When the Internet first came along, it was slow-really slow. Most users hopped on using dial-up modems. But then things improved as new technology came along-first ISDN, then broadband via cable and satellite. Suddenly, cruising the Internet was fast, and fun. It also allowed for doing new stuff, like watching videos on YouTube. The increased bandwidth let people communicate in new ways as well, using Skype, for example, instead of boring old email. Then, along came smartphones and tablet computers and apps like Twitter. It all made sense and everyone was happy. But now, something is changing, something so subtle that many people may not have noticed: the Internet is slowing down.
Data moving across the Internet, like cars on freeways in big cities, is running into traffic jams, and its mostly due to data intensive applications based on video. By next year, experts predict that 91 percent of Internet traffic will be video-both regular and 3D. The problem is, the Internet was not designed to handle such a mammoth load.
Users of Netflix, the single biggest source of video traffic on the Internet have seen the slowdown. More and more often they have to wait for their movie to load before watching, or sometimes their viewing is interrupted by “buffering” messages. Netflix knows about this as well, which is why they’ve begun forging deals with Comcast and other major ISPs to streamline the route movies take in reaching customers, speeding things up again.
The slowdown hasn’t gone unnoticed by lawmakers either-they’ve even coined a word to describe the inherent fairness or not, of allowing some applications preferential treatment, “net neutrality” it’s being call. Fairness, in this respect appears to in many cases boil down to whichever companies are willing to pay more for more fair treatment.
The reality of the situation is such that old-fashioned deal making isn’t going to fix the Internet-as technology advances, more and more video will be sent, and that video is going to be ever more data intensive as 3D and super high def matures. The only real solution, is to add bandwidth, better routers and more lines. And that will only happen if someone is willing to make that investment. More and more it looks like that investment will be made by users via increased ISP and content supplier fees. But that is going to take some time as users push back against fee hikes, before eventually realizing they have no other choice. In the meantime, the Internet is going to get slower and slower: video is ruining it for everyone.