plan any less absurd.

That said, the cable and telecom industries are famous for crying poor on capacity, often for reasons that have little to do with technology.


Geeking in on my out, it's actually in any provider's interest to get my download to me as fast as possible and get off their routers to free up space for other users. (That's what I told Lenslinger, Joe and the Kerri @ WFMY but I think that level of geek is difficult for many readers/listeners so it always gets left on the cutting room floor.) If I get 7x1 (download/upload capacity), then I download a 7Mb file in about 7 seconds (on a perfect day) and those with slower connections, like 512x128 (much smaller than 7x1) take many times longer. So we both get the same file; it just takes them a lot longer and they keep the routers busier longer.

If that was too complicated or you like car metaphors, think of it this way: in a car, if you drive 60mph on an open freeway for 100 miles, you use LESS gas than someone who drives 100 miles but is stuck in stop-and-go traffic the whole way. We know that. But not with Internet downloads and speed; we both use the SAME "amount of gas." So it's in everyone's interest to serve up the speed.

More traffic is what this is all about, secondarily to the real issue: TV and movies and lost revenue for them.


TW's problem they see is like traffic because most roads are only fully utilized for a small part of the day. If your 4 lane highway is jammed from 8am-9am and 5pm-6pm, people will not tolerate a continuous expansion. Downloads at peak time cause more of a problem than downloads at off-peak times. It is like congestion pricing for roads - if you do all your driving at off-peak times, you contribute less than someone driving only at peak times, even if you both drive the same distance.

I also wonder where their bottlenecks are. For last mile, going from docsis2 to docsis3 allows more bits-per-Megahertz of physical bandwidth. If they project a bottleneck closer to the internet backbone, the problem will get worse. I would imagine that building and maintaining the last mile network is much more expensive than the backbone, and the docsis3 rollout is a way to more efficiently use that last mile (drive faster safely).

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