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The Internet

Myths about Internet growth 384

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-were-just-kidding-about-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An article in The Economist outlines WorldCom's role in starting the myth that Internet traffic doubles every 100 days. This helped inflate the telecoms bubble."
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Myths about Internet growth

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  • my pr0n collection doubles every 100 days.
    • I wish I could double my pr0n collection, but I simply don't have the bandwidth. If this figure they quoted was for installed bandwidth, rather than used bandwidth, there should be a glut of bandwidth on the market. Meanwhile, I'm stuck with an unreliable 1.5Mb down/128Kb up connection, supposedly because at the higher speeds I used to enjoy I will consume too much bandwidth. I know AT&T has metric shitloads of fiber to everywhere. Sure much of the fiber is dark, but it could be lit quickly. Rather than simply adding capacity when they add customers they cap the amount of bandwidth available. More revenue for the same outlay. AT&T is already making 20% margins (Q1 2002) but they still sqeeze me for more money while decreasing the level of service. It's like a restaurant only giving you 2 pancakes instead of 4 like you are used to receiving because they had more customers than usual. Then charging you an extra dollar to boot. So I guess my question is: where is my part of this massive bandwidth?


      • Meanwhile, I'm stuck with an unreliable 1.5Mb down/128Kb up connection

        Oh WAAAAAAAAA

        I'd trade your 1544kbit connection for my 0.96kbit over this modem. Don't believe me? Go ahead, ping my IP. I'll email you with an ETA for the pong. :-D

  • Thats wrong (Score:5, Funny)

    by happyhippy (526970) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:07PM (#3946424)
    It should be 'annoying X10 pop unders double every 100 days'
  • Not to troll, but.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by f00zbll (526151) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:09PM (#3946443)
    I remember president Ronald Reagan pulling the same kind of stuff when he was in office. Some of the statistics Reagan quoted in his public speeches often were wrong or had no data supporting the claim. Why is it that people buy into BS when it comes out of the president or some CEO?

    Are people being stupid, or simply letting themselves get caught up in the excitement?

    • by Noofus (114264) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:16PM (#3946497)
      Its simply because people trust statistics from any sort of authority figure.

      If the PRESIDENT says something, people assume he MUST be right.

      If says "our industry is growing FAST FAST FAST", people will believe it. This appears to be how bubbles form (Enron, Worlcom, etc). People will believe statistics if they seem somewhat reasonable and come from what appears to be a reputable source.

      Besides, this doubling every 100 days figure seemed like a great concept to latch onto (gee, humanity is becoming more connected...thats great!)

      So I guess the answer IMO, is that people ARE just getting caught up in excitement.
    • by medcalf (68293) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:20PM (#3946528) Homepage
      This kind of thing happens all the time. Sometimes it's an honest mis-statement or a result of unstated assumptions. Sometimes it's a blatant lie. The perception of the false comment's status generally depends on your political views. (For example, a Republican would be suspicious of Clintonian whoppers, while a Democrat would be forgiving; and the opposite dynamic would hold with Republican political statements.)

      That said, the reason that most people swallow them whole is because people believe what they hear from figures deemed "in authority", such as politicians, CEOs, doctors, and the mainstream media. All, interestingly enough, of these sources have egos the size of Texas and consciences the size of Guam. Why do people trust authority figures, given that there is every rational and historical reason to distrust them instead? Probably has an evolutionary basis (in that cohesive groups had better odds of survival, and adherence to authority in a crisis increased the cohesiveness of the group). In fact, the military deliberately teaches officers and non-coms the tone and style of speach needed to get instant obedience.
      • All, interestingly enough, of these sources have egos the size of Texas and consciences the size of Guam.

        Bad example. While Guam might be small compared to Texas, it's still pretty darned big in the absolute sense. I.e., it's a lot bigger than I am. For future reference, I would choose something like ``consciences the size of a flea.''

