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Old September 7 2012, 02:40 PM   #74
Robert Maxwell
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Re: Why isn't Internet free for everyone yet?

Although I have tried to read this whole thread, there is no way I am wading through this text war between Deks and gturner. You guys have fun.

Others may have said it, but I will reiterate: the Internet costs quite a bit to maintain. I don't think it will become "free" until things like water and electricity are also "free," which is to say it is unlikely to happen unless and until we live in some kind of Trek-like utopia, which is to say "probably never."

In addition, there seemed to be some talk about how ISPs and mobile carriers aren't motivated to invest in infrastructure. I think people underestimate just how quickly applications requiring high bandwidth have exploded, especially streaming video. That market exploded just about overnight, and ISPs are still working to catch up. Fiber-to-the-home is still rolling out. Alidar's right that mobile networks are limited by the spectrum available. There is only so much "room" there, and of course the speed is hard-limited by the spectrum itself.

This stuff is expensive, and while the government could run it and provide it gratis to everyone by paying for it with taxes, I'm not convinced that's really a good thing for anybody.

What I would support is some kind of subsidy for people who genuinely have trouble affording a computer and Internet access--but honestly, I'd rather see subsidies for energy bills first (which I do know exist, but are not that well-known.)

I also don't see Internet access getting substantially cheaper over time, because it looks like people's demands of the Internet will only continue to increase, not flatline or decline. Once Netflix and Hulu start streaming 4K video, well, 15Mbps won't be anywhere near enough anymore. The upgrades will just have to keep coming, which means prices are not likely to fall much even as current upgrades are amortized.

Mobile broadband access, like I said, is even more limited in its upgrade potential. Current network conditions are so bad, almost all carriers have anemic data caps. This doesn't look likely to improve anytime soon.
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