2.2 Why focus on Internet access?
Internet access has several desirable properties as an application to
consider for exercising residential infrastructure. Internet technology is
based on a peer-to-peer model of communications. Internet usage
encompasses a wide mix of applications, including low- and high-
bandwidth as well as asynchronous and real-time communications.
Different Internet applications may create varying degrees of
symmetrical (both to and from the home) and asymmetrical traffic
flows. Supporting all of these properties poses a challenge for existing
residential communications infrastructures.
Internet access differs from the future services modeled by other studies
described below in that it is a real application today, with growing
demand. Aside from creating pragmatic interest in the topic, this factor
also makes it possible to perform case studies of real deployments.
Finally, the Internet’s organization as an “Open Data Network” (in the
language of (Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the
National Research Council, 1994)) makes it a service worthy of study
from a policy perspective. The Internet culture’s expectation of
interconnection and cooperation among competing organizations may
clash with the monopoly-oriented cultures of traditional infrastructure
organizations, exposing policy issues. In addition, the Internet’s status
as a public data network may make Internet access a service worth
encouraging for the public good. Therefore, analysis of costs to provide
this service may provide useful input to future policy debates.
This chapter reviews the present state and technical evolution of
residential cable network infrastructure. It then discusses a topic not
covered much in the literature, namely, how this infrastructure can be
used to provide Internet access. It concludes with a qualitative
evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of cable-based Internet
access. While ISDN is extensively described in the literature, its use as
an Internet access medium is less well-documented. This chapter
briefly reviews local telephone network technology, including ISDN
and future evolutionary technologies. It concludes with a qualitative
evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of ISDN-based Internet