Re: Whither chargeback policies?

George McKee (
Wed, 27 Apr 88 19:41:16 EDT

Alternative-Subject: "what price broadcasts?"

Dennis Perry <> writes:
>The resourse you use to get to the system, telecommunications, may in
>fact be dedicated to you, but there were limited number of users
>who could effectively use the ports available to get to the supercomputers.
>Now, you could sign on and use the facility at any rate you chose, i.e.
>usage rate is not the same as bandwidth. Typing characters at 20 word
>per minute is not the same as transmitting each character at 56 kbit/s.
>Those who only type text could get by with 2400 to 4800 b/sec service,
>while those who generated lots of graphics to a textronix would much
>prefer a 9.6 kbit/s service or higher (we had some that ran substantially
>higher, I don't remember now how high).

When I think about network service, this statement is more like the mental
model I have than the other one that seems to be implicit in much of this
discussion. The fact that mail is perhaps the most visible form of
network use leads people think about billing in terms of per-message
(i.e. per-packet) charges, just like the post office or the telephone
company. An alternative model that I think is just as valid is cable
television, where you pay (in advance, even) for a guarantee of a certain
amount of bandwidth. Subscribers are offered different levels of service,
and it is provided whether your TV is on or not. Few people watch HBO
24 hours a day, but that's what you pay for.

I'd guess that there's at least as much internet traffic generated by
"broadcast" lists such as this one, as there is traffic generated by
individual-to-individual messages, though I have no idea how the
relevant data could be collected. In a research-oriented community,
the free flow of information is widely acknowledged to be essential for
productivity. It seems to me that bandwidth limits would be much less
painful to run up against than would usage limits. I wouldn't like to
be in the middle of transferring some important file and suddenly get
hit by a "sorry: packet quota exceeded" message. Or to be told that
I've exceeded my network budget with a whole month left in the fiscal
year. Bandwidth limits could avoid this kind of trouble because the
costs are fixed in advance.

Of course, there would have to be ways of limiting bandwith (and other
forms of net access, as well) by software rather than hardware, so that
senior researchers could obtain the bandwith to transfer their
supercomputer output, while undergraduates or other peons who happen to
have signons on the same machine/subnet could be restricted to a
harmless trickle, but this should be preferable to flooding the network
with accounting packets.

If this alternative has already been considered and rejected, I
apologize. I'd appreciate knowing the reasons, though, if someone could
point to an article where this is discussed.

        - George McKee
          Software Coordinator
          College of Computer Science
          Northeastern University, Boston 02115
CSnet: mckee@Corwin.CCS.Northeastern.EDU
Phone: (617) 437-5204
Usenet: the signal/noise ration here is already too low...

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