Internet to be an "unreliable toy" by 2012?

800px-Network_switches That’s the prediction of Nemertes Research, which will be publishing a report later this year warning that the Web has reached a critical point that could lead first to computers being disrupted and going offline for several minutes in a time, and eventually regular brownouts that will slow and even freeze their computers. (Times Online via

The primary culprit is burgeoning demand for high-bandwidth video: the report notes that the amount of traffic generated each month by YouTube is now equivalent to the amount of traffic generated across the entire Internet in all of 2000, and new video applications such as BBC iPlayer, which allows viewers to watch high-def TV on their computers. (And I guess by providing links to those sites I’m contributing to the problem!)

Monthly traffic across the Internet is currently running at about eight exabytes (an exabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes), and a recent study at the University of Minnesota estimates its growing by at least 60 percent a year–and that study didn’t take into account growing demand in China and India.

Engineers are struggling to stay ahead of demand, and find other ways to deal with impending deadlock (such as the LHC Computing Grid, a parallel network designed to handle the massive amounts of data the Large Hadron Collider will produce), but it may be impossible.

In other words, we may be living in the Golden Age of the Internet. But if it all crumbles around us, at least we’ll have something to tell the grandchildren.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)


4 thoughts on “Internet to be an "unreliable toy" by 2012?”

  1. I’m seldom an optimist, but in this case, I’m betting that the network communications infrastructure will continue to improve at a rate sufficient to meet the increasing demand. And if by some chance it does not, then something better will replace it.

  2. The easy fix is metered access. It’s unpopular now, but should be technically possible and may come to look attractive.

  3. I would love to know who paid for this study. There are probably a trillion exabytes available in dark fiber. How much of these scare tactics are a result of the monopoly bandwidth companies refusing to pay for the last mile to the home or node? There were 1tens of thousands of miles of optical fiber installed all over the world during the dotcom bubble. Oh, and does anyone think the network computers are getting slower with less capacity?

    I agree that some form of metering will probably be activated in the next few years. But, the base service will have to be closer to Comcast’s 250 GBytes, than Time Warner’s 10 Gbytes. Or, even worse, the 5 Gbytes in Australia. Just think of HDTV.

    There is a whole lot of stuff and nonsense out there about supposed capacity that serves to reinforce the large ISP’s efforts to make more and more money.

    Most of us are in communities where the broadband is controlled in a true monopolistic fashion. Here on the east side of Portland (OR), Comcast is it, unless you’re willing to go with the much slower Qwest DSL. And these monopolies have effectively destroyed local communities’ ability to control them, by tying up local governments to court.

    Most of the so-called telecommunications reforms have benefited the big ISP’s, at the expense of consumers. How many, if any, communities have any true competition in broadband access to the Intertubies?

    So, take this study – and others – with a mouthful of salt.

    Rick York

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