As Internet technologists meet this week in Seoul, South Korea, to discuss the future of the Web, one of the hottest topics is the future of bandwidth.
Some Internet service providers have been suggesting new pricing structures to deal with increasing computer use. Some have even suggested that people who use more bandwidth should pay for their increased usage.
That approach would be a mistake, says Craig Partridge, chief scientist for "Internetworking" at BBN Technologies.
"There's a general consensus in the networking community and in the economics community, too, that the model they're proposing is exactly the wrong one," says Partridge, speaking from the Third International Conference on Future Internet Technologies in Seoul.
"Nobody should really care how much data you send or receive in a month, Partridge explains. "For all we know, you're doing it in the night when nobody else is using the Net. It's not like we can store the bits that aren't used in the night and use them during the day."
Partridge says that what networking specialists really care about is how many people are trying to get and send heavy amounts of information at one time. He says the priority is balancing the load at peak times.
Additionally, Partridge argues, plans that would have consumers pay for actual use have built-in conflicts of interest. The companies that are making those proposals are at the same time sending you lots of data you haven't actually asked for.
"They're delivering lots of data to you by the month: it's called cable TV and HDTV," Partridge says. "They're not saying that they're going to reduce lots of the data coming into my house, so I get more of the data that I care about, like the HD channel I'm not watching."