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The Internet Networking

Think-Tank Warns of Internet "Brownouts" Starting Next Year 445

Posted by timothy
from the malthus-was-right dept.
JacobSteelsmith writes "A respected American think-tank, Nemertes Research, reports the Web has reached a critical point. For many reasons, Internet usage continues to rise (imagine that), and bandwidth usage is increasing due to traffic heavy sites such as YouTube. The article goes on to describe the perils Internet users will face including 'brownouts that will freeze their computers as capacity runs out in cyberspace,' and constant network 'traffic jams,' similar to 'how home computers slow down when the kids get back from school and start playing games.' ... 'Monthly traffic across the internet is running at about eight exabytes. A recent study by the University of Minnesota estimated that traffic was growing by at least 60 per cent a year, although that did not take into account plans for greater internet access in China and India. ... While the net itself will ultimately survive, Ritter said that waves of disruption would begin to emerge next year, when computers would jitter and freeze. This would be followed by brownouts — a combination of temporary freezing and computers being reduced to a slow speed.'"
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Think-Tank Warns of Internet "Brownouts" Starting Next Year

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  • ahahahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:27PM (#27775397) Homepage Journal

    Home computers slow down when kids come home from school and start playing video games? Poppycock. Home computers slow down when adults get home from work, come home, and start watching streaming video.

    • by hurfy (735314) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:31PM (#27775495)

      And here i thought it was the geeks getting home and downloading Ubuntu.

      • Re:ahahahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

        by davester666 (731373) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:17PM (#27776309) Journal

        This report brought to you by your local cable or DSL ISP.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hitmark (640295)

          drop the DSL part and one can agree, as the cable turned isp companies have a vested interest in selling package solutions that involve bulk channels.

          same deal with the mobile network operators. as more and more people use IM and email rather then more profit laden sms, the operator becomes just another isp. no options for lock-in, no option for selling extra services, and so on.

          this is probably scaring the people in suits silly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MikeBabcock (65886)

        Like any real geek, I downloaded Ubuntu in an overnight automated session with time of day bandwidth controls so my wife wouldn't complain about the Internet being slow while she's up using the computer.

        Well, the wife part might not be the same for other geeks.

    • Re:ahahahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TechForensics (944258) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:46PM (#27775807) Homepage Journal

      Streaming video will tend to be self-limiting. When the slowing produces a maddening result, folks will go back to watching cable.

      • Re:ahahahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:10PM (#27776201)

        You let it stream to the break point, then rewind and watch it without any stuttering.

        I use this to avoid most the commercials (I start them and walk out of the room- just like i did with TV)-- then I come back and watch the show.

        Or I flip over and read the news while it plays.

        Or any number of variants.

        Plus--- The collapse of the internet has been predicted many times. I think tales of the internet's demise are greatly exaggerated.

        • Re:ahahahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

          by postbigbang (761081) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @03:41PM (#27778455)

          Nemertes Research are lackeys of the telecom industry in my opinion. Scare tactics to support metering is what's behind this. There's far more possible problems from security concerns than streaming.

          The cable cos and telcos are all watching their revenues drop, and want some kind of defense. Their research is a red herring, designed to distract from the real problem: ISP greed.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          >>You let it stream to the break point, then rewind and watch it without any stuttering.

          Works for youtube, but not the daily show, cobert report, south park, hulu, netflix, or pretty much anything I want to watch. They all use this terrible DRM that only pre-caches like 3 seconds of video- You can pause it, but it will stop downloading the stream when it hits that limit. This makes all of the above services unusable with anything less than 100 kbs (real speed) connection. "Hello and welcome to the" wa

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mcrbids (148650)

        ... While the net itself will ultimately survive, Ritter said that waves of disruption would begin to emerge next year, when computers would jit -

        Buffering... Buffering... Buffering...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

      Home computers slow down when kids come home from school and start playing video games?

      Who is going to notice on a single-user system?

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @02:49PM (#27777671) Journal
        It's quite simple really, I'll explain:

        A computer is a machine that has to fill with data in order to work, just like a lightbulb has to fill with electricity in order to work. Back in the old days, you purchased your data on little disks, and inserted them into the slot in order to fill your computer with data. Now, with the internet, you connect your computer to the data tube, which fills your computer with data from the cloud, just like taking your car to the gas station. The problem is, with pirates and pedophiles and enemies of the Comcast's Rightful Profit start consuming large amounts of data, the data pressure of cyberspace falls. When cyberspace's data pressure is lower than your computer's data pressure, data starts to flow out of your computer through the data tube, rather than flowing in. As your computer's data pressure falls, it starts to slow down and crash.

