The Myth Of The Bandwidth Crunch Just Won't Die

from the this-again? dept

A few months back we noticed a trend. Whenever we heard fear mongering reports about the internet running out of capacity, they almost always came from folks who weren’t technologists. Instead, they tended to be telco business folks, lobbyists or politicians. When it came to actual technology people who had real experience and real data concerning what was happening on the network, we would see over and over and over and over again that the “threat” of a bandwidth crunch is pretty much a myth. We’re not running out of bandwidth, and the ongoing upgrades to the network should be able to handle whatever growth comes along. There’s no reason to panic… yet, that’s not the message that the telcos want you to hear. After all, it’s in their interest to work up fears of internet capacity problems so that politicians will pass legislation providing them with subsidies or other unnecessary benefits.

So, when Broadband Reports pointed us to an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe by a Harvard professor talking about the coming bandwidth crunch and the need to switch to metered pricing (another telco favorite, after they were too clueless to accurately predict that unmetered pricing would lead to more usage), it wasn’t difficult to guess that she didn’t have a technology background. Instead, it appears her background is entirely in public policy. There’s certainly nothing wrong with folks looking at this issue from a public policy position (in fact, it’s important). But, before they claim that the internet is running into trouble, shouldn’t they look at what those who actually have the data have to say about the matter?

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “The Myth Of The Bandwidth Crunch Just Won't Die”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Dean says:

switch to metered pricing

Given that I live in a country that only has metered broadband (Australia), I can wholeheartedly say that metered broadband does not solve bandwidth crunches. There are some who would say it would, but I strongly suggest that when hearing such things- it is advisable to question the source.

Bandwidth metering is like a money tree for an ISP.
It’s basically a way of taking a product that allows unlimited downloads, and instead, allows the company to buy their bandwidth wholesale, allocate a finite chunk of it per subscriber, if they exceed their allotment, their speed is reduced to 64k (a little more than 56k modem speed), also known as being ‘shaped’.

It’s a con.

It makes broadband more expensive for consumers, while increasing the profit margin for telcos and actively lowers the bar, and in doing so slows competition, it has contributed to our overall national ‘slump’ in broadband growth- which has actually created a bandwidth crunch. If it had been left to fair and equal competition, I put it to the Harvard author that we indeed wouldn’t have the problems we do now- it is indeed quite the reverse.

Any ISP that even raises the idea of switching to metered traffic should be jumped on immediately.
Do not make the gross mistake of tolerating this, otherwise you end up like myself and other Australians, who get our puny allotment of bandwidth per month, and when its gone, we’re back to the land of dial up for the rest of the month.

PS. I wonder what speed/download capability the Harvard author was writing her post on, if she was writing it on my connection, I wonder if she’d be so ecstatic about her words.

Preppie says:

Re: switch to metered pricing

PS. I wonder what speed/download capability the Harvard author was writing her post on, if she was writing it on my connection, I wonder if she’d be so ecstatic about her words.

If she’s at the university, she’s probably on their OC45. See, when it comes to Harvard and the Boston Globe, both have the “let them eat cake” attitude, and if you’re not one of the beautiful people from Cambridge, well, you must be a dumb redneck that can only sweep their floors or clean their pools.

They both suck donkey dick.

listen_to_blogs (user link) says:

Bandwidth crunch - a consumer's perspective

A very small percentage of US households have the kind of bandwidth that average household in some Asian countries like S. Korea enjoy. Growing markets like China and India are heavily investing in fiber optic network infrastructure.

There will be a burst in the quality/variety of services offered to consumers, if only they had access to the kind of bandwidth that our Korean counterparts enjoy.

Darksurf says:

Money make she internet go round?

That is pure bull****! If my ISP starts doing this I’m gonna find another ISP. I’m sick of these dirty, bastards trying to find other crooked ways to take our money and take advantage of us! Why the hell don’t we just create more jobs? The government hires people to put in fiber, up-to-date equipment, and people to manage it. Viola, more jobs, better money circulation, government gets money back over time, No Fuc*ing scandles!!

Why does everybody want to rip off the little man, and take what little he has left?

