Response to Internet demand study stunned author

"We explicitly are not saying the Internet's going to break," report co-author said.

When a small Illinois IT research firm published a study on the future of the Internet last week, it didn't expect to create an international furor. "

"I had no idea it would get spun this way, twisted this way," report co-author Johna Till Johnson, president and a senior founding partner of Nemertes Research, said Wednesday.

"I've read all sorts of interesting stuff that bears little relation to the truth, but people seem to be basing it on the study."

All the study concluded, she says, is that a mismatch between demand and access capacity will be reached in three to five years that will have to be met by billions of dollars in spending by carriers. Otherwise, the next YouTube may be throttled because the Internet will be hard to access.

But the reaction was headlines like "Internet Facing Meltdown," and "Internet Blackouts Predicted by 2010."

Which baffles Johnson, who notes that the entire report was available for reporters to read and accurately quote.

"We explicitly are not saying the Internet's going to break," she says.

In hindsight, she adds, the firm should have foreseen the reaction from Internet lobby groups who she says put their own negative spin on the report. "They really failed to see that it's entirely straightforward to build their case [for supporting the Internet] around the findings, which were intentionally policy-neutral."

"It surprised me there was this bipolar response that had nothing to do with the findings."

Nemertes, which advises clients on the business value of IT technologies, began the research to find out "exactly what was going on with the Internet," in Johnson's words, because studies on the use of the Web had become out of date.

Rather than make a projection on the rate of growth of the use of applications such as e-mail, it created a model based on bandwidth consumption and compared it to the infrastructure spending academic and industry research organizations predicted are coming.

The work was supplemented by interviews with more than 70 enterprises, vendors, service providers and investment companies.

The conclusion is that "Internet access infrastructure, specifically in North America, will likely cease to be adequate for supporting demand within the next three to five years."

It estimates access providers will have to spend between US$42 billion and US$55 billion to close that gap, which could be 70 per cent more than they plan to invest.

"It's important to stress that failing to make that investment will not cause the Internet to collapse," the report's executive summary adds. Instead, difficulty accessing the Web will "throttle innovation" by companies trying to create the next YouTube or Google.

While confident in its conclusions, Nemertes also acknowledged an "overwhelming conviction" that the industry needs more and better data.

One reason why North America will see this crunch more than other parts of the world is the aging infrastructure here, Johnson said. Another is that other parts of the world are more willing to invest in broadband wireless access, which will help ease the problem. Some Canadian industry observers are skeptical. While refusing to comment on the work of a competitor, Alex Pares, network equipment research analyst with IDC Canada, said an access problem is "not going to happen in the short term."

"I believe the customers are demanding more of the network, but they are demanding more of the ISPs as well," he said. Meanwhile providers have tools such as quality of service and MPLS to guarantee sensitive traffic -- including voice and video -- will get through.

"Telus recognizes that it's not just investment in the access networks that's required to maintain the robustness and scale of the Internet," says Chris Langdon, the Vancouver-based utility's vice-president of network services. The core also needs to scale. "Otherwise," he said, "you have big pipes going into skinny funnels."

So last year Telus announced US$600 million in spending over three years to deploy next-generation fixed network services, and this year is testing Gigabit Passive Optical Network technology.

Supply and demand "always have a way of leveling and finding the happy medium," he said.

He couldn't speak for other providers but said "we're making the requisite investments to make sure there's no mismatch."

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Howard Solomon

Network World Canada
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?