According to statista, in the past decade, streaming subscriptions have rapidly increased as more and more people are opting to rent their favorite content rather than buy it. In fact, as of March 2019, there were over 600 million streaming subscribers worldwide. Streaming services now constitute a noticeable percentage of internet usage, and given the intense technological demands of high-definition streaming, a discussion of internet “limits” is in order.
The demands that users are placing on internet services through ubiquitous, and continuous data usage is “overloading” the internet, the technical term for which is internet congestion.
Internet congestion is, simply put, slow internet. It’s a phenomenon where too much data is attempting to pass through a router – a portal that passes information from one part of the internet to another. If you’ve ever gone to a website during a product release or tried to buy tickets just as they go live, and the site froze or crashed, you’ve experienced internet congestion. On a small scale, it’s harmless but, as more people gain access to high-speed internet, and begin taking full advantage of all it has to offer, we will be seeing this issue arise more and more frequently.
This becomes a problem when crucial sectors of our society that are now dependent on the internet begin to freeze. Bank websites, medical databases, even stock markets are currently almost exclusively dependent on high-speed, reliable internet. On a global scale, scientific databases and international organizations are all pivoting to an internet-backed existence. In the tech world, digital economies of scale will be hindered, and we could see innovation and access curbed for many as they suffer through slow or non-functioning internet.
To date, our national and global infrastructures are simply not prepared for the problems that this threat poses. We are as of yet unable as a global society to adapt fast enough to the burgeoning adoption of the internet, especially in developing economies. Without a radical shift in the way we approach internet speed and capability, major global and national institutions stand vulnerable to being overloaded.
Luckily, some entrepreneurs and developers are aware of the issue and are looking for solutions. William Erbey, a serial entrepreneur and businessman with a background in statistics has been focused on understanding data transfer as it relates to the internet and specifically streaming.
“Most people look at internet congestion as a hardware problem, more routers and fiber, and the problem will go away. The cause for congestion may lie in several network segments; however, when we looked at the problem, we found it interesting that data on the internet is routed using a 30 year old protocol – Border Gateway Protocol. When it was developed, it made a lot of sense. Routers slow down data. Otherwise data travels over the internet at the speed of light. Therefore, send data over paths that traverse the fewest number of routers. Unfortunately, Border Gateway Protocol does not know whether or not routers along any given path are “congested”, in other words overloaded.”
A company he’s invested in, System 73, is employing artificial intelligence to forecast localized capacity and demand for the internet. It then uses that information to structure a managed overlay topology to the internet using transportation optimization mathematics to minimize the amount of data that traverses congested routers.
It is no secret that internet service is headed to a reckoning point that will test humanity’s capacity for rapid adaptation to a phenomenon that is growing much faster than we can currently handle.
Erbey is working on a solution that will have far-reaching effects. Although most people do not know how things run, the need for the internet to run smoothly cannot be exaggerated.
The more of a spotlight is given to this important issue, the more awareness of the topic and possible solutions will come. For the internet of the future to be as efficient as it is currently, there is a need for entrepreneurs in the space to work on solutions.