Updated Analysts in the US are warning that the country's broadband infrastructure will not be able to keep up with demand, and without massive investment will have reached maximum capacity by 2010.
A study from Nemertes Research predicts a massive increase in the amount of traffic that the network has to carry, and a subsequent slowdown, almost to the point of gridlock. This, the firm warns, could prevent innovation on the net, and stop "the next Google" from emerging.
"Our findings indicate that although core fibre and switching/routing resources will scale nicely to support virtually any conceivable user demand, Internet access infrastructure, specifically in North America, will likely cease to be adequate for supporting demand within the next three to five years," the firm says.
"We estimate the financial investment required by access providers to 'bridge the gap' between demand and capacity ranges from $42 billion to $55 billion, or roughly 60-70 per cent more than service providers currently plan to invest."
We rang BT to get the company's response to the research, and discover whether or not a similar fate lies in store for British net users. But the owner of Blighty's broadband infrastructure started laughing before we could even frame our question.
We're not sure how to interpret this.
Is BT unconvinced that this is an issue even in the US? Or is the prospect of having to invest such vast sums of money so horribly terrifying that laughter is the only possible coping mechanism?
We did eventually manage to ask the telco for its opinion. "I'll think very carefully about the answer and send you an email," the press officer said.
We're still waiting. Presumably the reply has been caught up in a broadband traffic jam.
You can read more about the Nemertes research here. ®
BT has sent us the following statement:
BT keeps a very careful watching brief on capacity and demand to ensure that the former is not outstripped by the latter. To that end, we have increased DSL speeds from 512 Kbs to up to 8 Mbps, and will be starting to triple these speeds to up to 24 Mbps from next spring. We are also committed to using fibre in greenfield sites from next year, and will play a full and active role in the forthcoming debate on next generation access and the way forward for UK plc.