Cable and phone company lobbyists (and their army of PR, consultant and think tank friends) have long pushed the bogus concept of an "exaflood," or the idea that explosive Internet growth will result in the Internet collapsing any day now. The argument is generally used by telecom lobbyists to scare politicians and the public into supporting something (deregulation, subsidies, higher prices, fewer consumer protections) lest the Internet explode. The problem is that the argument has been debunked countless times by real network researchers like Dr. Andrew Odlyzko of MINTS -- who highlight that traffic growth is actually quite reasonable, and what growth there is can be easily dealt with by intelligent network engineers and modest network investment. If carriers aren't investing money back into the network, it has nothing to do with bandwidth bogeymen -- it's usually because they face limited competition.
The exaflood term itself was actually coined by Bret Swanson, formerly of the Discovery Institute -- the think tank hired by evangelicals to help push creationism into the classroom via "intelligent design." Under the employ of major carriers, Swanson first used the term in a 2007 Wall Street Journal editorial, and despite it being largely nonsense -- it quickly became a common phrase in modern telecom lexicon. Of course the exaflood never arrived because it doesn't actually exist, but that's not slowing Swanson down. With the FCC considering network neutrality rules, Swanson (now under his his own brand: Entropy Economics) has given the ungracefully-aging exaflood myth a botox injection, based on filings this week with the FCC (via Ars Technica):
"We are intrigued by one particular innovation just around the corner. Call it online gaming. Call it cloud streaming. We call it the "exacloud." It is cloud computing but of a scope and scale never seen before. . . This exacloud will transform video games, movies, virtual worlds, business software, and most other media. Piracy goes away. So do DVDs, game boxes, and maybe even expensive personal computers. New content and software subscription models open up. Based in the cloud instead of on your device, interactivity thrives."
This miracle, piracy-curing super computing evolution Swanson references? It's just ordinary people using clients to access servers using networks. While Swanson throws out a lot of data points in his filing, none of them dispute the reality that Internet traffic growth remains reasonable and manageable. Amusingly, he even goes so far as to use the MINTs data that debunked his original claims -- as evidence supporting his "new" argument. It appears that all he's done is rename his imaginary bandwidth apocalypse for a more modern audience -- and hoped nobody would notice. He at least could have been a little more entertaining. How about the Tubeogeddon? BitTorrentialCollapse? The Tubeacalype? Capacitastrophe? The looming colocaust? Help us out...