Nat Friedman of Ximian points out that the introduction of the subscription service doesn't mean a reduction in the availability of free downloads, from Ximian and the 40 associated mirror sites. "We've actually grown the pipe by 500% over the past 4 to 6 months," he says. "We also have a mirror coordinator." He cites ever-increasing numbers of Red Carpet sessions as the reason for introducing a subscription; November alone saw three quarters of a million sessions.
That number seems likely to increase, in part because of Ximian partnerships with companies like HP, now shipping a preview release of Ximian Gnome on HP-UX, but also because the Red Carpet software update system no longer requires Ximan Gnome; Friedman passed along this link to distribution-specific static binaries which work with other distributions as well.
Despite new servers and more bandwidth, Friedman asserts that some users downloading software for free will inevitably hit servers at times "when they're getting 8k downloads and they'd rather be getting 50k, and that's really who the subscription is for."