By Paul McDougall
InformationWeek Tue Nov 20, 12:12 PM ET
Booming demand for Internet services combined with insufficient infrastructure investment could leave the Web vulnerable to brown outs within three years, a study released Tuesday predicted.
Nemertes Research said Internet providers need to invest from $42 billion to $55 billion — or 60% to 70% more than current plans call for — to stave off interruptions to the digital economy that could happen if the ‘Net bogs down. “The next, , or might not arise” if the situation isn’t fixed, Nemertes said.
The problem, the group said, is that bandwidth usage is outpacing infrastructure build outs. While core fiber and switching/routing technology “will scale nicely,” Internet access resources could soon be overwhelmed in three to five years, Nemertes said.
The trouble could be particularly acute in North America, the researchers said.
“Rather like osteoporosis, the underinvestment in infrastructure will painlessly and invisibly leach competitiveness out of the economy,” said Nemertes.
Nemertes conceded that its study, in many ways, represents a best guess at what’s happening with the Web. “The Internet is almost opaque to serious researchers, even those with the necessary technical skills, integrity and desire,” said the group.
That’s because commercial Internet providers closely guard information about usage and technology roadmaps. “Carriers and content providers refuse to reveal their inner workings,” said Nemertes, adding that it’s understandable that service providers are reluctant to reveal data that might undermine their competitiveness or compromise user privacy.
Nonetheless, “we conclude by urging content and service providers to cooperate with researchers in sharing data,” said the study’s authors. Nemertes also said Congress should consider tax credits to spur Internet providers to add more broadband capacity.