We first encountered this on a list connecting Jerry Michalski, Esther Dyson and about 50 close pals. Looking for it recently at David Isenberg's site, we were surprised to find that the pointer to it was broken. So we figured, what the hell, marked up the original version we had kept from that mailing list and stuck it here. The ideas this paper expresses are way too important to be unavailiable via the World Wide Web. Enjoy!
[There's also a newer version of this paper -- The Dawn of the Stupid Network -- which was originally published as the cover story of ACM Networker 2.1, February/March 1998.]
Rise of the Stupid Network
Why the Intelligent Network was once a good idea,
but isn't anymore. One telephone company nerd's
odd perspective on the changing value proposition
David Isenberg - email@example.com - www.isen.com
OBSOLETE ASSUMPTIONS & ENDURING MENTAL MODELS
Design-by-assumption works as long as assumptions hold. Assumptions are shortcuts to useful efficiencies, provided they are not violated. The classic telephone company value proposition, embodied in today's telephone network, holds:
- that expensive, scarce infrastructure can be shared to offer premium priced services,
- that talk - the human voice - generates most of the traffic,
- that circuit-switched calls are the "communications technologies" that matter, and
- that the telephone company is in control of its network.
Telephone companies still behave as if these assumptions hold despite:
The Intelligent Network i
- up to several thousand-fold declines in key infrastructure costs over the last two decades,
- a 20 year double-digit annual growth rate in the volume of data traffic, so that the volume of data traffic is now overtaking the (also growing, but more slowly) volume of voice traffic,
- the many different data types that now travel over the telephone network (despite the fact that the network is not optimized for all these data types),
- the many different types of "communications technologies," from television to Ethernet, that are not part of telephone network architecture, and
- the Internet, which, because it makes the details of network operation irrelevant, is shifting control to the end user.