Caribbean warez for all

Due to a trade dispute with the USA, Antigua may be setting itself up to provide warez to US citizens for a modest fee, without actually breaking the law. The previously lucrative gambling industry ran into problems when the US enacted anti-offshore-gambling laws. Now, temporarily freed of international copyright obligations, Antigua is declaring its intention to run a business selling films and music to US citizens for profit, being able to trouser all the cash and not compensate the rights owners. Nice job if you can get it.

Bit of a problem: look at Antigua's prices for home internet. "High speed" (3Mbps) will cost you $629 East Caribbean, or about £150. Per month. Even allowing for a good bit of price gouging and monopoly abuse by Cable and Wireless, that signals a rather limited connection to "the Internet" - in this case, the key metric is the bandwidth available from Antigua to the shores of the USA. Antigua has a population of about 85,000. Let's assume 20,000 households, and 10,000 of them have an Internet connection of 1.5Mbps for about £80/month, and C+W have a contention ratio of 50:1 (so a 1.5Mbps pipe will be shared by 50 houses). Then you can satisfy domestic demand with 300Mbps of bandwidth. Double that to allow for businesses, and I reckon you're looking at just over half a gig (600Mbps) of fiber to the island. Note that this is bits per second, not bytes per second.

Downloading a movie at a reasonable rate (say, a 5Mbps stream) will quickly eat up that capacity. If you max out Antigua's entire bandwidth, you'll be able to serve 120 customers concurrently, and 2GB (bytes, not bits) of movie download will take 16,000/5 = 3200 seconds, or just under an hour. You'll be able to serve around 2900 movies per day. If you're lucky, you'll make $1/movie. You could make this work a lot better by caching popular movies States-side, but of course the copyright lawyers will shut down USA-based caching servers in no time.

Antigua will be lucky to clear $1 million in profit in the course of a year like this, even assuming no legal or infrastructure troubles. Of course, I may be off in my estimates of their available bandwidth - but I'd be surprised if I'm undershooting by a factor of 10. It also wouldn't be unimaginable for the major movie studios to pressure Internet peers to blackhole certain traffic from Antigua...

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