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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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September 12, 2007 10:37 AM

Forecasting the Exaflood at the Broadband Properties Summit

Because of my traveling travails I missed the many interesting sessions on Monday, but luckily the Broadband Properties Summit had a lot more great content in store for me!

The first session I attended was a Tuesday morning blue ribbon panel on the exaflood, which including Dave McClure, president of the USIIA; Larry Irving, co-chair of the IIA; and Bob Whitman from Corning.

I’ve written about the exaflood previously and some of the challenges I saw with the name, how it’s positioned, and why I’ve come around to embrace the concept.

During this session, I heard a number of other facts that build a strong case for the fact that the exaflood is real and oncoming:

- There are 100 million people in the US currently between the ages of 3 and 24. Everyone knows this range holds many of the heaviest Internet users, as well as its most demanding when it comes to things like slowdowns. As older generations are replaced with newer generations, bandwidth consumption will inevitably increase.

- The average size of a webpage used to be less than 100KB; now it’s 1.5MB, a 10+ fold increase in the amount of data transferred every time you click on a link.

- In order to download one webpage in one second, you need 1.5Mbps. For a half second download, it takes 3Mbps. As webpages continue to grow heavier, by 2010 it’ll take a 6Mbps connection to download an average page in one second. And if you want superfast downloads that only take a tenth of a second, it’ll take 15Mbps today and 50Mbps by 2010.

- I didn’t write down the precise frame of reference for this stat, but demand for bandwidth is growing at a 75% clip, while capacity’s only growing at 47%.

- The total sum of human knowledge up until 2003 has been estimated at 5 exabytes of data. Last year alone we produced 161 exabytes.

- Even notoriously bandwidth-heavy applications like HD video are a growing target. The Lord of the Rings was shot using a new format that has 12 times the scan line resolution of what we consider HD today, and more productions like this are in the works.

All in all it was an interesting conversation.

I do have to admit, though, that some of the messaging seemed a bit off target. The panelists continued to plead for greater investment in infrastructure to support the oncoming exaflood, yet they were talking to a room of people either already making or looking to make precisely that investment.

These deployers of fiber already know the exaflood is coming. What they want and need is actionable information on what they should to be doing about it. What policies should they push to support their build-outs? Is there anything they should do to prepare their networks for the exaflood? How do they handle the business challenges of increasing consumer demand without a clearcut mechanism for increasing revenue as their costs push upwards?

These were the questions that were generally left unanswered as the panelists’ primary legislative objectives were vigilance against excessive legislation (taxes, net neutrality) that might skew the system in favor of one company or another.

Also still challenging to me is the perceived threat that underlies the exaflood analogy, which is troublesome enough to force an admission that this isn’t meant to be a threat when discussed, as happened on stage here.

That said, perhaps this kind of forceful language is what’s needed to get through to policymakers as I picked up a strong sense of weariness from Dave and Larry, two long-time DC warriors, over their having to continue to beat people on the Hill over the head with the idea that the exaflood is real and coming, despite all the evidence that supports their case.

All this being said, it seems to me that we’ve reached the point where even if everybody isn’t on board many if not most of us are with the idea that the exaflood is real and needs to be addressed. So now is the time for us to be having more concrete discussions about what it’ll take to prepare ourselves for it.

And in my mind, the best thing we can do for that is to listen to the people who are deploying fiber to learn what it is that they need to continue to grow their investment, as well as those entities that want to deploy fiber but currently are unable.

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