Here Comes the Exaflood

Check out this video from the Fiber-to-the-Home Council currently on YouTube. You’ll learn more than 100 million YouTube videos are being downloaded every day and that, as they say, is not the half of it. Video has become standard feature on most news sites, from CNN to the news page for your local network affiliate. Even small blogs carry video. The video explosion has touched off discussion on how the nation’s collective network infrastructure will handle the “exaflood”ââ?¬â??the near exponential growth of Internet traffic from year to year. We are almost there. The term exaflood derives from exabyte, which equals 1 quintillion bytes, or 1 followed by 18 zeros. As of December 2006, the Internet was handling 700 million gigabytes of traffic a month, according to the University of Minnesota’s Digital Technology Center. A gigabyte is 1 billion bytes and 700 million billion bytes equals 700 quadrillion bytes, or 0.7 exabytes. In and of itself, the exaflood does not necessarily present a crisis. Right now the global Internet has the capacity to handle the traffic. The question is, when the amount of Internet data truly begins to reach the capacity of the network, as it inevitably will, how will the industry be able to respond.

Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.