Siri, is this the end of all-you-can-eat bandwidth?

I was slightly amused with the story last week about the guy who got angry because he was banned from a restaurant for eating too much during an all-you-can-eat fish promotion. 

It was a case of life imitating art, or at least cartoons: “The Simpsons” had done the same thing in an episode where Homer was kicked out of The Frying Dutchman for eating “all our shrimp, and two plastic lobsters!”

Of course, the women of “The View” had to weigh in, no pun intended, and a few of them defended the big guy (the real person, not Homer). On the one hand, yes, the sign did say “All you can eat.” But on the other, there is a realistic expectation of what one person can consume. The fish are, in fact, a limited resource, and if one fat guy eats 10 times what he should, it means many others won’t be getting a good meal.

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Nothing against eating big, as I’ve been known to indulge myself sometimes. When I go to one of my favorite pizza places, CiCi’s, I pile the slices up pretty high, and I’ve seen others pile them even higher. But the pizza there is cheap, so it’s expected. And eating 10 times more than the average person is probably not possible with slices of bread and cheese.

My point is that you can overdo anything. In the tech world, we’ve been living with fake “all-you-can-eat” signs for a long time, and as more and more bandwidth gets eaten up, true smorgasbandwidth deals will be rarer and rarer — or, I suspect, will vanish altogether.

This will be true for federal agencies incorporating mobile devices into their networks and private businesses as well as normal people. It might even have an impact on “bring-your-own-device,” or BYOD, programs, if people get a little gun-shy about using their personal devices for work if they have to worry about set limits on monthly use.

At home I have Comcast for broadband use. Although I have an “unlimited plan,” there are actually limits. Comcast has finally defined these limits after years of keeping them secret, and there is a way to check to see how close you are to them each month. I only got close one time, when I had to reinstall “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” all 26G of it, several times due to glitches. Even then, I got to the end of the month with plenty of room to spare.

Wireless Internet is under even more constraints than landlines. If you push too far into your “unlimited” data threshold, you will get throttled back a lot of times, the equivalent of being forced to sit at your seat for a while before heading back to the buffet for another plateful.

Verizon just announced that it’s getting rid of its unlimited data plans altogether. New customers will have to buy tiered data plans, and existing unlimited customers will have to forfeit that benefit the next time they upgrade.

I blame Siri for the loss of bandwidth. Really. I suppose it’s cute when people like Zooey Deschanel ask Siri if it’s raining outside as her windows are being streaked with raindrops, but each time that happens, a little bit of bandwidth is eaten up.

And 4G or no, there is only so much to go around at any one time. I suspect this is the real reason that Siri wasn’t included on the new iPad. The carriers probably begged Apple not to do that. They aren’t ready, and most of them have trouble supporting everything on phones right now as it is.

A wise man once told me that when he was growing up, cars were fast and gas was cheap. I think I may be in a position to tell the next generation about the days when the Internet wasn’t crowded and bandwidth was truly unlimited. Enjoy it while it lasts!

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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