        See?
    • Re:ahahahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:09PM (#27776191)
      Computers slow down when you turn them off, or lower their clock rate. They don't slow down when you use them; you just put those cycles to (local) use.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sehlat (180760)

      Correction: "steaming video"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Home computers do not run on the internet. Just because a page won't load doesn't mean your computer's gonna freeze. Oh wait, maybe for those still running Windows.

      Maybe if we pass legislation to make it illegal to sell faster, cheaper connectivity...

  • that's not realistic at all. It's true we're going to see massive slowdowns in bandwidth, but those are caused by too many users drawing too much data through the 'tubes'.

    Not to mention, this could all be solved if the greedy ISPs and network owners spent some of their damned earnings on upgrading the networks.

    • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:32PM (#27775507) Homepage Journal

      $50 says there's a connection between this group and a major ISP in the USA.

      Cynical? You bet I am. I'd say I've got good reason to be, though....

    • by Thelasko (1196535) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:35PM (#27775585) Journal
      It's running Windows, Duh!

      Sorry, I couldn't resist.
      • by david.emery (127135) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:00PM (#27776059)

        What version of Windows past Win98 or MacOS 8 would 'freeze' due to a "network brownout"?

        That kind of comment generated a "WTF?" reaction from me. As did "A respected American think-tank, Nemertes Research"... I never heard of Nemertes Research, and if this is the quality of their work, they ain't getting no respect from me!

        • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:16PM (#27776285) Journal

          What version of Windows past Win98 or MacOS 8 would 'freeze' due to a "network brownout"?

          Windows XP, filesystem browsing ("Computer Explorer") remote CIFS/SMB shares. Jitter, share, complete application freezeout*. Not hypothetical; I live it every day at a job where most of the documents I work on are hosted 1,000 miles away. (MS Word is a complete pig about temp files over the same remote link, too; that's another example of "jitter and freeze".)

          *Yes. The kernel doesn't freeze. But it seems that large portions of the I/O complex does. Applications using the network mount definitely freeze. The desktop shell definitely does freeze. Since the "Start" button is tied to that same desktop shell, that means you can't start any other applications either. However, applications already running and not doing filesystem I/O are not frozen, I suppose. That means that I should keep Minesweeper running in the background to have something to do when most of the useful parts of the system are wedged solid.

    • Yeah, this sentence really bothers me:

      brownouts that will freeze their computers as capacity runs out in cyberspace

      It sounds like some BS description they'd put into a movie when they forgot to hire a tech consultant. You know, like some dude with spiky hair who describes himself as a 'hacker' would be typing furiously on a keyboard, and then suddenly yell, "Oh no! We're in too many firewalls and cyberspace is almost full! All of our computers are going to crash if I don't do something quick!"

    • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:14PM (#27776261)
      Yeah, that's crazy that a computer would freeze or crash just because the connection is slow. My internet slows down often and it never causes my computer to cra
  • I didn't see this.
    I didn't see this.
    There just is no good reason not to start moving everything over to cloud computing and SaS.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cbiltcliffe (186293)

      There just is no good reason not to start moving everything over to cloud computing and SaS.

      Lets see....there's too much data flowing over the Internet, and it's going to cause slowdowns.

      And your solution is to move all data and software to the Internet, therefore causing even more data flow over the Internet, and more slowdowns.

      Brilliant.

      Not to mention that when your computer "jitters and freezes" you'll have to tell your boss "Sorry. We can't get that sales report out in time, because the cloud is down......Yeah, that means we can't get the proposal for that $10 million project out before deadl

  • by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:29PM (#27775445) Homepage Journal

    Nuff said

  • Same group (Score:5, Informative)

    by painandgreed (692585) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:29PM (#27775447)
    I remember this from an earlier slashdot of the same group saying the same thing. http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/11/20/0024248&from=rss [slashdot.org]
  • Too bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slapout (93640) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:29PM (#27775449)

    If only someone (cough **telcoms** cough) had been given time and money to expand bandwidth we wouldn't have this problem. Too bad they only had 15 years to try to solve the problem. Guess the internet just grow too fast for 'em.

  • For the past 12 hours today, rapidshare.com has not been accessible to me on a random basis.
    It pings all the time, but the HTTP protocol is not available.
    So?
    Iam unable to download my today's quota of HD movies and stuff.
    Damn you internet.

