Tiers and the lowering of the connectivity classes

Summary:Mark Cuban's calling for tiered service in broadband networks. It's already there, the telcos just don't want you to think about it.

Broadcast.com co-founder and budding movie distributor Mark Cuban makes a call for tiered broadband services, with real-time provisioning of capacity by carriers and interconnect providers to ensure that "mission critical" applications, such as medical monitoring, can continue uninterrupted even when there is high demand for throughput. That sounds like an admirable stand.

Unfortunately, it's not true that we need tiering technology, it's already available. The carriers have been offering tiered services to corporate customerss for years without extending the same capabilities to end-users, whether in the home or small offices, who might want to pay to If the center wants in, let it shoulder the cost and price it into their services instead of making individuals’ participation in the network more expensive.pump up their bandwidth for, say, a teleconference with family or quick access to throughput to move a large file for work. If you want fast some of the time, you have to pay for fast all of the time in the current regime.

Based on recent demands by carriers for content providers and aggregators to pay extra to deliver content to end-users, the carriers don't seem poised to allow more flexible usage of their networks. Instead, they prefer to lock in as many parties as possible to Level-of-Service contracts that, by ensuring occasional high-speed connectivity with plenty of built-in spare capacity. 

Cuban heads off the tracks here, arguing for an environment that would transform the promise of the slow-but-asynchronous Web into a largely one-way Net that looked more like television than a telephone network where people communicate one-to-one.

We can try all the tricks we want. Edge servers, peer to peer, it wont matter. Just like a 20 lane highway is still going to have gridlock if enough cars use it, so will the net.

But wait, theres more. That doesnt even account for the problems and hassles of network providers exchanging traffic.

Which leads to the foolishness of the information wants to be free movement. Video on the net is a nice to have application. Self publishing is a nice to have application, whether video or any other format. For our entertainment driven society, it seems to be the low hanging fruit that realizes the value of the net. Wrong.

I don't disagree that if you want to be a publisher of content that can ensure high levels of service to users at any time you're going to pay a pretty price for the network capacity you need, but suggesting that the edge of the network should have to pay a premium for access to those services is just as troglodytic as AT&T (nee SBC) Chairman Ed Whitacre's argument that if Yahoo or Google want to send data over the last mile on his network, they should pay for it.

The end-user has already paid for that connection. Don't call it "broadband" or "high-speed" if it is just the latest rev of "just fast enough."

If carriers want that last mile to be fast enough to support advanced services, they should make it fast enough for everyone. If carriers don't facilitate the kinds of services they promise customers in the home and small office market, they are going to choke off demand for higher capacity and high reliability services at the data centers where content resides. But even those content companies would like to make their services look inexpensive while blaming the big bad networks for driving fees higher.

Among other people with an interest in offloading those costs are Mark Cuban, whose HDNet Movies business may want to be delivering video to the home.  

The carriers are villians in the story, but so is someone who wants his movies to be priced at $5.99 (or whatever) instead of $9.99 because of the added cost of delivering massive video files. By calling for tiering at the edge of the network instead of an inexpensive guaranteed level of service, Cuban would condemn most homes to slow connectivity. That would hurt his business more than if HDNet Movies shouldered the real costs of delivery.

Tiering at the edge would also ghettoize certain types of traffic that wasn't deemed "critical" by the carriers, such as P2P traffic, which would increase the potential for regulation of telecommunications services as citizens turn to local, state and national government for equal access. It is far better to call for sufficient broadband connectivity to make delivery of any content available to the edge, even if that meant the edge could compete with centralized distributors on a small scale.

It's a war of the middle against the edges and Cuban sounds like an ally of the edge, but seems to be an infiltrator.  Fat pipes at the edges will make a robust market for everyone. Any tiering of capacity at the edge will choke off the what Cuban calls "important applications it cant (sic) support today." If the center wants in, let it shoulder the cost and price it into their services instead of making individuals' participation in the network more expensive.

Topics: Networking

About

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran journalist, media executive and entrepreneur. He was editor of the ground-breaking Digital Media newsletter in the 1990s and a frequent contributor to ZDNet over the years. He led development of the first Web audio/video news network at ON24, sat on the board of Electric Classifieds Inc. and Match.com, and wor... Full Bio

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.