by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
broadband, exaflood, fud, hype, telcos

Whatever Happened To The Exaflood?

from the gone-baby-gone dept

If you remember, about five years ago, a bunch of astroturfing and front groups for the broadband companies started spreading this myth that the internet was facing a catastrophe known as the the exaflood, in which internet traffic would swamp capacity and the internet would sputter to a crawl. They talked about things like "brown outs" where so much traffic would make the internet difficult to navigate. Of course, it was all FUD and scare tactics to hide the real intent: to allow the telcos to put more tollbooths on the internet, to double charge some popular internet companies, and to generally try to avoid investing in basic infrastructure. Of course, it was easy to debunk those claims, but five years later, Broadband Reports takes a look at some of the latest data to note that the feared exaflood never showed up, and the predictions of clogged pipes never appeared -- and the data on internet growth shows little likelihood of that ever happening.
Cisco's latest numbers are an ever further cry from what telecom sector lobbyists and think tankers were predicting in 2010 and before, when they were using a looming "exaflood" to scare regulators and the press and public into buying into bad telecom policy. Companies like Nemertes Research and The Discovery Institute (the latter a PR firm paid directly by carriers, the former long accused of having a rather cozy relationship with AT&T) insisted we'd be seeing Internet "brown outs" by this point courtesy of unsustainable growth rates of up to 100% or more.

The scary predictions were effective. Said lobbyists, think tankers, astroturfers and "fauxcademics" convinced many people that if the telecom industry wasn't given "X" (X being anything from fewer consumer protections and more subsidies to the right to bill by the byte or avoid network neutrality rules), that the Internet would collapse. That obviously never happened and intelligent engineers and networks adjusted, but few of the people who massaged data for their own financial ends over the last five to eight years were ever really held accountable.
Of course, there's always more fear and FUD to go around, so expect plenty more stories about looming problems if we don't give the big broadband guys whatever anti-competitive thing that they want going forward...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 4:08pm

    The Horror

    I remember the scary days of internet brownouts back when we used to stream HD movies over our 14.4k modems....oh, wait, no I don't because we didn't even try to DO that back then.

    Customers use whatever capacity/speed is available to them. When trying to do something that requires more bandwidth becomes unacceptably slow, they stop trying to do that until faster speeds become available.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Arthur Treacher, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 4:12pm

    Article about goofy predictions in old comments

    How about writing an article about comments on old Techdirt articles that went along with the Exaflood Expocalypse?

    That is, go to the old article debunking the Exaflood, root around in the comments, and find the comments backing up the Exaflood. Write an article about how bleeding wrong those commentors were, and mock them for their lame, boot-licking predictions.

    It would be good for a laugh or two.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 4:33pm

    @#2, Arthur T

    Go for it: http://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=exaflood
    Tag the particularly obnoxious ones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 5:19pm

    So what is their excuse for breaking net neutrality now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Arkiel, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 5:31pm

    Obvious next step: compile a list of names of people who perpetuated the exoflood myth. Post their names where they will be indexed, with information about what a manipulative shitheel they are. Keep doing that every time something like this comes up instead of posting general articles about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Malor (profile), Jun 4th, 2013 @ 5:47pm

    I haven't seen an independent data source to verify the claim, but a poster on Ars Technica wrote that bandwidth costs have been dropping by about half every nine months, or about double the speed of Moore's Law in transistors.

    My ISP, EPB in southern Tennessee, is able to give me 250 megabit bidirectional service for $140/mo, which strikes me as an absolute refutation of the idea that an exaflood is about to happen -- especially when you consider that they upgraded me, for free, from the 100 megabit service I originally signed up for.

    You can get colocated servers now with 100tb of monthly bandwidth, non-Cogent, for $200/mo. A hundred terabytes: $200. That's still unusually low, but it won't be for long.

    Bandwidth is astonishingly cheap, at scale. Network routing is able to avoid saturated areas, routing around congestion; this is a problem that can be inherently parallelized, as every packet is a separate computational problem. This means that global bandwidth can scale to degrees that mere mortals will have trouble imagining.

