Ask the average consumer what cloud computing is and chances are they’ll have little idea of what you’re talking about. In 2012 a Citrix survey
revealed that 51% of respondents believed that the cloud could be affected by stormy weather conditions. Fast forward 2 years, and a 123-reg survey
showed that only 37% of respondents could confidently claim to know what the cloud is. Amusing anecdote aside, in reality, it wouldn’t really matter to consumers if the cloud really was affected by poor weather, so long as the service kept on going; it’s the same rationale that leads us Brits to complain when the railway network is disrupted due to leaves on the line, or the ‘wrong kind of snow’. A service should run as advertised. With some 3.6 billion consumers expected to be using the cloud by 2018; roughly half the world’s population today; there is no doubt that we are, and will be, heavily reliant on services delivered from the cloud, including anything from web-based email to storage and streaming solutions. It’s this latter category of cloud-delivered service that seems to be causing a problem; although the US is at the forefront of the discussion at the moment, the issue of high-bandwidth services has cropped up repeatedly in the past, even in Internet high speed king South Korea, where an ISP blocked its customers from streaming IP video back in 2006. Their reasoning? This service potentially took too much bandwidth, and cut into cable TV revenues. Sounds familiar… In today’s world of Netflix binges, these are worrying times for the consumer. The danger of Internet 'fast' and 'slow 'lanes looms and with investment into wireline broadband in the US a mere fraction of what is being pumped into wireless infrastructure it seems inevitable unless the FCC steps up; I don’t believe it will. With that in mind perhaps it’s time for a new approach; no-one wants the days of AOL’s walled garden ‘net back after all. Comcast has in one sense already started the ball rolling, following the announcement of its 300GB-then-usage-priced plan, albeit with a very greedy $0.20 per GB once the 300GB limit is broken (the actual price of Internet transit is somewhere closer to $0.03 per GB). As it stands, Comcast’s scheme is anti-consumer. However, uncapped
Pay-per-GB pricing can be fair, so long as it is priced fairly with regulatory oversight
; perhaps this is something the FCC can consider in its deliberations. This leads to consumer self-regulation of use, negating the need for these ‘fast lanes’ and encourages competition. So while PAYG may not be the best deal for Netflix bingers in the short-term, at least that cloud has a silver lining: competition leads to better quality products, at more economical prices.