Based on a message to the Link mailing list

19.2 kilobits per second is not adequate

In Radio National's 'Bush Telegraph' segment on Monday 11 November 2002, two interviewees independently commented on the inadequacy of the government's 19.2 kb/s benchmark. Both made the point that, the benchmark being static, those dependent on it will fall further behind as technology advances.

To be effective in a dynamic environment, a benchmark must be at least as dynamic as that environment. The easiest mechanism for achieving the necessary dynamism is an uplift factor. If we are to err (and we will never get it totally right), then we must err on the high side. That is, the uplift factor should exceed the foreseeable rate of advancement.

Unless periodically reviewed then, the benchmark will exceed practicability. The review process exposes to regular scrutiny those who set the benchmark and those charged with meeting it.

A factor of 0.11% per day accumulates to a little less than 50% per annum. 0.08% yields about 33% per annum. The higher factor seems appropriate for Australia's telecommunications needs. At that rate, a six-monthly review cycle should suffice.

Given an uplift factor, where do we start? For a starting date, 01/01/2000 looks neat to me. That leaves the data throughput parameters. At that date, my line was achieving 28.8 kb/s. Backing off slightly from that figure: 26.4 kb/s seems reasonable as a bare minimum. I'm not saying that's adequate, just an achievable minimum: a base below which there should be no charge for service. Come to think of it, if the service is below that level, there might be some justification in requiring the body responsible to compensate the customer.

That's a base figure, not an adequate level of performance. At the nominated date, I'd put adequate at 33.6 kb/s.

So what is a realistic target? At the nominated date, 45 kb/s was technically achievable. Seems reasonable to me. Anything less should not attract full service charges.

Part of a reply to the original message

But I think we need to bring a feeling of reality to the bare numbers.

Something like:
- 128K is the minimum for browsing US multi-media web-pages
- 56K is the minimum for browsing normal Australian web-pages
- 33.6 is the minimum for HTML email with attached images and sound
- 28.8 is the minimum for text email with attached text documents
- 19.2 is the minimum for text email without any attachments

Yes, I realise that there are many things wrong with those glib correspondences; but politicians and even policy people can't cope with the full richness. The story has to be simplified, and graphic.

And we also need to convey that the nature of email (text or HTML) and of attachments (format and size) is not under the control of the recipient. And hence the impending flood of over-sized unsolicited marketing email is going to clog up the lines of all narrowband users.

Since that time the volume of SPAM (junk e-mail) has increased exponentially. Nearly all SPAM is HTML.