    Gigabit to every house in the country would be easily possible with present technology, though the buildout would be expensive. I see no fundamental reason why it couldn't someday be terabit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 6:17pm

    Whatever happened to this "Internet 2" thing they were talking so big about a few years ago?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), Jun 4th, 2013 @ 8:37pm

    Re: @#2, Arthur T

    Oh goody! /s
    An RJR comment: (http://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20100429/0902539238.shtml#c76), I had almost forgoten about him.
    Now I wish I had managed it, feels like losing "The Game", and now I have lost "The Game" too, dammit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 10:47pm

    The exaflood crap served one good purpose though, it was designed to allow telcos and cable to try and charge Google and others more.

    Google just launched their own ISP that they use to show how full of crap those other people really were.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Charlie Brown, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 11:45pm

    And then there's Australia

    Where 98% of household will have up 1 gigabit access (though likely 100Mb access) if the current national broadband network goes through. How will we ever cope?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 12:16am

    The exaflood was contained by the Google dam.

    Damn you Google for saving us all from the LoLCat flooding.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    PaulT (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 12:24am

    Re: The Horror

    I'm just trying to work out how funny that would be. I remember downloading naughty pictures through modems, waiting in anticipation for the large pink blocks to turn into something interesting. People could have died of starvation long before an HD image rendered itself!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 1:48am

    Re: The Horror

    I remember differently.

    I remember waiting a week to download a movie and hours to download music, good ol' pirate days :)

    Nowdays I don't download music or movies, maybe I am old already, but I just stopped caring about those things, what I do download is 200 MB per week in updates, gigabytes of educational videos, gigabytes of DIY stuff, lectures or anything that could teach me a bit more than I already know, I am hooked on the DIY crap.

    Why imagine the future when you can build it?

    Also to actually build things I am starting to have to download gigabyte datasets(e.g. materials x-ray that can be reconstructed in 3D and printed later).

    I look at trash with new eyes now, instead of seeing trash I see raw materials everywhere, and all for free, fuck me.

    To imagine that I started with a humble victory garden.
    That led me to identify plant diseases, how to test for them, chromatography to identify plant compounds, x-ray building to actually take a look inside those plants and verify integrity of metal parts produced in a DIY aluminum melting furnace, distillation processes, fermentation and a hell of a lot of other things.

    I would wait a month to download that crap if I had too.

    http://www.rpi.edu/dept/chem-eng/Biotech -Environ/CHROMO/chromintro.html

    No w, is not only me, there are thousands of people doing exactly the same, people hungry for knowledge, that want to know how things work, that are creating a market for different things and we share very large files.

    Sensor data, chemical analysis data, CT-Scan of materials, photoelasticity images, for amateur analysis of stress point in transparent models.

    I love puzzles and so I believe is natural that I have a lot of fun discovering by myself how things are made, measured and verified along with others that share the passion of discovery.

    Now of course there are people out there that are just happy to sit in front of a couch and watch CBS.

    A simple photoelasticity image of a transparent model of an object acquired with polarized lenses could tell you that.

    I love the internet :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Lurker Keith, Jun 5th, 2013 @ 3:26am


    I think it was just integrated into the current Internet when no one was looking.

    Wikipedia has a page for Internet 2 talking about researchers doing stuff that sounds like Skype now (video conferences), which required too much bandwidth before.

    It also has a page for Web 2.0, which directly says advanced internet technologies were just integrated into the web as is.

    The Internet won't get an upgrade, it just naturally evolves w/o anyone noticing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 5th, 2013 @ 10:24am


    Internet 2 is alive and well. It's for research & education outfits, not open to the public (just as the Internet used to be).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Jul 18th, 2013 @ 8:01pm

    Re: Re:

    @ Lurker Keith: What you say about the Internet quietly being upgraded with no noticeable 'shift' is true, but there is still a big difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, which is that the former treated everyone without a website as a passive consumer, whereas the latter lets those who want to be passive consumers to be so, while allowing those who want to be active consumers another outlet for their creativity. That's my basic understanding, anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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