Johnny, stop sharing videos, you’re clogging the Internet

The Internet’s pipes are starting to get full.

Seems back in the 1990s’ investment bubble, telecom companies laid down an Internet highway system ready for us all to jump on. Trouble is, the growth of video use — especially illegal peer-to-peer file sharing — is starting to choke the pipes. A year ago Deloitte’s telecommunications forecast noted that one-third of all Internet traffic was P2P file sharing, that the terabit-capable tubes connecting the continents were clogged — and most important, telecommunications giants were losing enthusiasm for investing in new infrastructure.

Video and GPS and file downloads may soon hit a wall. The new Apple 3G iPhone has had reports of dropped calls, with finger-pointing over whether it’s the radio chip in the phone or the AT&T network stretched too far causing trouble. In its latest 2008 report, Deloitte estimates there are 330 million households in the world with broadband appliances that demand faster Internet speeds … yet the global credit crunch is stifling the tens of billions of dollars of investment required to provide it.

So rumblings are emerging. ISPs are considering variable fees to tax, or slow, heavy users. Some are getting serious: Comcast just announced that as of Oct. 1 it will limit residential customers’ Internet use to 250 gigabytes per month, the equivalent of downloading 125 movies or 62,000 songs; cross the line and you’ll get a warning, and then be shut down for a year. Even Google is anticipating pinch points, and has put the right to install a “fixed upper limit” on Internet transmissions in the user agreement of its new Chrome web browser.

Consumers want it all. Businesses that build gadgets or portals want to provide it. Internet backbone, are you strong enough?

Photo: Stéfan

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