  • Metered Service (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Reason58 (775044) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:30PM (#27775457)

    We would see massive power brownouts if electricity was being billed as an unlimited service too. The fact the internet service is still this way is silly. Meter it and move on.

    • Re:Metered Service (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sofar (317980) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:36PM (#27775603) Homepage

      This will never fly because of simple mathmatics: 95% of the internet users pay too much for their connection anyway and use maybe 5% of their fair share or allotment.

      If your plan would come into place those people would see their monthly bills drop like a rock.

      Guess who won't be allowing any of that? Not to mention that anyone who's in the top 5% range of usage will drastically flee to cheaper operators or even adjust their download behavior.

      All that metered access would accomplish is a gigantic drop in revenue for ISPs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Theoboley (1226542)
        >>> This will never fly because of simple mathmatics: 95% of the internet users pay too much for their connection

        Citation Please
        • Re:Metered Service (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Feanturi (99866) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:58PM (#27776031)
          How about common sense?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Buelldozer (713671)

            Common sense would indicate that SOME number of Internet users is paying significantly more for bit delivery than others due to their lower use. However it doesn't say what their value proposition is relative to another user.

            Further, common sense doesn't indicate that anything would "drop like a rock" and it also doesn't substantiate the remarkably high percentage of users that it is claimed would be affected.

            So, Citation Please.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TechForensics (944258)

        What makes you think ISPs would lower the fee on the lowest-bandwidth tier?

    • Re:Metered Service (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Twanfox (185252) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:46PM (#27775827)

      What sort of limited resource (other than bandwidth) are you consuming when you use the Internet vs Electricity? With Electricity, you are consuming power generation at the power plants, a non-unlimited source. With the Internet, the only thing limited are the resources to get you what you want, not the actual data you are concerned about. Does Google run out of bits to send you? Does your trading software say 'Oops, no more bits today'? No, it doesn't. Instead of comparing Internet Bandwidth to power generation, perhaps you would liken it better to roads (yay car analogies!). Even metered (tolls), it still exceeds it's maximum capacity (traffic jams). The only resolution is to build out the infrastructure (bigger road) to handle more traffic at once.

  • Bob, is that you? [caffeine.net] ... I hope that Nemertes Research owns a blender [wikipedia.org]

  • Computers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:30PM (#27775465) Journal

    ...waves of disruption would begin to emerge next year, when computers would jitter and freeze. This would be followed by brownouts â" a combination of temporary freezing and computers being reduced to a slow speed.

    Will all computers do this? I think not. They are either referring to servers or the network as a whole.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yaur (1069446)
      Maybe whoever WTFA doesn't know the difference between a computer and a network.
  • by MunchMunch (670504) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:30PM (#27775469) Homepage
    I mean, if the internet were to slow down to almost a standstill... then my computer would completely freeze, just like it does when I unplug my ethernet connection.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mellon (7048)

      Sadly, there are cases where you get this effect, usually not because you are unplugged, but because you are plugged into a network that's broken in some way, and all kinds of processes on your computer block waiting for replies that never arrive. This is utterly pathetic, and should never happen, but it does.

  • by kclittle (625128) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:30PM (#27775471)
    "This would be followed by brownouts a combination of temporary freezing and computers being reduced to a slow speed."

    I have Comcast; how will I be able to tell when this starts to happen, compared to what I see today?
  • brownouts that will freeze their computers

    In my experience, when the internet is slow or a server is having problems, the webpage takes longer to load. It doesn't affect anything outside the browser, and my other programs remain "unfrozen."

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:32PM (#27775503)
    Aaargh, it's infuriating that a thinktank that has the false authority to make proclaimations like this conflates network performance and computer performance. It's like Intel's "MMX makes the internet faster" crap, but in reverse. A slow network does not suddenly make your favourite offline photo editing app slow down.

    (I will of course withdraw these objections if it transpires that the think-tank have come back from the near future where everything's done on The Cloud.)
  • by Thornburg (264444) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:33PM (#27775547)

    Everyone's computer is going to jitter or freeze because the net will be over capacity? Are the rest of you still using Windows 95 or other OS's that don't multithread properly?

    Otherwise, the idea that your whole computer will freeze due to a network issue is kind of laughable...

    So far, carriers have added capacity often enough to stay ahead of the curve. I don't see why that would change now.

  • I'm sure if we just set up some sort of beowulf cluster among our desktops and set up a cloud on top of it it would solve all of our problems.

