Internet rationing on the way?
Do you remember life before the internet? When you could actually argue over who was right on a contentious point for hours, rather than googling it on your phone? When people actually had to write to each other, rather than using email? When accessing certain private services could result in stuck together pages of a magazine rather than a wipe-clean screen? It seems those sepia-toned days could be making a comeback, as experts warn that we're all gobbling up so much data, that pretty soon we're going to run out of capacity, which could force us into a new age of internet rationing.
The reports predicting a capacity crash come ahead of next week’s Royal Society meeting in London, when industry experts will meet to discuss the 'capacity crunch' that power and data networks are moving towards, as incessant demand for web access goes through the metaphorical roof.
And don’t even think this is a Far Away problem, like pensions, that you don’t really have to worry about, the crash is predicted to fall sooner than you might think. Professor Andrew Ellis, an expert in optical communications, warns that, at the rate consumers are using the web, existing cables will reach their data capacity limit by the end of the decade. This decade. He calls it a "potentially disastrous capacity crunch".
Of course, extra cables, and more technologically advanced ones, upgrading the UK data network to fibre-optic cables and the like have increased the ability of existing networks and cabling systems to deal with an increased demand for data. But scientists are suggesting even the newer cables are reaching their physical limit because of the rapid increase in popularity of web-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops greedily sucking up data all day long.
So what’s the answer? Just lay more cables? On top of the obvious cost involved in bolstering an infrastructure of this size, it seems money might not be the only problem if considering laying more cable. We could then run out of juice.
According to experts, The Internet is already consuming at least 8% of Britain's total power output, which is equivalent to the output of three nuclear power stations all by itself, and increasing demand is pushing that higher, even before the added drain of extra cables. Lay too much cable, and the internet could suck all our power. And how would we do the vacuuming then?
BT's head of optical access, Professor Andrew Lord, said ominously:
“It's the first time we have had to worry about optical fibres actually filling up. We could expand the network by laying more cables but the economics of that do not work and it would increase power consumption.”
So there you have it- looks like we're destined for internet rationing and a lucrative black market in dodgy data. The roaring twenties of the 21st century could involve everyone shouting at each other for their turn to have a go on the country’s internet…