The Tubes, Captain! They Canna Take It! They're Coming Apart!

Published on April 18, 2008
by John Paczkowski

notatruck.jpg Sen. Ted Stevens was right: The Internet is not a big truck. It’s “a series of tubes”–tubes that can be filled to capacity by “enormous amounts of material.” And, according to AT&T, that’s going to happen about two years from now.

In remarks at the Westminster eForum on Web 2.0 this week in London, Jim Cicconi, vice president of legislative affairs for AT&T (T), said the Internet will hit its capacity in 2010. “The surge in online content is at the center of the most dramatic changes affecting the Internet today,” Cicconi said. “In three years’ time, 20 typical households will generate more traffic than the entire Internet today. We are going to be butting up against the physical capacity of the Internet by 2010.”

Clearly, some bigger tubes are in order here–$55 billion worth of them, according to Cicconi, who was quick to note that it will be companies like AT&T footing the bill for them. “There is nothing magic or ethereal about the Internet–it is no more ethereal than the highway system,” he said. “It is not created by an act of God, but upgraded and maintained by private investors.”

Ah yes, private investors. Like the ones who promised in the mid-1990s to provide fiber-optic connections to millions of households across the country in exchange for some $200 billion in tax cuts? The ones who never delivered on that promise, content to pocket direct tax credits of, on average, $2,000 per subscriber, without fulfilling their end of the bargain? Those investors?

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