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Saturday, 07 July 2007


John Proffitt

Assuming I still remember my networking protocol basics, there's one other aspect to multicasting that wasn't mentioned in Cringely's article. Namely, that multicasting, while far more efficient than unicasting, still carries data, and the pipe is still somewhere short of infinite. So you can only multicast so much before you run out of bandwidth. Which makes it the next scarcity and net neutrality battleground.

Who gets to decide which multicast sources are carried by your ISP? What about the ISP's ISP? Will Congress have to mandate which multicast data sources get common carriage in the multicast world? I hope not -- PBS' and NPR's lobbyists may be good, but they don' have the pockets of a Discovery or a GE or a Disney.

We'd be better off in the short run focusing on...

1. net neutraility laws and separating the content providers from the access providers

2. building significant bandwidth capacities, especially in the last mile -- Congress has let the telcos get away with murder by not holding their feet to the fire to deliver high bandwidth services as promised so many years ago

Multicast or unicast, without solving those problems content distribution will be too constricted by bandwidth and intertia to make a difference.
Thanks for your comment, John. Scaling in multicast is largely a router issue, so if many end users use the same router that's where streams aggregate. See the multicast article in Wikipedia. --Dennis

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