Do we have to live with a slow internet?
If anyone asks me about my internet connection I say I have a slow one…I don’t mention whether it’s broadband or dial-up. Actually I have both, MTNL Broadband and a VSNL dial-up…but if I am writing a post or an email I often switch to dial-up as it’s more reliable. Yes, it’s excruciatingly slow (max 44-48 kbps, but usually less than 40) and the connection often hangs…but it doesn’t get disrupted. As for the Broadband that I have, it’s never been at it’s maximum ever and seems to be operate at half it’s speed most of the time but worse, it’s intermittent…I’ve heard Airtel is better but we don’t get it in our area.
You can check the speed of your internet connection here.
India’s definition of broadband
India’s defines Broadband differently from the rest of the world. Broadband here means a connection that’s at a minimum of 256 kbps (usually around 100-150) and a maximum of 2mbps. Here’s a comparison with the rest of the world:
The 2-mbps connection here is more expensive than in other countries. Another comparison:
The recent disruption of undersea cables
The breakdown in an inter-nation undersea cable network near Egypt last week has made things worse. India apparently had to suffer a 50-60 percent cut in bandwidth. But yesterday I read more bad news. Another undersea Internet cable was damaged in the Middle East, in addition to the two other lines cut earlier. This time the Internet Service Providers’ Association, is saying that it’s going to affect capacity…but at the same time they are saying everything is under control!
What’s the future for India?
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has promised that the definition of broadband will change (to a higher speed). The need for investment is being felt keenly as the demand for the internet in small towns is rising beyond anyone’s expectations.
Poor connectivity has affected not just call centers, but also e-learning, e-shopping, telemedicine and e-governance. Not to mention the gaming business.
But laying optic fibre cable is a high investment business…and companies are preferring to invest in mobile infrastructure, which is far cheaper and gives quicker returns. It’s a long journey ahead for India…
Future of the internet in the world
There are various opinions on this.
1. A Pew survey of internet leaders, activists, and analysts shows that a majority believe that the internet will create an increasingly flat world.
2. There are those who are seriously worried about the ability of the internet to sustain itself. In December 2007 Eurescon wrote about a possibility of an impending slow-down or internet crash in Europe by 2010 due to “ignoring the limits of today’s internet”.
3. Early last year Google warned that the “growth in video downloads could create an internet traffic jam.” In fact there were reports last year of user experience in downloading videos having decreased.
4. A Nemertes research report published last year “on the ability of Internet infrastructure to cope with burgeoning demand, warns that usage could outstrip network capacity both in North America and worldwide as early as 2010.” This study has been a first of it’s kind and estimates that a global investment of $137 billion is required to improve broadband access, just to stop services declining.
In the U.S. alone it’s predicted that 42 billion to $55 billion is needed to match demand with capacity and this figure is in addition to the $72 billion service providers are already planning to invest.
Today people use bandwidth not just for videos, but also for voice, streaming and interactive video. Mobiles using internet are adding to the burden.
So does this mean that the internet could simply crash one fine day? Not everyone thinks so
5. The Save the Internet Blog says that Internet companies want money and control and research such as the above is motivated.
6. The latest on this was sent to me by Axinia, at the right time, when I was already penning this post. It is an article written by a British journalist Johann Hari just a few days ago and he predicts some dark days ahead.
The massive corporations that provide broadband own the physical highways of the internet: the wires and cables and switches along which web pages travel before they hit your screen. They have been lobbying in the US and Europe for permission to turn this into a two-lane motorway, with different speeds according to how much you can pay.
So if you pay a lot, you get the speed you want, but if you are an unknown blogger, go get stuck in a traffic jam! I guess we in India are lucky, because we are used to it!
This two lane highway may never come into existence as resistance is expected, particularly from people who lean to the left, like Hari himself. This is what he says:
As the internet reshapes our minds and souls in ways we are only beginning to comprehend, we have to fight to keep it equally open to everyone. Otherwise, Tomorrow’s World will become a corporate-controlled world, with inequality built into the cables that connect us all.
I am not sure whether Hari’s dream can work though. Someone’s got to pay.
(Tables are from Business World, the photo of the PC is by me and the photo of Johann Hari is from the BBC)