The Internet is Full, Again
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From time to time we hear doomsayers spouting warnings about the Internet running out of bandwidth. Very soon, they say, we won’t be able to do anything online at faster-than-dialup speeds because of all the demand – or worse, priority applications (such as those for the police) won’t be able to run because everyone wants to watch the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Is there any truth to this?
As we consider this, it's worth noting that this message is far from new. Researching this article, I found stories dating back more than a year or two that predicted the demise of the Internet due to lack of bandwidth. Causes of death included too much spam in general, image spam in particular, web 2.0, voice over IP, and other assorted applications. Somehow, though, ISPs and telecoms have been able to keep pace with demand by adding more routers and other hardware. Technology advances continue to expand the ability of the "pipes" that keep the Internet running to carry more data at faster speeds, with fiber optic cable replacing copper.
So why are we once again hearing cries of "the Internet is running out of bandwidth!"? The latest concerned reporting on the issue comes from the Wall Street Journal. In an article titled "Video Surge Divides Web Watchers," Kevin J. Delaney and Bobby White point to the popularity of applications such as online video, file-sharing programs, and Internet telephony. They provide some numbers that can't be ignored. They cite Cisco Systems for their most eye-opening statistic: "U.S. Internet video sites alone transmit more data per month than was carried over the entire U.S. Internet backbone monthly in 2000."
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu made a number of predictions in a report it published in January 2007. Titled "Predictions 2007," the report said that the Internet would start to reach capacity thanks to the growing popularity of online video. While the bandwidth crunch could be expected to demand new infrastructure investment, DTT seemed to expect ISPs and telecoms to put off this necessary work until "Web surfers rebel after quality of service declines." Is this truly the future we face?
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