Bandwidth reserves are being depleted at a strikingly rapid rate, and “Once bandwidth is gone, it’s gone,” states a report from Public Knowledge.

“The era of plentiful, low-cost bandwidth is approaching an end,” it states. “The supply of bits, the raw material of our information economy, is rapidly dwindling.”

Internet access relies on bandwidth as a way of sending bits of information. Many companies are already setting limits on bandwidth usage, among the latest being AT&T DSL setting a 250GB monthly cap. They will charge $10 for each additional use of 50GB. An obvious problem arising from this is that the cloud computing hype may soon meet its end. Online subscription services like Netflix and Steam will not be able to provide large downloads without heaps of bandwidth. There are also games like Assassins Creed 2 that require Internet access to play, as a copyright guard. There are existing models that could come into play, however. Canada, as a whole country, limits bandwidth usage.

Netflix cut its data usage by two-thirds for Canadian users to work around this. Of course, HD video will use more bandwidth, and Canadian users will get lower picture quality from videos.

“Now Canadians can watch 30 hours of streaming from Netflix in a month that will consume only 9 GBytes of data, well below most data caps,” states a post on the official Netflix blog.

Of course, for U.S. users a future without a surplus of bandwidth can be avoided. There are “commercially viable mitigation options” ready to be implemented, yet “unless mitigation is orchestrated on a timely basis, the economic damage to the world economy will be dire and long-lasting.”

Just as background information on bandwidth, according to the report:

Bandwidth was formed by the tech bubble of the late 1990s and is typically found in strands of “dark fiber.” The largest fibers are called “backbones,” many of which were discovered next to railroad tracks. Since then, smaller pockets of bandwidth have been discovered in “last miles,” in forms such as DOCSIS-enabled coaxial cable and FiOS brand fiber.

Increasing strains are being placed on our bandwidth reserves. “Hogs” such as young people and cord-cutters are placing an unbearable strain on our bandwidth supplies, and “over-the-top” service providers like Netflix, Skype, Amazon, and Google consume

copious amounts of bandwidth free of charge, without providing any valuable services in re- turn.

In short, our tubes are being clogged with bits. While that may not seem like a major problem now, the long-term is bleak. We will look back fondly on the day our tubes were clogged. Once bandwidth is gone, it’s gone. Used up bits are gone forever. They don’t come back and can’t be replaced. As a result important marketing messages, e- cards, and Facebook updates will be crowded out of the ever-shrinking supply of usable bits.

PHOTO CAPTION: Photos of the Wikimedia Server cluster in the sdtpa facility. (RobH)

About The Author

Joshua Philipp is the founder and editor of TechZwn.com. He's also an award-winning journalist at Epoch Times.

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