Will Bulk Email
"Use Up"
Internet Bandwidth?

Bob Schmidt
Provider Marketing Group

We hear the antispammers say that bulk email will bring the Internet crashing down, that it will consume all of the bandwidth. They couldn't be more wrong.

It is an inescapable truism of online media, indeed, perhaps, even a "natural law", that an undesirably large, perhaps even the largest, percentage of usage/bandwidth/call it what you will is taken up by people downloading programs that do nothing more than help them download other programs. It has always been thus. Ten years ago, every 90 days, everyone was downloading the newest versions, patches, fixes and upgrades of Procomm, Qmodem, arc and hundreds of other programs now forgotten.

Compuserve, AOL and Prodigy have all taken to "live" program upgrades or incessant downloads of art-- so imbued has the phenomenon become that it has been, literally, institutionalized and seamlessly interwoven into the very online fabric itself. The network isn't the computer, it's the upgrade. So let's just forget once and for all any notion that efficiency and online environments have anything in common. Free speech, like a free market, is messy and inefficient. The Internet is a growing organism (glory be, it's ALIVE!). It does not respond well to dictatorial control and stasis.

Today, I estimate that approximately 50-75% of all Internet bandwidth is consumed solely by users getting the latest version of Netscape and Internet Explorer. Now if antispammers were serious about conserving bandwidth they would be far better off urging Netscape and Microsoft to slow down their release of new beta versions, which, at the rate of 32 million times 15 megs per month covers a multitude of email.

Using the antispammer's analogy, if people like Netscape have their way, we will be downloading new versions daily or hourly. Imagine what will happen to the Internet then. Not to mention the bandwidth impact of the "new" multimedia which I am not by any means against, but let's be honest about where bandwidth usage is, and where it is headed. The absolute, bottom line, lowest possible bandwidth transmission is email, even in humongous quantities.

Note: While I do not hesitate to provide some "equal time" on this subject and argue the merits, I do not especially advocate the use of bulk email. Neither, however, do I begrudge the efforts of those who are experimenting to see if it works. We all need to know.


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Last updated: 04/25/10