June 1st, 2007

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The internet is full, go home!

So read a button back in the early 1990s, when the happy techno-geek "internet community" found more and more regular people invading their space. I remember. I was one of those who loathed the demise of my happy little community as it became overrun with commercial businesses, clueless loudmouths, spam by the bucket, and change generally.

Happily, most of us got over it. But "the internet is full" slogan has been revived with great currency -- especially here in Washington. Numerous investment firms, the large internet providers, and a host of others warn that the rise in peer-to-peer, video traffic, VOIP and other applications is threatening the capacity of the 'net and the ability of providers to offer services on which our economy and our lifestyles increasingly depend.

But is this really a problem. This article http://www.cioinsight.com/print_article2/0,1217,a=204671,00.asp sugests no. It's not even like some of the past crisis of the internet when there was cause to worry but we found engineering solutions. I know many readers here will recall the fear that routing tables would become unmanageably huge, IP addresses would be exhausted, and that backbone capacity would not keep up with demand. Those were actually issues. But the current "bandwidth crunch" in the core (or at the edge, depending on whom you talk to) appears to have no basis in fact. Even if we are coming to the end of the "dark fiber glut" that depressed the market after the internet bubble burst in 2000/01, the increase in network usage is along entirely predicatble lines and providers are scaling to handle it the way profitable businesses always do. While there may be spots of congestion, they are not the sort of crisis that one would believe is upon us if we listened to the conventional wisdom.

Unsurprisingly, those originating the "bandwidth crunch" scare have financial and political agendas. They seek investors for capacity after a long drought due to the afformentioned glut. they peddle solutions to the supposed "crisis." And, most important from my perspective, the looming "bandwidth crunch" is used to justify all manner of regulatory goodies and subsidies.