Death by Venice

Yesterday, I mentioned Bob Cringely’s prediction that 2007 will be “the year the net crashed,” when “video overwhelms the net and we all learn that the broadband ISPs have been selling us something they can’t really deliver.” Now, Jeremy Reimer, at Ars Technica, provides a few facts that lend some credence to Cringely’s forecast. The Venice Project, the peer-to-peer television network developed by the founders of Skype and now in beta testing, turns out to be an incredible bandwidth hog. Reports Reimer:

According to the project’s documentation seen by Ars Technica, watching an hour’s worth of TV consumes an average of 320MB downloaded and 105MB uploaded traffic, due to the service’s P2P architecture … For users with broadband caps, the Venice Project could easily consume a month’s worth of bandwidth in short order. Even users without caps could be affected if they “trip” unpublished limits on so-called “unlimited” services and get a call from Mr. Friendly ISP. Still, high bandwidth usage is nothing new; we all know someone (maybe even ourselves) pulling down this kind of data every month. What’s different about the Venice Project is that it could explode into The Next Big Thing™, turning more of us into “heavy users.”

The video boom, and the Venice Project in particular, may not bring the Net down, but it will likely reveal whether the current “abundance” of bandwidth is a lasting phenomenon or just a transitory one. The whole idea of software-as-a-service – indeed, the whole idea of Web 2.0 – is founded on abundant bandwidth. If the network becomes congested, a lot of companies are going to find themselves in difficult straits. At the very least, as Reimer notes, it would add a new complexity, and urgency, to the debate about net neutrality.

5 thoughts on “Death by Venice

  1. Kevin

    If S.Korea and Japan have so much more bandwidth than us, doesn’t it mean the ISPs just need to invest in the infrastructure?

    If, as the ArsTechnica article suggests, the Venice Project takes over TV watching, the ISPs will have more users and the impetus (and duty and resources) to increase bandwidth capabilities.

  2. Nick Carr


    I don’t see the economic incentive for ISPs to invest in the infrastructure. How do they make money from, say, the Venice Project?


  3. Gil Freund

    This is not the first time the great net crash has been predicted. It has not technical merit.

    Backbone capacity is far from reaching it’s full capacity. The same goes for the last mile. CPU, disk and memory are also very scalable. TCP/IP (even at v.4) is still allows for growth.

    Streaming, P2P protocols as well as VoIP actually reduce loads.

    Net Neutrality is about the fear of becoming commodities. Look at long distance calls. Giving more bandwidth or lower prices will force the ISP and backbone providers to the same bloody war of the long distance telephony providers.

    Mash networks will most likely take over long before the “net” will crash.

    Net Neutrality is about capitalizing off existing resources, rather then building a new strategy.

  4. Howard Owens

    When I first read this post, I thought, “Doesn’t this mean that VP better serves content in the head rather than the tail?” It seems to me that early adapters are long tail media consumers … and the future of video seems to be more long tailish … Does VP really fit into a LT future?

    I don’t know enough about the technology to answer those questions.

  5. Bertil

    I’m employed by an ISP in Europe, and I’ve asked to friends in competing ISPs: this appears to be a mostly American issue; not everything is perfect, but we see with enthusiasm the TV get onto the wires, and free the “hertzian specter”. What incentives where in place in Asia and here to have proper capacity ?

    – Government-backed monopoly, or heavy-handed regulators forcing investment;

    – pride and responsibility to pave the way for great technology: engineer-filed or -led companies don’t always follow business opportunism rather then geeky enthusiasm, and are happy to be the IT-edge;

    – ISPs are usually also mobile operators and make safe money out of non-capped services based on the local network;

    – more importantly, there is actual local competition: not investing gives your competitors a real opportunity to offer a better service, and steal your market. This makes sense in markets closer to saturation — but most Europe, Japan and S. Korea are significantly ahead of the US, so this has been the decisive argument recently.

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