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Unfillable expectations

By Scott Bradner

Why do so many good technical people prefer to plan based on
wishful thinking rather than the facts?

The particular thing that got me wondering about this was yet another
instance where some people asserted that in the near future there was
going to be an explosion of cheap Internet bandwidth for individual
users. They did not quite repeat the claim that bandwidth was going to
be too cheap to measure, a claim which is popular with some people,
but they were getting close.

The identity of these specific myth spreaders is unimportant only
because they are far from alone in their beliefs.

It would be easy to do a little checking and figure out how much
money the fiber people, such as Qwest, MFS and Project Oxygen
(, and the Internet service providers, such as MCI
Communications, GTE/BBN and UUNET, plan to spend. But what I
can tell you is that they plan to spend far in excess of the $3.3 billion
in annual revenue generated by all ISPs in the U.S.

This would seem to indicate that unless these companies are suddenly
about to become somewhat more altruistic than their previous histories
would indicate, cheap bandwidth is a pipe dream - an attractive one -
but a pipe dream nonetheless.

But this is far from the only example of this sort of reality disconnect.
A few years ago, people were assuming ATM was going to replace all
other network technology.

Even a bit of thinking would have indicated that any wholesale
replacement of network infrastructure with ATM was not in the cards.
There are just too many alternatives and too much installed

Besides, the network technologists were not about to stop thinking
when ATM was designed - new technologies were bound to be

Today, we see a reality disconnect in the belief by some that most
Internet users already have some level of high-speed access. At least
that's my impression judging by the amount of graphics that all too
many designers put on their Web pages.

It's very broken thinking to design Web pages that take many minutes
to download - with much of that time taken in transferring complex
advertisements - and expect Internet users will still be happy to deal
with you and come back for more abuse.

What is it that causes this type of inability or unwillingness to
recognize reality?

Clearly, some of the problem comes from a need to attract venture
capital and sell products. Clear, impressive stories are easier to sell
than ones with qualifiers.

Part of the problem also comes from the surface knowledge of the
issues that many network managers and technology writers possess.
On the Web side, showing your boss a Web page that is designed to
accommodate the level of connectivity that real users have is not all
that rewarding an experience.

But the basic issue may be just that complexity is a pain. It takes time
and makes people's heads hurt to actually think through the
implications of reality.

Disclaimer: Harvard's organizational structure can make my head
hurt, but the above are my musings.