Jamie's Blog

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Can there ever be too much bandwidth



Ed Felten at Freedom To Tinker, a blog I read pretty regularly, wrote an interesting piece about the use of bandwidth. He questions whether or not we will ever reach a point where we have literally more bandwidth than we could possibly use.

If you are into computer tech, you will know that it is largely taken as a given, that no matter how much power and storage we have in our computers, it will never be enough. Every time a point is reached where we have more power in our computers than we need, a new application to consume that power is developed. The same goes for storage space. Just a few years ago, I would have been hard pressed to fill a 20 gig hard drive, but today, I easily max out the 100 gig hard drive in my computer at home. Simply having more space caused me to find more uses for it.
Most of the time, people assume that when it comes to bandwidth, the same rules apply. no matter how much bandwidth there is, people will find a way to consume it. In Felten's post, he asks if this is really the case? He argues that there is a physical sensory limit to how much bandwidth a single person can consume. So in his estimation, we will eventually reach a point where adding more bandwidth to our connections, will not be useful or necessary. To be clear, he says we are no where near that point right now, and won't be for years to come.
I would argue that while he is correct on the physical sensory limit, he is incorrect on the usefulness of increasing our bandwidth beyond that point. In the near future, I see every device in our house being connected to the Internet in some way. Whether it is for remote monitoring, or automatic updating. All of those devices will use bandwidth. On the entertainment or sensory side I see lots of new devices whose goal will be to gather, filter, organize, and update any information you might be interested in automatically. most of that info might be wasted, but gathered anyway on the off chance you might want to look at it in the future. this is already happening with our TVs. DVRs record shows for us that we may never watch, but we want to have just in case. As more of our media and news moves to the Internet, I think that will become more common.

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