Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

The Changing Patterns of Internet Usage

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

The Changing Patterns of Internet Usage

Article excerpt

     A. Bandwidth and Quality of Service
     B. Congestion Management
     C. Multicasting
     D. Regulatory Classifications
     A. Bandwidth Limits and Local Congestion
     B. The Physics of Wave Propagation
     C. Congestion Management
     D. The Heterogeneity of Devices
     E. Routing and Addressing
     A. End-User Connectivity
     B. Data Center Connectivity
     C. Privacy and Security


The Interact unquestionably represents one of the most important technological developments in recent history. It has revolutionized the way people communicate with one another and obtain information and has created an unimaginable variety of commercial and leisure activities. Many policy advocates believe that the Internet's past success depended in no small part on its architecture and have argued that its continued success depends on preserving that architecture in the future. (1)

Interestingly, many members of the engineering community see the Internet in starkly different terms. They note that the Internet's origins as a military network caused it to reflect tradeoffs that would have been made quite differently had the Internet been designed as a commercial network from the outset. (2) Moreover, engineers often observe that the current network is ill-suited to handle the demands that end users are placing on it. (3) Indeed, engineering researchers often describe the network as ossified and impervious to significant architectural change. (4) As a result, the U.S. government has launched a series of initiatives to support research into alternative network architectures. (5) The European Commission has followed a similar course, (6) and university-based researchers in both the United States and Europe are pursuing a variety of "clean slate" projects studying how the Internet might be different if it were designed from scratch today]

This Essay explores some emerging trends that are transforming the way end users are using the Internet and examines their implications for both network architecture and public policy. Identifying future trends is inherently speculative and, in retrospect, will doubtlessly turn out to be mistaken in a number of important respects. Still, I hope that these ruminations and projections will yield some insights into the range of possible evolutionary paths that the future Internet may take.


The development that has generated the most attention from policymakers and the technical community is the use of Internet-based technologies to distribute video programming. Over-the-top services (such as YouTube and Hulu) rely on the public Internet to distribute video. Other services, such as AT&T's U-verse, also employ the protocols developed for the Internet to distribute video, but do so through proprietary networks. Verizon's fiber-based FiOS service and many cable television providers already rely on these protocols to provide video on demand and are making preparations to begin using Internet-based technologies to distribute their regular video channels as well. Because these services are often carried in whole or in part by private networks instead of the public Internet, they are called Internet Protocol (IP) Video or IPTV. Industry observers have long predicted that video will represent an increasing proportion of total network traffic.

The growing use of IP-based protocols to distribute video has raised a number of technical and policy challenges. Not only will the growth of IPTV require more bandwidth, it may also require more basic changes in the architecture and regulatory regimes governing the network.

A. Bandwidth and Quality of Service

Industry observers have long disputed how large the video-induced spike in network demand will actually be. …

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