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October 30th, 2013:

It’s a Long Way from Antigua via Amphioxus

Something occurred to me this morning, regarding the whole business of the li’l teeny island of Antigua setting up a legal pirate’s marketplace of Other People’s Stuff: Dare you to get it out of there.

I looked and did not find any current indication of how much bandwidth connects Antigua (or lord knows, Barbuda) to anywhere else. (Five-year-old data here.) So picture it with me: The day after the island’s government launches a dollar store for digital content (or licenses three dozen pirate wannabees to do it themselves) everybody in creation storms down there to get Windows 7 or the Five Gazillion Pack of ebooks for the price of an Egg McMuffin. What happens next?


Really: Nothing. The island’s Internet connection, no matter how good it is, goes belly-up from the stampede.

Now, don’t bother reminding me that Antigua was doing a fine business in online gambling, and to do that they needed a decent connection to the world. Sure. But how much bandwidth do you need to place bets or play what amounts to animated board games? The big deal in pirated content these days is movie and TV rips, and those are ginormous compared to anything you’d see on a gambling site. Individual ebooks or music tracks could move reasonably well, assuming everybody didn’t go there at once. Which they will. However, even a relatively small number of people downloading the last forty episodes of How I Met Your Mother would bring whatever Antigua considered a backbone to its knees. An amphioxus has more backbone than a squid. But just about anything has more backbone than an amphioxus.

I wonder if anyone will set up a seedbox host provider there. Torrent like hell 24/7 with all the other seedboxes, and then take a year to download it all back home.

Not likely. All this leads me to conclude that Big Media isn’t making a great deal of noise about this because they already know it won’t work. Some handful of people might fly there with a fat laptop and encrypt a terabyte of TV shows to make it look like unused hard disk space. On the other hand, people coming back from Antigua with a laptop and no tan will be looked at very carefully by US customs.

So there’s less here than meets the eye. It’ll still be interesting to watch, and I reserve the right to be completely wrong. Bandwidth physics is one helluva harsh mistress.