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Will Capped Data Plans Kill the Cloud? 530

theodp writes "With the introduction of its Chromebook, Google is betting big on the Cloud. As is Apple, with its iCloud initiative. So too are Netflix and Skype. Unfortunately, their very existence is threatened by data-capping carriers, who have set a course to make sure that the network is NOT the computer. 'I don't know what the solution is,' writes David Pogue. 'I don't know if anyone's thinking about this. But there are big changes coming. There are big forces about to shape our lives online. And at the moment, they're on a direct collision course.'"
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Will Capped Data Plans Kill the Cloud?

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  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 19, 2011 @12:12PM (#36491364)

    The solution is taking the networks away from those who don't want to provide the service they promised to provide when they were given monopolies by the government.

  • Answer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @12:13PM (#36491376)
    "Only in the United States, where caps are popular." But in truth, I'd be more concerned about unbrided capitalism and monopolistic practices killing not just the cloud, but any hope my country has of competing in a global marketplace. We've already hamstrung ourselves on an antiquidated patent and copyright system that is forcing our talent overseas to produce, we have our government busy chasing down music pirates while ignoring the massive amounts of identity theft and fraud perpetuated by malware and botnets, and the list goes on.
  • by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @12:37PM (#36491510)
    Canada has some horrendous data caps from it's major ISPs. From the numbers I've heard, Americans have almost 10x the bandwidth allowance that most Canadians have. For online services (cloud, netflix, etc.), this is a major concern. While I'm looking forward to iCloud, I will be closely monitoring my bandwidth for the first little bit to make sure I don't go over and, if I do, I'll be figuring out what service I use needs to get cut and, quite frankly, I'd rather the ISPs just offer better service than forcing me to not use what's available...
  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @12:41PM (#36491546) Journal

    Its not the per data cost of the lines, it is the cost per port that is expensive. Replacing the 100 MB switch with the GB switch, and then the GB switch with the 10 (100) GB switch in 5 years is what costs. This doesn't include ongoing maintenance and management, and uplink costs. Paying for bandwidth is an easy solution to mitigate against some of that, and makes sense from this standpoint. However, when people like Comcast deliberately choke off data at a single point, in order to charge Netflix and others to bring them into the network (and still restricts this data) that is where I have an issue. If you're overselling/over subscribing your trunks, and aren't upgrading them when they are full, time for class action lawsuit.

    I'm just wondering when someone is going to sue Comcast for not providing the service they are selling. Must be in the TOS contract that they don't have to provide any.

  • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:01PM (#36491682)

    If this does kill "The Cloud" can we go a whole week without a new story about it?

    Yes you can cluster computers together so that the individual identity/address of any particular node of the cluster is unimportant. Yes you can combine the resources of those nodes to increase computing power and availability. Can we all collectively get over this and end our eyes-glazed fascination with the subject now? It really is and should be a very simple thing to understand.

    Nope, gotta bend over and grab your ankles and say "please marketers, please ruin one more thing, please ravage me hard". So wait, we gotta come up with a term for it. We'll call it, "THE CLOUD" because that sounds mysterious and foggy and like something you can't see through so you wouldn't know what was inside it. That'll keep 'em at the edge of their seats, yeah. Thanks to previous marketing efforts they already think their PCs are magic boxes they could never understand anyway, so this will build on that mystery.

    The final step is crucial. We must obsessively expound this at every opportunity. It must be inserted into every conversation. Sure, you can upload a video to Youtube. But have you uploaded a video TO THE CLOUD (cue dramatic music)?! Yeah, you can set up a web server and serve up web pages, but have you made web pages and uploaded them TO THE CLOUD (dramatic music)?! Sure, Seti@Home and other projects (mostly about breaking encryption) demonstrated that distributed computing can process massive amounts of data... but have you hired Amazon so you could do this WITH THE CLOUD (music)?!

    It's fun to create a solution and then look for a problem to which it applies. And then mentioning it everywhere and inserting it into every conversation, like an evangelical who just discovered Jesus. Next time we do this can we keep it a secret from the marketers? The only way they ever seem to understand technology is to dumb it down.

