Could Olympics Torch Net Traffic?

Millennium Research Council Report Predicts Web Gridlock

Citing more than 100 million user-generated videos being produced each day, the potential prospect of bandwidth crunches when NBC streams thousands of hours of TV-quality video for the Beijing Olympic Games and the increase in social networking, photo sharing and more, the New Millennium Foundation predicted potential gridlock.

That was the upshot of a report released Thursday by telecommunications-policy free-market think tank The Millennium Research Council.

The report's author, Jason Kowal, and Ed Moran, a consultant with Deloitte, would not tie that conclusion to a rejection of mandated network-neutrality regulations, but the message was crystal-clear that their solution for the growing bottleneck was investment in network build-outs and the freedom to manage the traffic that will spur that investment.

Asked whether NBC's plans to stream could help to create a "perfect storm" of demand exceeding supply, including from a growing Chinese online population, Kowal said it depends on how NBC manages the streaming and on whether some sports draw particular attention. "It depends on how many people want to watch badminton," he joked.

But the serious message was that in order to cope with the rise of Internet protocol TV and the full-motion streamed video media companies are increasingly investing in, network owners need to be able to monitor, manage and upgrade their systems.

The network-neutrality backers frequently talk of the need to preserve innovation. While refusing to get into that policy debate, the report's backers co-opted the term and pointed out that network engineers also need the freedom to innovate to manage that traffic and meet expectations of speed and security.

The report made three policy recommendations that certainly sounded like they were aimed at undercutting network-neutrality arguments: 1) “Careful attention should be paid to any new regulation that might adversely impact the business case for Internet investment or set preferences for one business model over another; 2) “[E]ncourage network investment; 3) [N]ot inhibit Internet-service providers’ flexibility to experiment with new traffic-management technologies and strategies.”