Waste of Bandwidth

We often see people on Usenet talking about a post wasting bandwidth. While the intended meaning is clear, the logic is backwards.

It is unused bandwidth that is wasted because we can not go back in time and reclaim it. Using bandwidth up to the limits of channel capacity would be optimizing the process.

I can see where one can be less than optimal in their use of bandwidth in the sense that they are using more bits to convey a message than required by information theory. But if the purpose of bandwidth is to provide a means for communicaton, then we should communicate up to the limits of the channel. And all that dark fiber out there tells me we have a long ways to go before we hit the limits of available capacity.

Reminds me of all of the old Bureau of Reclaimation chiefs who thought that every drop of Colorado River water that wasn't used was being wasted. (See Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner)

And to all, a good night.


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The bandwidth that is being wasted is not so much the Internet bandwidth, but rather the attention bandwidth of the human readers. When a person wastes time reading a useless posting, that is time lost in that person's life that can never be recovered. If he wasn't reading that posting, he might have been doing something more rewarding, like finding truly useful posts, or turing off his computer and playing with his kids.

-Robert Scott Ypsilanti, Michigan

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Robert Scott

I think people are really referring to the noise floor. That's how I think of it.

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From the perspective of the person that pays for the pipe, unused capacity is a payed-for-but-unused resource. Paying a high price in order to provide adequate response time for email or newsgroup articles seems a waste of money if two paragraphs of text are accompanied by a

300 kb graphic for style (not content) purposes. Similar arguments can be made for nominal text that is in the form of HTML with multiple layers of formatting, Word or PDF documents with low-information-content images, etc. In order to save overall cost, some organizations put rules in place to reduce the average bandwidth cost of communication, such as no video, no audio, etc. The rules are intended to keep communication efficient to minimize the required cost of providing adequate capacity for a large connection. Of course, the cost of the rules in terms of human time wasted is important, too. ;-)

Wasted bandwidth in the referenced use really means low-information-density usage, which results in a higher averaged cost for higher bandwidth to provide adequate information flow. It means that the communication in question is taking up bandwidth that would otherwise be used more efficiently (more information per byte) and thus may be forcing either a higher overall price or slower service on a larger system level.

The current situation of almost-free bandwidth for a large percentage of Internet connection is interesting. What happens when everyone wants to watch entertainment high-definition streaming video at the same time? In the long term, people will pay for what they use, one way or another. Luckily, technology is lowering the cost.

This gets into the Fallacy of the Commons when you start overloading a common channel. The per-message-efficiency perspective is intended to help produce efficient aggregate usage, where costs do count. Effectiveness depends on cooperation, not a guaranteed thing.

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Thad Smith



Back when I was paying for connectivity by the hour (and many people still do), to have to download any material I didn't want just to get through another day's newsgroup postings was literally a waste of not only "bandwidth" but money too. Now that my connectivity charges are by the month regardless of actual connection-time, anything extraneous is wasting an using more of the ISP's available bandwidth that I need -- that's the wasted bandwidth. Looked at another way, if every one of us could cut our actual download by, say 50%, the ISM could reduce the amount of bandwidth it has to purchase from a higher-level supplier and cut its bandwidth-related hardware costs as well.

No economical or social "good" comes from using 100% of the possible bandwidth of every connection.


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Norm Dresner

And there are people such as college students who just don't have a clue about their usage. They get free, high-speed access and can't comprehend what others are trying to tell them about their bloated communications. "Doesn't everyone have a T3 connection?"

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Everett M. Greene

In article , Electroniker writes

As I see it wasting bandwidth is using html where a simple ascii message would be 4K html takes 20K.

Also things like using graphical backgrounds and logo's in emails. They add nothing and often get bounced by company firewallls and mail scrubbers.

The other thing to look at is yes you have a 2Mb link but if we all try to pull 2mb at the same time you will find your local ISP access point will get overloaded never mind the main trunks.

The ISP's have realised that local Internet use is 24/7 but not all at the same time by the same people. EG there are 1000 business users who are not using their computers at home in the day time. This is a bit like reserving an air ticket. they always take more reservations than seats.

The mobile phone network is the same. Some cells can get overloaded. eg the N. Circular 16:30 to 17:30 :-(

So you can use your link to download at 2Mb but not a continuous 2mb all the time. It is not the 2mb that is important but the contention ratio. Some are 25-1 others 50-1 and some 100-1 This is why broad band is (in the small print) UP TO a speed.

In any event the facts is: The less junk that you put on the network the faster it will run.

\/\/\/\/\ Chris Hills  Staffs  England     /\/\/\/\/
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Chris Hills

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