    Windows 7 is already going there - the actual plan is to use the XP VM to host the internet locally - like freenet, but umm... controlled by Microsoft instead of the evil... umm... people. Yeah.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It seems most of these fluffy fear pieces are mere convenient flak for those that want some government excuse for broadband rollouts. These rollouts may or may not be warranted, but fear mongering is not convincing, especially when they tout increasing use of you tube or BBC iplayer as bringing down the global backbones. As you tube and BBC gain users, the response will be more and more local CDNs. There is no reason anyone's global backbones need be involved to stream you tube from India to USA.

  • Share and Enjoy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:37PM (#27775615) Homepage

    Meh... this just smacks of astroturfing for "tiered service agreements" that the ISP's have been trying to push for a decade!

    Besides, aren't random freezes and jittering just part of Windows "charm"? :)

  • Respected (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:37PM (#27775629) Journal

    > "A respected American think-tank, Nemertes Research.."
    What does that mean, respected? By whom? Some IETF plenary council? Paris Hilton?

    Is "respected" meant to imply the report is accurate? Why don't we judge reports on their own merits - soundness of methodology, reproducibility - rather than alleged reputations of the report's issuer?

  • by 1sockchuck (826398) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:38PM (#27775647) Homepage
    Nemertes' research pops up often in discussions of net neutrality. See the Save The Internet [savetheinternet.com] blog for another perspective on their data.
  • 'brownouts that will freeze their computers as capacity runs out in cyberspace,'

    If a problem with the internet connection actually freezes someone's computer, whoever had a hand in creating the operating system is a complete idiot.
  • On the front page is this one - must have taken a team of highly skilled research scientists to come up with it:

    "Flu Fears Likely to Fuel Rise of Telepresence".

    No shit Sherlock.

    If they say the interweb demand is going to exceed capacity, I say we either add more pipes or make the ones we got bigger...or maybe we need to ream 'em out - are they gotten clogged up with fat and pr0n and bad music videos and stuff?

  • thank god! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:40PM (#27775681) Homepage

    Thank God! I'm glad someone knows what's going on in this confusing world of ours!

    As far as what the OP says, aside from the wild fear mongering and hilariously dumb power distribution "analogies", I do tend to experience connectivity problems during peak hours (Sunday nights specifically). That is, I lose connectivity: upstream and downstream simply cease for periods of time (5s+), and I'm unable to connect to anything (including DNS) on the outside. It's infuriating.

  • by pla (258480) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:42PM (#27775721) Journal
    This would be followed by brownouts -- a combination of temporary freezing and computers being reduced to a slow speed.

    I consider it bad enough that I have to explain, every time I helps someone clean up their machine, that MSN loading slowly does not mean they have a slow computer.

    And now we have so-called experts warning us that network lag will cause slow computers?

    What next, a warning about how Windows 7 requires 16 GB of storage, causing a wave of panic among those who don't understand the difference between RAM and HDD space?
  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:43PM (#27775753) Homepage
    ive been using an alternative-internet technology based on corn and soybean oil for years now...with the only side effect being that my slashdot posts sometimes smell like french-fries or donuts.
  • Same old same old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Flimzy (657419) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:46PM (#27775819)
    I remember similar doomsday stories when the 28.8kbps modem came out. "With such fast Internet access to homes, the backbones will now be overloaded!"

    News flash... ISPs and Telcos know how to increase their bandwidth, too... it's not just the last mile that's getting faster and allowing people to do more and more frivolous things with their Internet connections.

    Sheesh.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:51PM (#27775895) Homepage

    Take a look at why Slashdot's pages load so slowly. There are several layers of "document.write(some javascript that loads something else)" just to load ads. The browser can't do the loads concurrently; they all take place sequentially. Each "document.write" has to finish before the code in it can be run. Also, some of the CSS is being read from "s.fsdn.com", which is a rather slow server at times.

    It can get worse. Try Rushmore Drive [rushmoredrive.com], the slowest-loading search engine home page known. This is a spinoff of Ask. There's enough ad-related crap on that page that it takes 10-15 seconds to load. And this is without any personalization or content-related overhead. It's all inept ad serving.

    Those are both sites maintained by supposedly competent professionals. Sites where some third-tier web programmer just cut and pasted code from other sites can be much worse.

    We can probably deal with increases in Internet traffic just by improving ad-blocking.

  • by Dotren (1449427) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:53PM (#27775917)

    They forgot to add "My name is Time-Warner Cable, and I approve this message" at the end.

