RCTE


Barry Shein (bzs@bu-cs.bu.edu)
Mon, 5 Oct 87 21:53:03 EDT


From: David C. Plummer <DCP@QUABBIN.SCRC.Symbolics.COM>
>Opening the door to a more unhindered future question: Assuming
>"costly" includes money, when will public networking come up with a
>deterministic usage fee so that researchers can budget their
>communications costs instead of fretting? I imagine most researchers
>want to spend money on research and correspond with collegues and know
>from the outset how each will cost; having to worry about variable
>communications charges that they possibly don't understand or care to
>understand is probably an undesired and recurring distraction.

I'd like to underscore this point, it's critical. This was the biggest
initial design goal which motivated the Cypress network project, fixed
and predictable costs from month to month (that is, not based on data
flow.)

It's critical in more ways than one. When the cost is based on
per-packet (or whatever) one can waste money using the network. When
it's flat rate one can only waste money by not using the network. The
distinction is important.

One might argue that this would just encourage irresponsibility, but
in reality the former just encourages irresponsibility by those who
can bury their costs at the expense of those who cannot. I assume any
common denominator of price will be a mere bagatelle to many folks
anyhow. There should be other ways to control irresponsibility besides
mere chargeback (eg. limiting bandwidth into the network.) I suppose
the question is whether one sees the network as infrastructure or a
commodity.

It also, of course, encourages network access based purely upon
political clout within an organization (ie. the managers will limit it
to themselves, the rats always guard the cheese...) I suppose whether
or not this would be a negative factor is subject to discussion.

Predictability is critical within a University context (and, I
suspect, other business situations.) I can get statements from any
number of bean-counters around here (I collected these verbally during
the initial Cypress discussions) that they would far rather commit to
(eg) $500 a month than a varying cost of $300-$700 per month which
would *probably* average out to $500. Just keeping tabs on whether
some change in behavior has jumped that to $1000/mo involves staff
time better placed at the vendor's end (at which point they could
raise their flat fees which, I assume, would reflect average usages
rather than simply my singularities, they have more to work with to
respond to the situation other than simply imposing little rules.)

The question of course arises "what about a small organization that
truly believes they would benefit from per-quantum charges and feel
they are subsidizing the heavier users?" Well, for one thing other
adjustments could be made but more importantly one has to be able to
show that the economy of scale is working in general and, as I
believe, that the per-quantum costs would end up costing the smaller
user more (if rates are here, could bulk-rates be far behind? etc.) I
suspect a sound financial argument could be made that the small user
is benefitting in perhaps less obvious ways (eg. large users would
tend to have multiple (separately charged for) connections and provide
a stable revenue base which is what it takes to re-tool
infrastructure, small users would probably tend to come and go, it's a
two-way street.)

        -Barry Shein, Boston University



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