Originally published: March 11, 2010
Last updated: March 11, 2010 - 9:49pm
[Commentary] There's an increasing shortage of bandwidth relative to Americans' growing appetite for it.
Americans love their smart phones and Internet television as much as they love their cars and air conditioners. When you have a scarce resource, an industry run as an oligopoly and a population that can't get enough, you have all the ingredients for the first new resource crisis of the millennium. In time, the mere slowdowns we see today may be eclipsed by full-scale information traffic jams. But beyond that, the deeper problems will be with high prices and possible profiteering. As demand for bandwidth goes up, suppliers will logically be able to charge more, as happens in energy markets. Something will have to give.
It is unlikely that the American appetite for bandwidth will diminish anytime soon, nor is it even clear that we want it to. But if we want the pleasure and convenience of a high-bandwidth society, someone will need to figure out a solution to the bandwidth dilemma soon.
[Wu is a professor of law at Columbia University]
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