Clogged: Internet Demise Predicted, Again

nur03006.jpg I predict this prediction will be misused by the duopoly to lobby for more favoratism for the duopoly:
User demand for the Internet could outpace network capacity by 2010, according to a study released today by Nemertes Research. The study found that corporate and consumer Internet usage could surpass the Internet access infrastructure, specifically in North America, but also worldwide, within the next three to five years.

As Internet capabilities continue to expand and users strive to be constantly connected, usage of the Internet via the mobile phone, set-top boxes and gaming devices has exponentially increased thus limiting bandwidth capacity. This is due in large part to voice and bandwidth-intensive applications, including streaming and interactive video, peer-to-peer file transfer and music downloads and file sharing. According to ComScore, nearly 75% of U.S. Internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of online video in one month alone and viewed more than 8.3 billion video streams.

Internet could clog networks by 2010, study says, By Sarah Reedy, TelephoneOnline, Nov 19, 2007 1:03 PM

If I had a nickle for every time imminent demise of the Internet has been predicted. This has been going on since before the Internet even existed, and the results have been different than in this prediction.

The ARPANET was going to fall apart because it used packet switching instead of telco-approved circuit switching. The changeover to the TCP/IP protocols could never work. Fast forward to 1994: the web was going to use up all available bandwidth because it let people use images. In 1996 it was going to crash and burn because Bot Metcalfe said it should be managed like AOL. And on and on.

I won’t be surprised if the U.S. falls behind, due to lack of competition.

The actual study doesn’t say the Internet at large will fail. It says the core infrastructure will fail, but there will be problems with end-user access speeds. It also says:

The impact of inadequate access infrastructure is likely to be relatively mild when it comes to the experiences of individual users, who will increasingly find themselves encountering Internet brownouts or snow days, during which performance will (seemingly inexplicably) degrade.

The Internet Singularity, Delayed: Why Limits in Internet Capacity Will Stifle Innovation on the Web, Nemertes Research, November 2007

Well, that sounds like what we already get on AT&T and Comcast. But yes, I get it:
We conclude that the evidence is good that demand for Internet and IP services is increasing exponentially, while access investment is proceeding linearly. An exponential curve will always intersect a linear one given enough time, and we believe there’s reasonably compelling evidence that the intersection will happen within the next five years, possibly as early as 2010.
I remember when that happened before, in 1984 and 1994. Technical fixes were found (such as the Domain Name System and fractional T-1) that enabled infrastructure growth to match demand.

Still, assume for a moment that the problem occurs as predicted:

But overall, we believe this lack of impact of this inadequate infrastructure will be to slow down the pace of both technical and business innovation. The next Google, YouTube, or Amazon might not arise not because of a lack of demand, but due to an inability to fulfill that demand. Rather like osteoporosis, the underinvestment in infrastructure will painlessly and invisibly leach competitiveness out of the economy.
Or it could cause further innovation in applications. For example, BitTorrent already actually decreases the amount of bandwidth necessary to distribute large files by distributing pieces of it. What if, instead of suppressing BitTorrent, big ISPs instead cached its files and let people retrieve them from fast repositories? Sure, this might take a bit of change in copyright law or at least in attitudes to implementing it, but stranger things have happened. And sure, it wouldn’t solve the whole problem, but it’s an example.

Or the inadequate infrastructure may cause the next big innovation to be in infrastructure. This has happened before, with UUNET and USENET in 1987, with UUNET and PSINet in commercial Internet access in 1991, just to name two.

Countries whose legal and environmental regimes restrict competition or innovation will fall behind, just like most of Europe did before 1991, when the ideology was for ISO-OSI protocols instead of TCP/IP, and just like in Japan before 1994 when no competition was allowed in international communications carriage. Japan changed its laws in 1994, and rapidly caught up. Japan required DSL competition around 2000, and leapfrogged the U.S. in DSL and now in FTTH.

The future will come. It will just be unevenly distributed, just like the present (see Bill Gibson).