BitTorrent CEO talks about bandwidth caps

Eric Klinker, Bittorrent’s CEO, wrote an article on the myths and realities of network congestion. In short, the real problem isn’t that people are using terabytes of bandwidth each month, but when that bandwidth is being used:

A fixed-cost network is analogous to a highway system. Highways must be designed to handle peak traffic, which in most cities is rush hour.

This establishes the initial cost of building out the highway network. When traffic grows, new lanes have to be built and new costs are added to the equation. It is not the 2 percent of cars using the empty roads at 4 a.m. that creates the demand for new lanes.

It’s the same for your ISP’s network. On your ISP’s network, “rush hour” is called “peak time,” with congestion usually occurring between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. The capacity required to handle these peak times sets the cost benchmark.To continue with the highway analogy, would rationing gas or capping miles on everyone’s odometer solve rush hour traffic?

No, of course not. People would still prioritize use of their car and precious miles to get to and from work. They might take fewer road trips on the weekends when the roads are already clear. Rush hour would still exist, and the road would be no cheaper to build or expand. Likewise, bandwidth caps won’t relieve congestion at peak times.

It’s pretty much why Netflix sometimes has more trouble with streaming during peak Internet usage times: because everyone’s at home trying to use it then. Definitely recommended reading.

  1. The case for net neutrality | Stop it, AT&T. - pingback on April 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm

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