Thinking Tech

Will today's video flood crush tomorrow's Internet

Posting in Energy

Will we choose an Internet of free competition or monopoly rents? Will we have security or liberty? It's time to decide.

In the last few days I have been dealing with a flood of press releases concerning open source video. (Video from The Meth Minute.)

What recent announcements from VLCWikipedia, Adobe, and Kaltura point to is a world where video is fully integrated with the Web, with feeds available on every Web site.

It's a natural progression.

But it does bring us to warnings which have been with us for years now. Global Internet traffic is still growing at 40%  per year, says Cisco, and the new video excitement is only accelerating the trend. Traffic grew 11% just in March. Video could be 90% of all traffic and 64% of all mobile traffic in just four years.

As is true in energy there are two ways of dealing with this, and both have problems.

  1. We can increase the supply of bandwidth in the last mile, as the Internet Innovation Alliance urges. Technology is available, but we would have to face down AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, which dominate the U.S. last-mile market and are keeping prices high with their shared monopoly.
  2. We can reduce demand by getting rid of malware and spam, as activists like Spamhaus urge. We know who the bad guys are, they argue. Cut them down. But that might also involve tackling the problem of Internet governance, as Philip Virgo notes. That would mean real global Internet government and law enforcement.

The easiest thing to do is to change market incentives. Right now the monopolies have no reason to increase the bit supply to your PC, nor to cut prices. Long-term mobile contracts keep start-ups like Clear from having a chance. Spectrum auctions have let AT&T and Verizon hoard frequencies that could be used profitably by others.

The hardest questions involve law enforcement. The Internet is a binary world. As much as we may hate child pornographers or the creators of botnets, absolute security would also close down Iran's Tweeters and those who might want to get word of oppression out from China, Burma or Africa.

Moore's Law has let us put off these hard questions for years, but they continue to come closer to us. Will we choose an Internet of free competition or monopoly rents? Will we have security or liberty?

It's time to decide.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure