Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Internet Speed Mania

Everybody with access to the internet and an opinion about its speed seems to agree on one thing: it's too damn slow.

Always was, still is, and maybe always will be.

Excuse me for sounding like an old fart reject 1980s dumbwit, but I disagree. To explain why, let me deconstruct the internet speed thing a bit, and why more than 10 megabits per second should be good enough for anybody, excepting those who really have far too much time on their hands.

I admit, many of us wish they would get that kind of speed at their home, but I'm setting a pretty high limit here to accommodate some extended communication requirements. In my experience, 3 mbps is probably quite enough for most people, and that includes those who, like me—who works from home and 'tele-commutes' for most of the week—depend on the internet during their daily work.

Having said all that in the spirit of laying out my position, I'd like to suggest that the mania over higher and higher speeds is...well, a 'mania'. Reason for people to jump on bandwagons and many to make lots of money, and the usual mumpitz. Nothing else.

Why am I saying that? What about those, for example, who need the speed for downloading movies at lightning speed? Interactive high-definition TV. Everything pushed into fiberoptic cables so we can put everything through the same pipe. V (voice, video, video-and-voice) OIP. Etc etc etc.

Well, sure, there are instances and applications where the transfer of large amounts of data, like video and images is of importance, and maybe there are good reasons why here and there high-speed networks are a good thing. But let's get real here—and, BTW, let's not forget the energy cost, meaning carbon footprint of high-speed information transmission! this is not a joke; there is a price to be paid in real environmental terms for this obsession!—and look at what's often called 'the average household' and ridiculous transmission speeds of over 20 Mbps or the like.

So we're aiming for the universal pipe for data from everywhere to everywhere? Make it fast enough and, so many will argue, eventually we can deconstruct the other transmission media we're currently using and use 14∞ instead. Well, if that's the ultimate aim, how can I demur? What am I? Some Luddite freak? Geez!

All I want to note is this: If there's only one pipe left through which everything goes, then cutting that pipe will have far more disastrous consequences than if we have backup systems. Specialization is indeed for insects—as is reliance on one-basket-for-all-eggs technology for our information transmission needs. Very, very stupid.

And, let's face it, but apart from those actually needing services which provide for the very fast transmission of very high speed data, just about every bit of information available and falling under the rubrik "information technology" is pretty much covered by a maximum of 20 Mbps, several times over. That includes VOIP, conferencing, scientific research and so on. The lines transmitting such information between network nodes, such as might be found in, say major cities etc, should be very fast, because we're pushing a huge amount of data through comparatively few channels. But the superhighway to every home? Give me a break.

Apart from that, as someone pointed out in a TV program the other day, the faster the network, the faster the hackers of the world can do their dirty work as well. And there are a lot of very determined, intelligent people out there with nothing better to do than to beat the system. And, if experience is anything to go by, the system can always be beaten, and 'security' is a canard.

We need to maintain information-distribution diversity. It's like biodiversity, in the sense that the latter ensures that despite environmental changes life does not die out. Species might, but life per se doesn't. The creation of uniformity in the information transmission universe is a bad thing. Very, very bad. Great material for a sci-fi novel that I'm yet to write.

Come to think about it, I had already written one version of it, and it was called System Crash. Maybe I should revisit it soon.

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