  • by mothlos ( 832302 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:01PM (#36491686)
    Bandwidth capping is NOT the problem. There is a marginal cost curve associated with increased bandwidth use and it is only appropriate that this cost be reflected in the price we pay for our services. Without usage based fees, those who underutilize the service are subsidizing those who overutilize it (which I guess the latter would be highly overrepresented here at /.). The problem is lack of competition and effective regulation perpetuated by political overrepresentation of service providers. Please be willing to give up your internet subsidy and get in touch with your elected officials, friends, and family to let them know that their ISPs are screwed up and we could have faster, cheaper internet if we take back the reins.
  • Re:Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by siride ( 974284 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:02PM (#36491694)

    The last thing I want is Apple owning the ISP infrastructure. Imagine how locked down the internet would be then.

  • Re:Answer... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eil ( 82413 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:07PM (#36491734) Homepage Journal

    But in truth, I'd be more concerned about unbrided capitalism and monopolistic practices,

    I guess I don't understand why capitalism is a dirty word around here. Isn't it a good thing that businesses are not run by the state? Does competition not spur innovation? Which economic system would you have in capitalism's place?

  • Re:Answer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spinkham ( 56603 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:16PM (#36491806)

    Would for profit roads be better for our economy then our present system? Are you against municipal providing of water and sewer services?

    Government excels at providing these sort of infrastructure projects. If we took a tiny fraction of the military budget and put it to providing fiber to every home in America, we would be investing in important infrastructure just as we did with roads. It would be a boom for our total economy, instead of a small win for a small fraction of the telecom space only.

  • Re:Answer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:20PM (#36491840)

    But in truth, I'd be more concerned about unbrided capitalism and monopolistic practices,

    I guess I don't understand why capitalism is a dirty word around here. Isn't it a good thing that businesses are not run by the state? Does competition not spur innovation? Which economic system would you have in capitalism's place?

    The problem is that the ISPs were not built on a model of capitalism. They were built on state-funded and state-granted monopolies. Capitalism is not perfect and the model does have weaknesses. One such weakness is when the barrier to entry is astronomically high so that new players cannot independently enter into the market and compete with established players. It was precisely for this reason that the tremendous cost of running lines to each individual home had to be state funded.

    You cannot establish a monopoly with state money, suddenly decide to treat it as a purely capitalistic enterprise, and then expect healthy competition. This is doomed to fail simply because it is inconsistent with the nature of the situation. The reality is, we the taxpayers got these companies and systems off the ground and made their existence possible. We the taxpayers have a reasonable expectation that they behave in our interests. They are rightfully beholden to us and they have the option of changing careers if they don't like that.

    So far the best solution we have created is to let them operate as a private corporation that holds a monopoly with reasonable regulations to prevent them from exploiting the fact that they are a monopoly. This includes requiring them to lease lines in such a way that competitors can enter the market without digging up thousands of miles of land to lay down their own lines. Your other option is to have no competition at all. This system has weaknesses that are easier to overcome because they are political problems, not economic problems. The political problem is to keep the monopolies in check so that their interests don't override ours.

    But to talk about this as though it were a commodity like coffee, where any farmer can independently grow coffee and sell it on the open market and compete with the big boys, well that line of thought is getting us nowhere. It doesn't apply. It's a square peg that you're trying to drive into a round hole. This is a unique situation and the more general rules of capitalism only partially apply.

  • Re:Answer... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Sunday June 19, 2011 @01:48PM (#36492002) Homepage Journal

    I've been reading The Mobs and the Mafia: the Illustrated History of Organized Crime by Hank Messic and Burt Goldblatt (1972, ISBN 0-88365-211-0) and was struck by a passage:

    ... in the three years after the [stock market] crash... those businessmen who didn't kill themselves turned by the thousands to the only men with money and credit -- the gangsters.

    It goes on to describe how legitimate business was in debt to the mob, and how politicians were beholden to businessmen for their campaigns. I think that pretty much explains why government goes after file sharers while ignoring spammers, fraudsters, and identity thieves. Our governments, federal, state, and local, are corrupt to the core. The "MAFIAA" really is the Mafia.

  • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @02:04PM (#36492094)

    That's a really bad precedent to set. If we start charging more for certain content than for other types of content, what precisely is there to prevent it from spreading to other areas where the ISPs are able to rationalize the decision? A better solution would be for ISPs to start fulfilling their promises rather than using savings to beef up executive compensation.

  • just some of it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by t2t10 ( 1909766 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @03:23PM (#36492634)

    It may kill unlimited HD video downloads and put a crimp into companies that use that as their business model.

    Just about everything else is not affected by these "caps" because the data volume is so tiny in comparison to video downloads.