ECA (profile) says:

Bandwidth, is there a CRUNCH

I will say this.
1. The Phone company is the BACKBONE. Understand that? EVERYTHING MUST HIT THE BACKBONE SOMEPLACE. It dont matter if you are ADSL, Cable, Sat, Cell… The phone compnay has the MAIN/MAJOR connection around the USA, and NO ONE else installed anything else.
2. The phone company DIDNT install most of the Current stuff. they hired OTHER companies to install and maintain it.
3. over 80% of connections is STILL COPPER. hard to think about but Copper is 1/1000 as good as FIBER. They could install 1 fiber line(not cable), 1 thin little line per 1000 connections. EVEN IF’ then install fiber to every town/city/village and THEN went copper to EACH house. It would take YEARS and ALOT of YOUR MONEY(corps dont pay for anything).
4. FIBER cable is run from CITY(not towns) to city and THEN to other corps, as needed. VERY FEW HOMES have access or can AFFORD access($10,000 per direct connection, PER MONTH).
5. What could FIBER do for you? 1 fiber wire…Internet, phone, TV(200+ channels), and POSSIBLY POWER…all in 1 fine wire…
6. WHY havnt they done it? (see #3), then ASKed yourself, IF the power corp would LET THEM, or any of the cable/DSL companies(your ISP) or the TV distributors(cable, antenna and sat). WITHOUT you PAYING IT, and 1 CORP having ALL the power, and money, and YOU PAYING FOR IT.

Jeff says:

That article is ridiculous.

In the past, when Internet service providers have tried to raise rates, someone has come along and offered the same service for less.

God forbid.

It will be difficult to get phone companies to charge the prices necessary to pay for new investments in Internet infrastructure. No one can make them do so, for the Internet is not regulated.

About 8 pages worth of HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA goes here.

Simon (profile) says:

Power Lines

What I don’t get is why the internet companies don’t make friends with the power industry. The technology is already there to use the power cables in your house for networking, what’s stopping people from using those same cables for internet access.
While I’m not an electrician, it seems that power cables have already been installed just about everywhere (in the United States at least), and from simple observations power cables are on average a good 4 or 5 times thicker than the coaxial ones, which offer data transfer rates of over 150 MB/s.
So basically, if the ISP’s team up with the power company, they could easily get rid of the need to install more lines, and put an end to capping bandwidth.
Or would that just be too simple…

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

Re: Power Lines

BPL – broadband over powerline does not work at the data rates you want.

Home wiring and the Power Grid is extremely biased to 50/60Hz. If you are not 50/60Hz then your signal is “bad” and it is squashed. Information theory will not suggest more than a few 100 bits per second (not kbits or Mbits).

BPL will never work.

Oh, an thickness of cable does not determine how well the cable can transmit information, it only determines how much power can be delivered.

I am an electrician and an electronic engineer and a network designer.
You have fallen into the same trap as the Harvard Professor.

Crunchtime (user link) says:


Instead of upgrading infrastructure they find way to make us believe we’ve reached max.

I see this here in Spain in other things such as water or electricity supply. Instead of building more desalination plants or water resevoirs they say we need to consume less water. Instead of building more power plants (be them nuclear or otherwise) they find ways to cut back consumption.

Is it any wonder these asian countries are quickly taking over?

I think broadband crunch is part of a bigger western crunch that’s being sold to us.

Plots Sotogrande

Dave says:

Peering, a lost art

In the old days, traffic between AS’es was monitored more and peer companies, even dire competitors eventually figured out that throwing a 100Mb/Gigabit ethernet connection to each other from rack to rack at a peering center was a good idea.

I live in a small market, Boise Idaho, and all the net admins here have this attitude of “Why should I peer with my competition when I have sooooo much transit and its hardly used?”

Answer: Maybe the “Phone Company Backbone” wouldnt be needed so much of traffic from 200,000 broadband cable customers didnt have to travel AT&T’s first and second tier backbone out of state, across 2 or 3 peering centers out of state, before finally coming back to the Ski Resort’s website across town with Qwest… Hrmmmm……

If Qwest, AT&T, Sprint, MCI, UUNET, Level3, Exodus, Rackspace, Abovenet, etc etc etc all peered even more places than just the 4-6 major peering centers in the really big cities, the long haul fibers between cities could start to have more capacity.

One thing we had in the .COM bubble days, even the worst competitors realized that agressive peering saved money and increased available bandwidth.

How many defaultless cores exist anymore?

Anonymous Coward says:

The crunch isn’t at the backbone level, it’s at the node level. In an HFC cable network the bandwidth is shared between all the homes in a node. A 30 Mbs loop shared amongst 100 households is great, 30Mbs shared amongst 2000 households (a more typical node size) works for email and web browsing, and even YouTube.

But now we start talking about streaming HDTV… All of a sudden 30Mbs pipe gets really slow.

The real problem is upgrading to smaller node sizes is really expensive. You’re literally talking about hundreds of thousands of truck rolls. There’s no centralized way to do this upgrade, you are essentially rewiring teh entire country.

