'Brownouts' not yet!
We’re running out of cyberspace and will all be suffering net “brownouts” in couple of years time, according to an American technology think-tank (and no, it’s nothing to do with the UK prime minister). Nemertes Research says that, because online video providers like YouTube and BBC iPlayer are taking up increasing amounts of bandwidth, we could all be facing brief periods of downtime and - ultimately - a painfully slow Internet in the future.
From the sounds of things, the predicted brownouts will start off being more of an irritation than anything, knocking us off-line for a few minutes now and again. Things start sounding apocalyptic by the time the Olympics comes to British shores, with sluggish connection speeds rendering the Internet no more than an “unreliable toy.” “Today people know how home computers slow down when the kids get back from school and start playing games, but by 2012 that traffic jam could last all day long,” said Ted Ritter, an analyst at the think-tank.
Nemertes has found some snappy statistics to back up its predictions - like the amount of traffic generated by YouTube today is the same as across the whole Internet back in 2000; BBC iPlayer is another “net bomb,” sapping up 5 per cent of all UK bandwidth. And traffic across the whole web in a month is being measured at a mind-boggling 8 exabytes - which, according to The Times newspaper, is enough to store 200,000 years of DVD-quality video. Taking into account that the University of Minnesota says web traffic is actually increasing at a rate of 60 per cent per year - and that’s not even taking into account ambitious web plans in India and China - and we are Doomed.
The bad news is that the current Global Economic Doom is only postponing the Inevitable Internet Doom. “With more people working or looking for work from home, or using their PCs more for cheap entertainment, demand could double in 2009,” Mr. Ritter says. “At best, we see the [economic] slowdown delaying the fractures for maybe a year.” Aren’t those bankers good for anything?
Nemertes report on brownouts is due before the end of 2009. By then we should know exactly how Lord Carter and his Digital Britain minions want to slow down our connections by deviously giving more UK homes broadband access. Isn’t anyone fighting the good fight? Well, engineers are attempting to create an über-fast, post-apocalyptic-sounding parallel network called “The Grid,” while cyber-squirrels are building “caches:” private servers where in-demand content is stored locally. Perhaps we can surf easy - for now.