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June 2, 2009 9:59 AM

The Solution For Internet's Constipation? A Fiber-Rich Diet

One of my biggest pet peeves advocating for fiber are the jokes made about its dietary namesake. And not just by laymen as I had an FCC commissioner make a similar crack about fiber's nutritional properties at a conference once.

Yet, the analogy of fiber optics as laxative are actually spot on.

For starters, the Internet is constipated.

While data zips across the country on beams of light carried by fiber optic cables, when it reaches the vast majority of last-mile access networks it hits copper wires, which regardless of whether it's DSL or cable will always be slower than fiber.

Another phrase often used to describe this is the last-mile bottleneck, and it's traditionally been one of the primary limiting factors in the development of reliable, high quality Internet applications.

The reason you can't watch the higher quality video available online today at home is because you don't have enough bandwidth. I've tried watching the HD video on Hulu.com but it doesn't play smoothly despite my subscribing to the fastest residential broadband service available ten blocks from our nation's Capitol. There's not enough pipe to push all that data through.

One of the reasons why video may stutter or degrade is because there's not enough capacity in the last-mile network to support lots of simultaneous usage. It's amazing how much better my cable connection works late at night on a Sunday as opposed to during the week. And I've heard horror stories up in Cape Cod where around 4pm when all the kids get home from school connectivity goes south quickly.

All this isn't to say that the last-mile is the only place where bottlenecks can form, but traditionally it has been the most constant place where the Internet gets plugged up.

So how can we relieve the Internet's constipation? By feeding it a diet rich in fiber.

The more fiber you have the more capacity that's available to handle Internet traffic. And when you lay fiber all the way to users' front doors then you fundamentally redefine their connectivity paradigm, evolving from an era of bandwidth scarcity to one of abundance.

As the Internet's backbone is all fiber, anything with lesser capacity will be a bottleneck.

So let's acknowledge that the next-generation of the Internet means extending the power of fiber optics to every house, and let's blow out the old constipated Internet by embracing fiber as the ultimate laxative.

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