Will an "Exaflood" Slow Net Traffic?

Posted on August 16, 2007 - 7:39am.

Note: The word "exaflood" is worth watching and should be associated with the elimination of net neutrality since many of those engaged in this creative writing have that intention. Also, watch the Internet Innovation Alliance and their member orgs carefully.

from: Tech Policy Summit Blog

Will an "Exaflood" Slow Net Traffic?

The Wall Street Journal (sub required) published a story yesterday about whether or not the Internet's infrastructure is reaching its capacity with the increased usage of bandwidth-intensive apps like video, VoIP and peer-to-peer file swapping. Here's a snippet from the Journal:

"One of the key possibilities for 2007 is that the Internet could be approaching its capacity," analysts at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu wrote in a January report. "Our belief is we'll start to see some brownouts or service slowdowns or service issues," says Phil Asmundson, the national managing partner leading Deloitte & Touche USA's Telecommunications practice.

But some analysts and Internet companies such as Google Inc. play down the idea that there's an impending crunch, pointing to the forecasters' poor track record of predicting such problems. There are also political implications to the debate. As part of the "network neutrality" scuffle in Washington, telecommunications companies say Internet companies should help foot the bill for more data lines and equipment if they're sending lots of video traffic at high speed to consumers."

While it's not exactly a new debate, the growing popularity of online video in particular has made the issue a hot topic. Research from Cisco Systems predicts that video will be responsible for as much as 30% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2011, up from 9% last year. Cisco is one of those that is confident that new technologies can enable the Internet's infrastructure to handle that and more. According to the Journal, Paul Bosco, Cisco's VP for video and broadband initiatives reassures that network operators and providers are "staying ahead of the curve."

That's not good enough for a new group called the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), which issued a press release yesterday that said: "We're pleased Cisco pointed out an emerging problem regarding the exponential increase in data on the internet. However, we believe this explosion of content - coined the exaflood - is straining the Internet's capacity to deliver innovative new applications that will benefit consumers and our economy."

IIA, whose members include a variety of companies and non-profits including AT&T and Nortel (see the complete list here), wasn't mentioned in the WSJ's article. Still, the group is doing its best to build awareness of a pending "exaflood" of Net traffic. It wants policymakers to promote competition between broadband providers, while avoiding excessive regulation. A couple of the policy initiatives it supports are video franchise reform and a permanent moratorium on Internet taxes.

UPDATE: You can download a PDF of Cisco's infrastructure capacity study, called "The Exabyte Era" here.