Internet Will Go Down (And We’re All Gonna Die)

I just came across a post from Nicolas G. Carr giving some credit to the current idea that some day, the whole net will go down because of the surcharge brought by the muliplication of video diffusion services on the net. This is a pretty common idea these days that I’ve seen mirrored here and there. To Nicolas’ credit he ends up his post smoothing up a bit the Nostradamus style-prediction with:

“The video boom, and the Venice Project in particular, may not bring the Net down, but it will likely reveal whether the current “abundance” of bandwidth is a lasting phenomenon or just a transitory one.”

The truth is, the bandwidth scarceness is an impression caused by a local limitation in the U.S. The internet infrastructure is aging here. My DSL line is bringing me 1.5Mbps which is supposed to be fast. Before moving from France, I used to have 10 to 12 times more which is pretty common in Europe. And I’ve been over 5Mbps for at least 3 years. Several ISPs provide video on demand and several TV channels over DSL over there, which doesn’t mean a few videos here and there but a permanent video stream. Granted it’s only between your ISP and your home and not at the whole Net scale but it’s a proof that the technology exists and it’s already mainstream.

Heck, there’s been over 100Mbps in Japan for more than a year now with fiberglass. They have a definite advantage: the country is small, very urban with high population density. Investing in wire infrastructure is definitely worthy.

So if there’s a bandwidth shortage to come, it’s not going to be global but most probably local to North America. My hunch is that the network being the oldest here, it’s also the first one to hit the wall. And the country is pretty large which makes renewing the lines very expensive. Nobody wants to finance the infrastructue renewal when it’s far easier to continue the exploitation of an existing network. Paradoxally, the country where the Internet business is the most developed is also far behind in terms of bandwidth availablity.

Eventually, the Internet giants will find this limitation annoying. The Net users and the Net providers could very quickly find common interests.

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