        On a more serious note, might I ask that you consider being a little bit more careful with your words in the future. Saying this like, ``All of these sources [politicians, CEOs, doctors...] have egos the size of Texas,'' is an overgeneralization, and a rude one. My girlfriend is a doctor, as are most of our friends. While there are egoists out there, I'd have to say that all but one or two of the doctors I know are the most humble people you could hope to meet. We've talked about it before, over dinners and such: they all agree that being a doctor is an overwhelming responsibility. If you let it go to your head, you might get arrogant, but the fact is that simple fear keeps you from thinking too highly of yourself.

        I'd just ask that you think twice before generalizing in the future.
        • What medcalf conveniently left out was that geeks belong on that list too. I mean that seriously--inasmuch as you can accuse all doctors of huge ego, tiny conscience, you can accuse geeks of it too. Just think back to the last IT consultant you knew for a prime example.... And of course the same bit about "most are our friends" also applies.....
          • Geeks do not (generally) belong on the list, because they are not (generally) authority figures. I was making the point that classes of people in authority tend to have two particular traits, which does not imply that others having those traits are in authority.

            In other words, A implies B does not mean that B necessarily implies A.
            • Geeks are indeed often authority figures. Not frequently to "the world at large", but even that is changing, with the internet in every home etc. etc. But when it comes to technology issues, geeks are very definitely authority figures, and they act like it.

              I could tell my parents that they had to stand on their heads to get their earthlink connection to work after my dad has screwed it up again, and they'd do their best to do it. Not because it makes sense, but because I'm the authority. The number of people who ask me for advice about computers (most frequently: "what should I buy for Johnny when he goes away to college") once they hear I work for a big computer company (never mind that Sun has nothing to do with the PC that Johnny would own himself) is staggering. People ask about internet, home networks, PC hardware, mac hardware, you name it, because I'm a geek and in their mind I am the authority to give them the straight scoop on these issues (because after all, I'm not only a geek, but one they know and trust).

      • Sometimes it's an honest mis-statement or a result of unstated assumptions. Sometimes it's a blatant lie.

        That seems like a reasonable thing to say. Then we get to...

        such as politicians, CEOs, doctors, and the mainstream media. All, interestingly enough, of these sources have egos the size of Texas and consciences the size of Guam.

        I'm still trying to figure out where that statement falls in between honest mis-statement and blatant lie. :-) Do you really believe what you're saying, or are you exaggerating to make some kind of point? How many politicians, CEO's or doctors do you actually know? Do you speak from experience, or are you just making misleading statements based on false assumptions, just like the people you lament?

        • Do you really believe what you're saying, or are you exaggerating to make some kind of point?

          I am exaggerating to make a point. That said, while there are certainly humble politicians, CEOs, doctors and journalists, it does seem that the majority of each of these professions have large egos and a significant number of professionals in each category seem to have little conscience in some senses.

          How many politicians, CEO's or doctors do you actually know?

          Personally know? 1 politician, 2 current and 1 former CEOs, 1 doctor and 1 ex-journalist.

          Also note that by "huge ego", I am not saying "arrogant". The difference is that a person with a huge ego assumes that they are correct and acts on that assumption until convinced otherwise, while a person who is arrogant cannot be convinced that they are in any way wrong.

      • by ch-chuck (9622) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:48PM (#3946723) Homepage
        most people swallow them whole is because people believe what they hear from figures deemed "in authority", such as politicians, CEOs, doctors, and the mainstream media.

        NAPOLEON: What shall we do with this soldier, Guiseppe? Everything he says is wrong.
        GUISEPPE: Make him a general, Excellency, and then everything he says will be right.
        -- G. B. Shaw, "The Man of Destiny"

    • by Zoop (59907)
      Nobody without an axe to grind ever checks sources, and additionally, people are statistically innumerate.

      For example, when you hear some group come out and say "1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted every year they're at college," you have to get into Clintonesque parsings of the meaning of "sexual assault", because it means that if assaults are truly random, almost all women will have been victimized by the time they get out of school. Advocates will say "yes, that's true" and invent a reason they think 90% of women don't report an assault.

