YouTube’s Bandwidth Bill Is NOT Zero, I Expect More From A Story

This afternoon, published a story with the headline of "YouTube’s Bandwidth Bill Is Zero. Welcome to the New Net." I don't know how they think can publish a headline like that when, as the article explains, a new report by Arbor Networks, not Wired, estimates that Google "is simply trading traffic, with no payment involved, with the net’s largest ISPs." So why is using a headline that is telling us, as a fact, that "YouTube’s Bandwidth Bill Is Zero," when they aren't even the one's saying it? Not to mention, no where in Arbor's actual report, from what I have been told, do they imply that YouTube's bandwidth bill is zero, and in fact, in the Wired article they are quoted as saying they think Google's "transit costs" are close to zero".

Transit costs are not the same as bandwidth costs and Wired should know that. They then go on to say that, "the lack of a monthly bill in the mailbox doesn’t mean Google’s internet connection is free — it’s just that it has purchased unused fiber optic cable known as “dark fiber” — and uses it to carry its traffic to other networks where it “peers” or trades traffic with other ISPs. Its costs for bandwidth are then amortized across the life of its fiber and routers." Well make up your mind. Is it free or not free? You're saying the "bandwidth" is free, but the transit has a cost?

Even if Arbor's argument is accurate in regards to Google's transit costs, that does not mean YouTube has no cost involved in delivering video. Not to mention, the Arbor report, which is not even being released until October 19th, is only referencing how large ISP's trade traffic with Google but makes no mention of smaller ISPs. The Wired article also implies that the YouTube website uses "streaming" to deliver their videos, which we all know is not accurate. And while distinguishing between protocols may seem like splitting hairs, it's not when you're talking about delivery costs since we know that it costs more to do true streaming as opposed to HTTP progressive download.

The Wired article goes on to say that, "…the real money is in the ads and services in the packets, not in moving the bits from computer to computer. The cost of bandwidth has fallen and so too have the profit margins for moving bits, even as traffic grows at an estimated 40 percent a year." Can Wired explain what they mean by "services in the packets", what is that? They say the cost of bandwidth has fallen, but don't say by how much and they say the profit margins have fallen as well, but don't say for whom. Not to mention, they say that traffic is growing "at an estimated 40 percent a year," but don't say who's traffic they are talking about.

I'm not a brilliant writer, my grammar can use a LOT of work, but I have no editor and am a one person blog. This article by Wired not only contains bad info, but has terrible grammar mistakes in it like "dump pipe", when I think they mean "dumb pipe", and has phrases like "you might even asking". I expect a lot more from a story by Wired when they are talking about technology, yet can't even get the basic terminology or facts accurate.

  • Tanner Boyle

    I’m not brilliant writer,
    — tough time for a typo.

  • Kevin

    Nice catch Tanner. That is hilarious.

  • Yeah, except I know that’s the case and acknowledge it. I’m not the leading online and print publication on technology like Wired is.

  • Pablo

    Awesome article. It seems that even the traditional tv network news and news papers are playing fast and lose with their headlines to articles. So often a article headline will either have little to do with the story, or will totally contradict the story. Obviously made up just to draw attention.

  • Transit costs – settlement free peering does not.. I would imagine with the amount of packets that Google is pushing – they are settlement free peering with a considerable amount of ASN’s.
    (but as we all know – peering also has it’s downfalls, and when you don’t do some type of route optimization – you get brownouts, latency based on normal BGP route selection and several other issues that could cause issue to the quality of a video steam..)
    Just a thought…

  • anon

    wired always has a knack for publishing stories that they know absolutely NOTHING about..
    even with sfi and private peering you have to associate some sort of cost, even if you’re not paying for the transit, you have other costs like capex on ports, recurring costs on xconnect fees depending on where you are interconnecting…
    so even if you are offloading 90% of your transit onto peering fabrics, you still have costs, they’re just not as high as they would be if you werent peering

  • Rob

    Wired – it isn’t a serious publication. It is one of those magazines where everyone is either a “genius” or “heading off a nightmare” of some sort or “is on the cusp of a secret revolution that you just have to know about”.
    Nope, I don’t read Wired, the people magazine of technology anymore. And I don’t read People either.

  • Pablo

    If they’re getting settlement-free peering, I don’t see where the opposite-direction bits are going. Google is a giant traffic source (youtube, search results, gmail). What are the inbound bits composed of? Mail/SMTP could be a good size, when you consider that spam is transited and then discarded. Crawling may also make up a significant chunk of inbound bits, but is that enough to balance the giant youtube outbound bits?

  • Kevin

    Pablo, a balanced exchange of traffic is not required for peering. You are probably thinking about the traditional tier 1 telco’s that peer with other telcos for transit purposes. Google, CDN’s, and others (such as web hosts) often peer for free with the eyeball networks with mostly 1 way traffic. This is beneficial to both Google and the ISP. Think about it… If Google was Paying Level3 for transit to sent content to Comcast and Comcast was paying Level 3 for transit to receive data from Google yet they have physical facilities in the same building or near by, why not just cut out Level3? The transit provider is an unnecessary middleman. So even though there is not a balanced exchange of traffic, it is still beneficial to both networks. Not only cheaper but generally better performance as well.

  • YouTube is such a dominate power over its competition, they can do whatever they want.

  • I agree with you. What a