Re: The Superhighway Steamroller

Date: Tue, 28 Jun 1994 11:40:34 +0200
Message-id: <9406280938.AA08098@ua.MIT.EDU>
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From: solman@MIT.EDU
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Subject: Re: The Superhighway Steamroller 
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I suppose I will speak in the minority when I state that I thought Mr. Hart's
articles were extremelly well written and thought provoking, although marred
by inaccuracies, poor comparisons and a lack of serious solutions.

Here is my response to his articles:

Newsgroups: bit.listserv.gutnberg
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References:  <GUTNBERG%94062522535895@VMD.CSO.UIUC.EDU>
From: (Jason W Solinsky)
Organization: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Subject: Re: The Superhighway Steamroller

Michael Hart starts off his series of articles by railing against what I would
call "wasted bits". He points out that the internet community, as it exists
today and as it is likely to exist in the future, is doing some enourmously
un-economical things. He then goes on to suggest that keeping books on floppies
in ascii form is far more economically efficient than downloading an HTMLized
document with pictures from a webserver, a comparison for which he has received
much flamage elsewhere. These are intelligent, although extreme, comments.

I am therefore quite puzzled by his latter comments condeming metered internet
usage. The reason why there is such ENOURMOUS inefficiency in the way that
the net is used, the reason why FTP transfers are occuring at a fraction of the
rate they once did, is that for each individual user the bits are free. There
is absolutely no incentive for anybody to decrease their bandwidth usage.
SOMEBODY HAS TO PAY FOR THE INTERNET. NSF and commercial internet providers,
can hide the costs from the users, but the resources available on the net are
finite. If the marginal cost is zero, demand is going to approach infinity.

I think Mr. Hart has made some excellent points, but ruled out the best
solution. I am not saying that everybody should have to shell out large
amounts of money on a per minute basis to use the internet. Surely the
hundreds of dollars of value that advertisers see in our attention spans
can be extracted by the internet and used to pay for the costs of basic

What I am saying is that it is absurd to give people a finite resource,
like internet bandwidth, at zero marginal cost. If we remedied this
problem, either wasted bits would disappear, or their originators'
pocketbooks would become considerably lighter.


Jason W. Solinsky