    I'm getting serious deja vu here folks... seems to me we already got through a wave of this "the internet is going to burst" stuff years ago. Guess what? The internet is still going, much to the misery of some of the telecom companies that would have loved to have an internet state-of-emergency declared so they could come "rescue us" with filtering, heavy traffic shaping, and metered usage. Instead, they're trying to introduce these things behind closed doors or, when they can't like in the case of metered usage, through public tests which are being met with a lot of negative backlash.

    This isn't really a technology limitation. This has nothing to do with dead websites clogging the net (LOL) and it isn't going to freeze anyone's computer.. at least not until every bit of our apps are in the cloud. This is the telecomms refusing to use money they were given for what it was for and balking at using their own profits do to it now. With little competition in most cases, these companies would like nothing better than to convince the general populace that the internet is as good as it can ever get now and that prices will need to be hiked and metered usage added to ration what we have.

    And no, I don't think metered service is a good solution. I don't have any faith in these companies not to sorely abuse it. We've seen already how the ones that also manage cell service act... I don't trust them not to put a insanely inflated number on the cost of bandwidth per mb or gig (see cell text message for an example of an insanely overpriced service).

  • Ha! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Orgasmatron (8103) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:57PM (#27776003)

    The summary was so bad that I actually read the article, expecting that I could then come here and post the usual flame about mangled, misleading, or otherwise just bad summaries.

    That was a HUGE mistake. The article really is bad enough that no improvement in the summary would have been possible.

    The author of that article confuses "computer" and "network streaming". The confusion seems to be quite deep, perhaps to the point that the author thinks of computers as mere display screens for this magical "internet" thing that does all the work.

    Imagine that you read an article about a traffic jam, but rather than saying that the flow of traffic at the moment didn't seem to be very fast, it instead suggested that the cars would "jitter and freeze". That's how I felt when I read that article.

  • Revisionist History (Score:3, Informative)

    by Snowblindeye (1085701) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:03PM (#27776095)

    From TFA:

    When Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist, wrote the code that transformed a private computer network into the world wide web in 1989, the internet appeared to be a limitless resource.

    Really? The internet was limitless in 1989 and now its slowing down? Which internet were they using?

    That's pretty much a complete rewrite of history if I've ever seen one. The internet was really slow in those days. My whole university of 40,000 students had a 64kbit connection to the internet as late as 1993 or so. Anybody remember the www being called the world-wide-wait? I think the first couple of years I was more limited by the backbones the by the last mile. And that was on dialup!

    Then at some point in the late 90s, probably during the dot com boom, they finally got the backbones to where they could keep up. And by and large, I think they do that pretty well even with the much increased traffic today. Did these guys just make up some facts to support their fearmongering theory? Like 'home computers' slowing down when kids start playing games?

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:16PM (#27776291) Homepage

    "This would be followed by brownouts â" a combination of temporary freezing and computers being reduced to a slow speed.'""

    I have never heard of this "Internet" company before, but I am 100% certain they are infringing on a Microsoft patent.

  • Questions (Score:3, Informative)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:37PM (#27776579) Homepage Journal

    First off the Think Tank is well respected... by who exactly? I am pretty neck deep in the industry and I've never heard of them. If you are going to tell us "they are well respected" then a journalist would provide us with who holds them in high regard.

    Second: A think tank, in this sense, is usually funded. In full disclousure when talking about "THINK TANKS" it is usually customary to indicate the sponsors of said think tank.

    Third: More statistical mumbo jumbo. 60% growth each years is irrelivant without the baseline numbers to go with it. I can have a 60% growth rate no problem but 60% of what? 60% of the base population? 60% increase in the new traffic? (In short if it went up last year by 100 people and this year went up 160 or were there 100 people to begin with and we added 60 more...)

    I could go on but I am tired, cranky, and due for a nap...

  • What's that sound? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tachyonflow (539926) * on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:49PM (#27776805) Homepage

    Sounds like that wolf crying again...

    Seriously, I've been hearing that long distance bandwidth is plentiful, it's just the last mile that is the limiting factor.

  • by w3woody (44457) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @07:20PM (#27781483) Homepage

    The key sentence in this whole thing: "Telephone companies want to recoup escalating costs by increasing prices for âoenet hogsâ who use more than their share of capacity."

    Of course you have to wade down to the very last sentence before you find the motivation of this little bit of astroturf, which is "we need to punish the big users of the 'net because if we don't, your computer will crash."

    Translation: "give us tiered pricing or die."

    It's just FUD designed to push an agenda.

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