What happened to my information super highway?

December 27, 2011 at 9:18 am | Posted in Transcender news | Leave a comment
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When I was a kid, the interstate that traveled through downtown Atlanta called the “connector” had only three lanes in each direction. The Department of Transportation (DOT) spent years expanding it. When I graduated college it had so many lanes that traffic was not going to be a problem. I moved away to Charlotte and came back a few years later. All the lanes that were added to the downtown connector did not matter. There were too many cars and not enough lanes. The same problem is happening with our wireless networks.

The Internet was called the informational super highway. This new highway could educate millions all you needed was modem. The modem went by the way side a long time ago because we needed more bandwidth for downloading and watching video. Now we can  surf the Internet with our wireless networks and those airwaves are getting very crowded. If you thought that the problem was caused by people looking a Piano cat videos on YouTube, think again. Now with the surge in smart phones and other mobile devices the crunch on Internet bandwidth is greater than ever before. Those cool iPhones consume 24 times as much data as traditional cell phones. Tablets like the iPad consume 122 times more data than a traditional cell phone. As more people use smart phones and tablets, there will be a 35 fold increase in mobile traffic. The experts say that we will run out of bandwidth in a few years. Can anything be done to stop this catastrophe?

The spectrum is getting thin. Spectrum is used to refer to public airwaves that radios, broadcast television and mobile phones use. These airwaves are overseen by the federal government. Since the public airwaves are getting thin, the Obama administration wants to double the space that serves broadcasters and cell phones in the next decade. Federal government use 18% of all bandwidth in the US exclusively and shares 52% of the US bandwidth with the private sector. 6% of the all bandwidth in the US is for TV broadcasters. The government would like to take back some of the bandwidth spectrum and auction it off and give the current spectrum holders a cut of the profits. The General Accounting Office said that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) the agency that oversees the 60+ federal agencies does not know which agencies are fully using or under utilizing their allocated bandwidth spectrum. It could take the government years to reallocate their bandwidth spectrum. Each of the 60+ agencies is probably not going give up their bandwidth spectrum allocation without a fight, because they may feel that they want to use that bandwidth one day. Some private companies such as TV broadcasters may have some of the bandwidth spectrum but are not fully using it. However, private companies are not going to want to hand back precious bandwidth spectrum to the government. This is America, no one wants to hand back to the government something so the government can re-allocated it out.

Once there was a world with plentiful and low cost bandwidth, those days are coming to an end. Several providers are moving to bandwidth caps on their service. AT&T recently imposed a 250GB data cap for users of its DSL service. What does this do to my Netflix account? Well if you want to watch a lot of HD movies in 1080p, you will probably hit that cap. AT&T will sell you additional bandwidth at a nice premium. This will take a bigger bite out of your wallet. Seven years ago, people who were illegally downloading stuff might reach that 250 GB cap. Now you could probably reach that cap while watching a lot of movies on Netflix. Yikes!

The law of supply and demand has kicked in. Now that bandwidth has become a precious commodity, the provider can ration it and charge more for it. Will the bandwidth run out? No, but it is going to cost you. Will the bandwidth crisis affect the economy? More than likely because it will limit communication and therefore limit growth. I hope that we will not see government campaigns for rationing.


I so love to look at dancing cat videos on my phone.

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