To write of bandwidth might be to jump on the bandwagon, as the topic is a popular focus of discussion, both on and off-line lately. Recent announcements by some major ISP’s indicate a change in policy which will subject customers to restrictions in bandwidth use. The issue hits close to home with many users, so it is worthy of some undivided attention, regardless of popular news overkill. Let us have a closer look.
Depending on the context, the term bandwidth can be used to refer to different subjects, which may be unrelated to computer networking and the the Internet, the contextual meaning of bandwidth as it is used here. I invite you to read on, as I attempt to answer the following questions:
- What is bandwidth?
- Does bandwidth affect me personally?
- Bandwidth is the concern of ISP’s, big Corporate offices, and Web Server Administrators, isn’t it?
- In terms of technology advancing rapidly, what about bandwidth might I want to observe?
- How can I learn more about the relationship between bandwidth and my own interests?
What is Bandwidth?
It’s not this simple, or cut and dried, but the term bandwidth essentially refers to how much stuff goes through a modem– at any given moment, or period of time. In some instances, where two parties must have an equal understanding of their shared use of the very term, Bandwidth, I’ve recognized the terminology to be inconsistent, across the board, depending upon the context of its use, and what sort of qualitative / quantitative determination the assessment thereof wishes to make.
The connotative meaning of the term bandwidth especially tends to differ greatly, from author to author (i.e. To offer the most handsome of deals, ISP’s may be misleading consumers by inserting technically valid, yet misunderstood terminology, such as Megabit.)
[ Edited, 2009-03-09 :]When I first wrote this article, I wrote of my concern for ethical advertising, and whether public ignorance is being leveraged in favor of broadband service accounts, such that product sales could ultimately be attributed to a perpetuation of misinformation. But now, on reviewing this article some days later, I must reconsider my viewpoint in favor perhaps of a more relevant, if not more realistic concern. which may, or may not relieve the burdon of responsibility from the service provider. [: End Edit] Many Network Connectivity providers use MegaBit [vs. MegaByte] figures in advertisements, when touting the highest-of-speeds per package, per competitive products offered. Within the context of better understanding, it is necessary to consider that the unit, MegaBit, is in fact– historically speaking– probably the most accurate way of describing how broad is the band, so any other description might be regarded as a perpetuation of ignorance. The question must be raised, “To ensure consumers have a proper understanding of the cost of services available, vs– in this matter– the relative speed of that service, who must bear the responsibility of education?”.
To assess the question of ethics in service advertising, I believe we must first agree that there exists a disparity between common understanding, and technical knowledge of computer networking. To the geeks, and for the old-school professionals, a MegaBit may be perceived for what it really is, while the common broadband consumer will, most likely, never realize that there may be a bit, or there may be a byte, moreover whether to argue for the sake of ethics. It may be the burdon of the middle-ground to take up this argument.
If we should consider misuse, or misunderstanding of general bandwidth terminology, I believe it is reasonable to acknowledge differences between the actual, or technical meaning, vs. the perceived notion of a bit, and a byte of data, and moreover, how that notion is realized in the cost of its delivery. The issue at hand is not one of scientific proportions, however, but something of general customer satisfaction. The technical semantics in a service provider’s claim, such as Megabit per second, vs laymen familiarity with the popular term, Megabyte, in all practicality is probably irrelevant when it comes to a more tangible issue of satisfaction in the delivery of those goods.
It’s doubtful that anyone would become so concerned over the question of misinformation, whether a service has been provided under false pretense, that he or she would think it worthy of taking serious measures, or legal action. After all, a survey of grand proportions would have to be conducted to determine public opinion, furthermore, whether the general consumer is aware enough to have any opinion on the matter at all. For the general consumer, assuming he or she is not an expert in broadband technology, it is probably enough to simply experience a “faster” connection; that web sites load smoothly, and file downloads are fast, to have a sense of satisfaction in the service. I think I can settle on that notion as well.
How does Bandwidth Affect Me?
Personally, when I think of bandwidth, I tend to reflect upon sums of tender paid for bandwidth usage, or consumption of the broadband. For example, I can transmit as much as 6MB of data per second (as claimed by the ISP), which means I could– potentially– consume a fat ol’ band of the optic fiber. If I, or anyone on the network, were able to establish a connection with a remote host wherein the transfer rates maintain relative equivalence to 6MB / second, my own maximum Upload rate (even though the Network is actually capable of a much more broad bandwidth of data transfer). The 6MB / Second figure, therefore, is an apparent, reasonable allotment of bandwidth, as set forth by ISP contract, as well as any restrictions which may be imposed by limitations of technology in the Network chain.
One might wonder, “…Will I be able to put forth my own greatest effort in bandwidth consumption this afternoon, or will I be forced to live at 1MB/ Second all day?…”. Let’s assume such an ideal access point is unavailable– that is, as would be typical, a circumstance wherein the network connectivity is not capable, or will refuses to allow transferring 6MB of data per second (at any given moment); if a remote point with which I am interacting can not maintain a speed equivalent to my own, then my own ability to transfer ‘X-amount’ of data is limited, not by my ISP, but by the 3rd-party resource (i.e. my bandwidth usage is limited by the capabilities of my ISP, and any resources I desire to obtain, or share through my established network connectivity, the data transfer rate thereof, the duration of any transfers, the number of simultaneous connections I may maintain, etc.)
It hadn’t been an issue, but a limitation is being imposed as part of the contract with my ISP that I may use only a certain amount of bandwidth per month, however, to exceed or even come close to that amount; to consume enough bandwidth over a 30-day period that I might incur additional fees is a difficult achievement– as it is for any one average user– due in large part to the limited data transfer rates of available resources. Regardless of unlikely possibilities under current circumstances, a precedent has been set by which incrementalist pricing strategy becomes possible, thereby threatening to literally put Network Connectivity out of reach for lower-income households. Let us imagine that a reciprocal trend toward a diminishing availability of
dial-up access points has already begun. Slower networking is certainly less practical for the requirements of the RIA– Rich Internet Applications. With RIA’s continuing to emerge, dominating a continually growing portion of the global web space, it is only reasonable to assume that dial-up access, not unlike analog television broadcast in Feb 2009, will eventually disappear completely.
I didn’t set out to write a book on broadband, but i’m afriad this article was slowly dragging on in that direction, so i’d rather close here– unfinished or not. Another day permitting, I hope maybe to come back to this topic when I am better able to put a concise summary together– but therein really lies the problem with bandwidth: it is not a topic which can be covered adequately in a single short article. For now, I’m satisfied having opened up the topic. Being possibly one of the more vast concepts of modern civilization, I recommend– if the reader’s interest is captured in this topic– continue to study it. Have a look at the Wikipedia on bandwidth, and try my search engine query as a starting point for exting your research.
What are your thoughts?