The End of the Internet

You know, this sounds very much like a bunch of producers insisting that someone else should pay for their business to succeed.

The internet could grind to a halt within two years under the pressure of booming demand for online video, experts have warned.

Soaring visitor numbers to video websites such as YouTube and the BBC\’s iPlayer are putting the copper wires, which underpin parts of the internet, under severe strain.

Experts warn that unless billions of pounds is spent on upgrading the web\’s infrastructure, it could slow down or even collapse. An internet meltdown would have a disastrous impact on the economy.

Now I\’ll admit to no great technical knowledge but the only copper left in the system is the "last mile" isn\’t it? The exchange to the individual user? Everyone who is running more than the most trivial domestic traffic is on fibre optic already I would have thought: and certainly, the various servers and computer farms are.

Internet providers are being urged to spend billions of pounds to replace the copper wires which provide the final web link to homes with high-speed fibre optics.

Ah, yes, that is the bit that it is said the money should be spent upon. So who are the members of the Internet Innovation Alliance? Corning? They make fibre optic glass. AT&T? They carry much of the backbone, but they don\’t have a domestic division any more, do they (they sold it off, didn\’t they?) Etc. etc.

My, my, people who would make lots of money if billions were spent on putting fibre optic into the last mile recommend that other people should spend billions putting  in said fibre optic.

Surprise, eh?

6 thoughts on “The End of the Internet”

  1. Fibre has been rolled out further than the exchanges but it is still a big hurdle getting it any further or even to the home (FTTH).

    As you point out costs are horrendous, c.£50 per metre for trenching last time I looked at this problem.

    The other costs are are in disruption, imagine what it digging up every road in a city and town will do to congestion?

    But the real culprit is the belief that the Internet is free. This hasn’t been helped by Governments or ISP’s themselves with their land grabs and subsidised services.

  2. Tim

    Bollocks. There is, despite all talk to the contrary, no particular issue with the bandwidth available at the home. ADSL can provide up to 24m downstream over copper, which with a data rate for iPlayer of 1.2mbit/sec is which good enough. The issue here is “transit”.

    Most ISP’s get their DSL customers over a BT supplied “IP Stream” product, in which customer traffic flows over BT’s network and then into theirs via a link at a specified exchange point or points. This is point 1 where additional bandwidth requirements can impact them, although given the preexisting requirement for such links and the level of additional bandwidth required, not likely to be the primary one. Point 2 comes when the ISP itself has to pay someone else to allow BBC-sourced traffic to “transit” their network to reach the ISP’s; and this is definitely a large additional cost, especially where the margins are so low. When you hear ISP’s talk about the “need” for BT exchanges themselves to have cache farms, they are talking about the need to avoid these two pain points.

    Looking at an iPlayer feed source IP’s by using netstat to ID the origin’s, it is clear that these are “Akamai’ed” in which distribution is outsourced to this company; very common. In practice, this means that the route between the ISP’s network and Akamai’s is of the highest importance.

    There are several ways in which an ISP can reduce the cost of such feeds. It can reduce the price of transit directly by renegotiating such deals (difficult, but has to be done every year anyway), it can “peer” directly with Akamai (which doesn’t seem very common, and is hence something Akamai probably discourage), or it can cache the feeds itself (may not be possible).

    Frankly, the economics of this are going to make the “all you can eat” service somewhat uneconomic. We’ll have to pay for what we use

  3. “We’ll have to pay for what we use”

    Exactly, any scarce resource can be rationed or priced. I think everyone who reads this blog would agree pricing is the rational solution.

  4. Tim:

    AT&T was bought by SBC, which renamed itself “AT&T” because the brand was better. SBC at that time was I think the largest provider of local phone service in the US, having previously bought Pacific Telesis, Ameritech and SNET. It has since bought Bellsouth, too.

    “AT&T” hasn’t been a long-distance only outfit for a couple of years.

  5. Tim, I have to confess an error. The two pain points I pointed out were correct, as were the technical details, but the ratio of costs is incorrect. Point 1 (BT exchange to carrier) is far larger than point 2 (carrier to Akamai). I was talking to a colleague yesterday afternoon who helped to run a large ADSL operation in the UK and he pointed out the error 🙂


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