Sometimes humor is the best mechanism to explain an opaque topic. Public Knowledge, a group that concerns itself with defending consumer rights in “the emerging digital culture,” has released a report today entitled “Peak Bandwidth.” [Here's the PDF.] Keep in mind today’s date, is all I have to say. The report says that the “era of plentiful, low-cost bandwidth is approaching an end. The supply of bits, the raw material of our information economy, is rapidly dwindling… unless mitigation is orchestrated on a timely basis, the economic damage to the world economy will be dire and long-lasting.” You hear that, we’re running out of bits!
The bandwidth crisis—and why else would the likes of AT&T have to impose bandwidth caps if we’re not in the middle of a crisis?—has been caused by hogs like “young people” and “cord-cutters.” These people have placed an “unbearable strain on our bandwidth supplies,” and in effect have clogged the pipes to the point where we now have to ration bandwidth.
Most ominously: “Once bandwidth is gone, it’s gone. Used up bits are gone forever. They don’t come back and can’t be replaced.”
What to do about the coming crisis? Public Knowledge offers up a few ideas, including moving away from inefficient file formats like MP3 toward formats like MIDI, and replace too-big-for-their-own-good images with ASCII art. We could also move toward “renewable communications technologies” such as carrier pigeons and sneakernets. Walking down the hall and handing over a burned DVD is more much bandwidth-efficient than setting up an FTP server and having people download files over and over again, no?
Now you see the light. Now you understand why it’s so hard to be an ISP in 2011: bandwidth hogs have used up the Internet’s bandwidth, so now it’s time to start rationing.
Unless, of course, you’re OK with destroying the global economy and holding back innovation.