Captain Nemo says:

I’ve worked in the bead business for a number of years. This is normally a completely useless background, but given the current trends in pricing, I can tell you three things.
1. Copper is expensive, and getting more expensive every day.
2. Glass is cheap, and seems to be staying that way.
3. Plastic is cheap. It’s getting more expensive, but extremely slowly.
From this we can conclude that someday, some day SOON, it will be possible to tear out your copper cable wiring, and the money you get by selling that will pay for the new flexible fiber optics that we’ve all heard so very much about.
I’m not too clear about who owns the wiring, (you or your ISP,) but I don’t see why the ISP couldn’t do this for a profit too.
People are stealing copper wiring illegally. They call it criminal recycling. Here in Portland (Maine!), the streetlights on the waterfront were stripped bare. A number of businesses were hit.
Besides, couldn’t you drag the new wire through the same tube the old wire is in? I don’t see a need for new digging.
Please tell me if anything or everything I’ve said is wrong. 😛

Joe Smith says:

The last mile

The cost of an internet connection is in the capital cost of installing the last mile. The rest barely matters. The ISP’s will build the backbone and find a way to share the cost because if they don’t then consumers won’t be buying DSL from them.

I’m not going to bother reading the article but I wonder if she mentions that most internet traffic is still porno and pirated music and video.

Billy says:


The Internet is a system and with any system, especially a man-made system, it does have limits. We experience it with cell phones – if a large number of people try to make outgoing calls at once the system overloads – and even with sewers – the NYC sewer system has had problems when everyone in NYC went to bathroom during Super Bowl commercials.

Richard Bennett, a technologist I might add, makes that point on his blog (
that since the Internet is a system it is a finite resource even if its capacity is incredibly high.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
05:30 Survey Shows Majority Of GOP Voters Support Restoring Net Neutrality (31)
06:25 Big Telecom Finally Ends Quest To Stop States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (35)
05:56 Big Telecom's Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers Continues To Go... Poorly (13)
12:15 Courts (Again) Shoot Down Telecom Lobby's Attempt To Kill State-Level Net Neutrality Rules (5)
04:48 Dumb Telecom Take Of The Week: Because The Internet Didn't Explode, Killing Net Neutrality Must Not Have Mattered (23)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
04:55 Axios Parrots A Lot Of Dumb, Debunked Nonsense About Net Neutrality (54)
10:50 NY AG Proves Broadband Industry Funded Phony Public Support For Attack On Net Neutrality (10)
06:24 The GOP Is Using Veterans As Props To Demonize Net Neutrality (22)
06:03 Telecom Using Veterans As Props To Demonize California's New Net Neutrality Law (12)
09:32 AT&T Whines That California Net Neutrality Rules Are Forcing It To Behave (11)
06:23 The New York Times (Falsely) Informs Its 7 Million Readers Net Neutrality Is 'Pointless' (51)
15:34 Facebook's Australian News Ban Did Demonstrate The Evil Of Zero Rating (18)
04:58 'Net Neutrality Hurt Internet Infrastructure Investment' Is The Bad Faith Lie That Simply Won't Die (11)
05:48 Dumb New GOP Talking Point: If You Restore Net Neutrality, You HAVE To Kill Section 230. Just Because! (66)
06:31 DOJ Drops Ridiculous Trump-Era Lawsuit Against California For Passing Net Neutrality Rules (13)
06:27 The Wall Street Journal Kisses Big Telecom's Ass In Whiny Screed About 'Big Tech' (13)
10:45 New Interim FCC Boss Jessica Rosenworcel Will Likely Restore Net Neutrality, Just Not Yet (5)
15:30 Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship' ... By Blocking Access To Them Entirely (81)
05:29 A Few Reminders Before The Tired Net Neutrality Debate Is Rekindled (13)
06:22 U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality. (12)
12:10 FCC Ignores The Courts, Finalizes Facts-Optional Repeal Of Net Neutrality (19)
10:46 It's Opposite Day At The FCC: Rejects All Its Own Legal Arguments Against Net Neutrality To Claim It Can Be The Internet Speech Police (13)
12:05 Blatant Hypocrite Ajit Pai Decides To Move Forward With Bogus, Unconstitutional Rulemaking On Section 230 (178)
06:49 FCC's Pai Puts Final Bullet In Net Neutrality Ahead Of Potential Demotion (25)
06:31 The EU Makes It Clear That 'Zero Rating' Violates Net Neutrality (6)
06:22 DOJ Continues Its Quest To Kill Net Neutrality (And Consumer Protection In General) In California (11)
11:08 Hypocritical AT&T Makes A Mockery Of Itself; Says 230 Should Be Reformed For Real Net Neutrality (28)
06:20 Trump, Big Telecom Continue Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (19)
06:11 Senators Wyden And Markey Make It Clear AT&T Is Violating Net Neutrality (13)
More arrow