August 12, 2003

The need for better upload speeds

I've previously written about 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class Internet connectivity. Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping has just an article about one manifestation of this, the birth of "thin" media, specialized coverage that traditional mass media cannot cover efficiently. But Sensing isn't going far enough. What he doesn't realize is that Moore's Law changes the efficiency equation constantly and it both makes censorship through omission progressively harder and it makes distribution chokepoints (a la the RIAA and MPAA) virtually impossible to sustain. This is sociallly revolutionary stuff but it depends on the prolific and inefficient distribution of massive upload capability.

I recall reading an old Forbes Magazine article about the american garage as a secret economic weapon. Because of lower population densities, almost every house had one, often a large one. But combine a house with a large garage with an entrepreneurial occupant and you have the rent free first office that lowers costs sufficient to make business formation appreciably easier and more common in the US. The only price you pay is the necessity of washing the car a bit more often.

Over-engineering upload capacity does the exact same thing in the internet arena. If you have some minimal technical ability you can host your own web site, essentially becoming your own business, journalism outlet, entertainment palace, or what have you. All incumbents who deal in non-tangible goods are directly threatened as are middle-men who depend on people not knowing how to go direct to producers to get tangible goods. This was the base solid reality upon which the dotcom hysterical fluff was piled on to insane proportions.

The fluff is largely gone now but the reality remains unchanged and actually more developed than it was in the go-go years. Defensive action on the part of the incumbents is varied. Journalists mock their online counterparts, music and video distribution empires attempt to mau-mau content producers into thinking of online distribution as illegitimate or 2nd class, and the telephone and cable TV companies who provide much of the physical infrastructure of mass Internet connectivity have invented the 2nd class Internet.

This is a delicate balancing act. Cripple uploading too much and people will just incorporate into non-profit community ISPs and distribute first class internet connectivity locally. But if they don't cripple it enough, people will run VOIP for their voice communications and eventually TV over IP for their visual communications. At first it'll be a web cam over the crib, then community access type shows, but at a certain point, the broadband community will be large enough to create a profitable, independent show based on IP distribution and that business model will kill the studios.

Posted by TMLutas at August 12, 2003 08:03 AM