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No, we are not running out of bandwidth.

The sky is falling! the sky is falling!

Actually, we’re running out of bandwidth (PDF) (again).

Supposedly all the workers who stay home during the pandemic will use up all the bandwidth in the neighborhood. Let me guess, instead of surfing p0rn and hanging out on Reddit all day at work, they’ll be surfing p0rn and hanging out on Reddit all day from home.

The meat of the study:
“Specifically, at the 40 percent absenteeism level, the study predicted that most users within residential neighborhoods would likely experience congestion when attempting to use the Internet”
So what’s the problem?
“..under a cable architecture, 200 to 500 individual cable modems may be connected to a provider’s CMTS, depending on average usage in an area. Although each of these individual modems may be capable of receiving up to 7 or 8 megabits per second (Mbps) of incoming information, the CMTS can transmit a  maximum of only about 38 Mbps.”
Ooops – someone is oversubscribed just a tad. At least now we know how much.

Wait – 40% of the working population is at home, working or sick, bored to death, surfing the web. And they’ll be transferring large documents! Isn’t that what we call the weekend? So is the Internet broke on weekends? If so, I never noticed.

What about evenings? We  have a secondary utilization peak on our 24/7 apps around 10pm local time. That peak is almost exclusively people at home, working. Presumably this new daytime peak will dwarf the late evening peak?

Here’s a reason to panic. If it gets bad enough, the clowns who threw away ten trillion dollars of other peoples money on math they didn’t understand will not be able to throw away other peoples money while telecommuting:
“If several of these large firms were unable or unwilling to operate, the markets might not have sufficient trading volume to function in an orderly or fair way.”
My thought? Slow them down. When they flew at Mach 2, they smacked into a wall and took us with them.

Got to love this:
“Providers identified one technically feasible alternative that has the potential to reduce Internet congestion during a pandemic, but raised concerns that it could violate customer service agreements and thus would require a directive from the government to implement.”
Provider: “Yah know? I’d be cool if we could get the government to make us throttle that bandwidth. Yep, that’d be cool.”

How about Plan B – shut off streaming video:
“Shutting down specific Internet sites would also reduce congestion, although many we spoke with expressed concerns about the feasibility of such an approach.”
Wait – isn’t that what CDN’s are for? The Akamai cache at the local ISP has the content, all that matters is the last mile, right? For reference, with a few hundred thousand students working hard a surfing the web all day, we slurp up about 1/3 of our Internet bandwidth from the local Akamai rack directly attached to the Internet POP, (settlement free) and another 1/3 by peering directly with big content providers (also settlement free).

I’m not worried about bandwidth. If any of this were serious, we’d have been able to detect the effect of 10% unemployment on home bandwidth. Or the Internet would have broke during the 2008 election. Or what-his-names sudden death.

A more interesting potential outcome of a significant pandemic would be the gradual degradation of services as the technical people get sick and/or stay home with their families. I’d expect a significantly longer MTTR on routine outages during a real pandemic.

Would the cable tech show up at my house today, with two people flu’d out? Not if she’s smart.

  • The report is oriented toward the financial sector. The trades must go on. There are quarterly bonuses to be had.
  • The DHS commented on the draft in the appendices. They’ve attempted to inject a bit of rationality into the report.


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