asks: "What is the origin of the cost of bandwidth? For instance, if I'm being charged for an apple, I know that, theoretically, the cost of that apple is going towards the purchase of apple seeds, the land on which the apple trees are grown, the fertilizer and water that helps the trees grow, and the salaries of those who pick the apples, clean them, box them, and send them to market. When an Internet provider charges someone hundreds of dollars in bandwidth costs because they were Slashdotted (or Farked) and their bandwidth use shot up, what costs have the Internet provider incurred, and why does it cost them what it does? Is there usually any sort of markup going on along the line, or are people just passing along their own expenses down the line to the end user?"
It would be interesting to note the most important factor contributing to bandwidth costs. How much of the total costs are tied to infrastructure versus the human component (technicians, sysadmins, technical support and so forth)?