  • Re:Answer... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @04:25PM (#36493048) Journal

    I guess I don't understand why capitalism is a dirty word around here. Isn't it a good thing that businesses are not run by the state? Does competition not spur innovation?

    I think most people think capitalism is a good thing. The problem with capitalism--which I'm not sure anyone has solved--is what do you when someone wins?

    Capitalism is about competition. I make a widget, you make a widget, and we try to convince a group of people to buy our widget over our competitor's widget. It keeps prices down. It spurs innovation--my widget is more reliable than yours, your widget is cheaper to manufacture than mine, etc. But in any competition, there will eventually be a winner. More and more people will buy your widget over mine and you will eventually buy me out or I will go bankrupt or whatever and then you will be the only person selling widgets. At that point, innovation slows and prices can rise because there is no pressure. You're just out to make as much money as possible.

    So, "unbridled capitalism," as the GP puts it, isn't a good thing because the eventual winner--whoever they might be--will have a monopoly. The question is--and this isn't an easy question--what do you do with the winner? Do you try to prevent a winner? Do you allow a winner and then break them up and start a new game? Are the efficiencies that you get with having one company performing the task worthwhile enough that you create a regulated monopoly?

  • Re:Answer... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @04:45PM (#36493152)

    Utter horseshit. They are not state-funded and state-granted monopolies.

    A high barrier to entry isn't a monopoly. Even with the high barrier, I have three competing choices for bandwidth where I am--cable, phone, and Dish.

    How would you like to have the following three non-competing choices: Dish, Dish, and Dish? That's what you would have if the state had not made the initial investment to provide the (incredibly expensive) infrastructure on which phone and cable systems depend.

    They owe you NOTHING.

    They owe us nothing? So then they are so privileged, that the cable and phone companies can just say "hey, thanks for bearing that really heavy initial investment to get this thing off the ground. Oh, thank you too for handing us this infrastructure and handing us a local monopoly. I am sure both of those things will profit us handsomely. Well, guess we have a clean slate now after your very generous free gifts. No we aren't going to do anything for you in return."

    That's what you want? How about you take a whole five minutes and look up precisely how those cable and phone lines got to your doorstep. You don't seem like the sort to readily admit when you're dead wrong about something, so you can retreat into the silence of no-reply after you educate yourself. I'll understand.

    It's an incredible phenomenon to witness, the way people will actively and passionately advocate for what is so clearly not in their own interests. Coincidentally, they typically use a bitchy tone as you just did, to show their annoyance that anyone would actually disagree. It makes you uncomfortable, I know, when someone doesn't give immediate support to your articles of faith. How dare they! Right? These are largely unspoken impulses but it comes out in the way you respond to me.

    You just can't seem to connect the dots to understand whose interests your position there does serve. Great, another soft malleable vulnerable mind with the conceit to believe that the exterior influences and ideas with which it has become infested are actually its own, that the home they have made within you is somehow legitimate. It's about as legitimate as the home that cockroaches or rats make within a dwelling.

    To realize just how many of your ideas and beliefs are not your own would probably be more of a shock than you could handle. People have complete nervous breakdowns over less profound things. Should you get through that intact, you'd endure a personal crisis of not knowing anything with any certainty whatsoever, which you'd eventually resolve by undertaking a quest to discover who and what you really are and what is truly a solid foundation for belief. So far as these things go, the fact that people will embrace and defend the very dominators who are screwing them over is basic, bottom-of-the-class material. It's called having no real principles, no real self-hood. It's the main reason why the new boss is the same as the old boss.

  • Re:Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @07:25PM (#36493990)

    A better solution would be for ISPs to start fulfilling their promises rather than using savings to beef up executive compensation.

    Part of the problem here is a conflict of understanding. When ISPs began offering "unlimited" Internet access, they were referring to time, not bandwidth. At the time, the limits on connection speed and number of total users meant that people were not going to use enough bandwidth to strain the system. Of course, the fact that ISPs oversold their capacity gives the people complaining (incorrectly) about it not being "unlimited the way they said it would be", a legitimate gripe that the ISPs are advertising a product that they cannot deliver. The ISPs banked on a certain usage level, but marketed the possibility of a greater usage level than that and now find their networks overwhelmed by the early adopters who understood the possibilities sooner. The ISPs created the situation and have just realized that their pricing model will not support the network expansion that will be necessary to meet the demand for bandwidth that will come as the average person starts to understand the possibilities that the early adopters are paving the way for.

Variables don't; constants aren't.