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’’The Exabyte Internet’’: A Study of Internet Growth and Impact on Public Policy


ALEXANDRIA, Va. - “Exaflood” may threaten the use of the Internet by surpassing available capacity, according to the US Internet Industry Association’s position paper “The Exabyte Internet”. The paper examines the issue in context as well as its impact on consumers, businesses and network operators.

Recent research reports have suggested that the growth of data created by humans, some of which must inevitably transit the Internet, may create a situation in which it becomes impossible for the Internet infrastructure to handle the capacity demands for data, particularly video. While some have challenged the precise numbers, it is clear that the amount of data traffic on the Internet is growing at an accelerating rate. This will soon create a situation in which billions of gigabytes of data – called exabytes – will transit the Internet each year.

This is the Exabyte Internet.

And while individual consumers may not reach a level of data transfer of this magnitude in the short term, the Internet in the aggregate will. It will be necessary to continue high levels of investment in both the Internet backbone and in the backhaul subsystems that link each consumer to the Internet.

“Is this a crisis? Only in the sense of weiji, the modern Chinese word for ‘crisis’ that has been translated as both danger and opportunity,” says Dave McClure, President & CEO of the USIIA and author of the paper.

“The Exabyte Internet promises to bring new services, applications and opportunities to both consumers and businesses in America, but it will not do so automatically. In addition to investments in additional infrastructure and capacity, there will need to be innovations in core technologies, innovations in network management, flexible strategic plans and a national broadband policy that supports investment and innovation over regulation and a continuation of the status quo.”

Public policy related to broadband and the Internet is also seen to have significant impact on America’s ability to manage the growing amount of data that will transit the Internet each year. The paper suggests that four general policies are needed to assure the necessary growth of the Internet: a better understanding of the data; a more realistic view of the Internet infrastructure; a “light hand” regulatory approach; and a focus on investment as the national priority.


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