      It usually turns out that assault means "felt uncomfortable and/or threatened in an ecounter with the opposite sex." How many of us haven't felt uncomfortable? I'm surprised the statistic is a mere 1/3.

      Then there are ones that advocates make up out of whole cloth or unrepresentative samples, like 10% of us are homosexuals (based on a self-reporting study of inmates defining homosexual as having had a sexual situation or thought dealing with the same sex--IN PRISON) or that there are a million homeless.

      In each case, people fail to translate a statistic to its logical outcome or don't apply Occam's Razor to decide that it's more likely someone is inflating a statistic for personal gain (get funding for your issue/company) than it is that life is severely different than we think and we've been indulging in false consciousness all these years.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        It usually turns out that assault means "felt uncomfortable and/or threatened in an ecounter with the opposite sex." How many of us haven't felt uncomfortable? I'm surprised the statistic is a mere 1/3

        Actually, the study that showed this (often quoted) statistic said it was 1 in 4... and it wasn't just "felt uncomfortable"... one of the questions was "Have you ever had sex, then regretted it the next morning?" *bing* If the participant answered yes, then the "study" said she had been sexually assaulted.

        An interesting side note to this is that one of the questions was "do you believe you have been the victim of a sexual assault?"... the response rate of this was 9%..

        So even though only 9% of the women polled thought they had been sexually assaulted, the people doing the study still claim 25%..
      • (Thank you Samuel Clemens.) Well, fortunately, it seems as though a lot of people who use those doctored statistics often wind up hoist on their own petard. Looks like WorldCom's getting there, as was Child Find [stats.org] in an article in the Denver Post that won a Pulitzer Prize for reporters Griego and Kilzer.

        There are some spectacularly bad examples in the posting above... I'm not sure anyone ever said there were a million homeless people. However, the widely-criticised (as to methodology) US census survey cited almost half a million, which you can add for yourself here [elnom.com]. Also, as to the "statistics" quoted by the poster on sexual orientation, I know that as early as 1972 the University of Guelph's Veterinary and Agricultural Colleges were using the 10% figure in training films (one of which, my friend, a student in another department at the time, narrated) on animal breeding, and in Animal Days, the British naturalist Desmond Morris [sirc.org] mentions something similar based on his work with ten-spined sticklebacks (1958). Similar figures seem to hold through all animal species.

        The problem seems to be that too many of the general public fall for that same old Ad Verecundiam Fallacy [datanation.com]. I think it's a lack of critical thinking skills.

        And in this day and age, if a CEO doesn't qualify as an "improper authority"... --smirk--
      • I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss that "1 million homeless" statistic. I doubt that there's much more than an estimate behind it, but if that translated into, say, 1 person out of 100, then I would be willing to believe it. This sure isn't proof, and it definitely used to be a lot fewer, but a substantial fraction of people earning minimum wage can't afford housing, and some of them only have fake addresses. (If rent in your city is over $1000 / mo for a one bedroom apt., and minimum wage is $5 / hr. [numbers choosen for ease of calculation], then renting the apt. costs 200 hours. And that's assuming that there are no taxes. At 40 hr/week, 200 hours is 5 weeks. Whoops! And that leaves no cash for food, clothes, medicine, etc.

        Now I believe that minimum wage is higher than that, but so is the cost of housing (at in the city least where I live). So socially ept people live at several per 1 room apt., but if there are disagreements, then someone ends up on the street. And stays there.

        The only moral I can draw is: "Don't be poor."
        But I feel that 1 million homeless may be lowballing the problem.
      • by pjrc (134994)
        Ok, I know it's off-topic, but...

        ... unrepresentative samples, like 10% of us are homosexuals (based on a self-reporting study of inmates defining homosexual as having had a sexual situation or thought dealing with the same sex--IN PRISON)

        I've heard the 10% number over the years and believed it, so out of curiousity I did a little little google search [google.com], and whattaya know, the #1 result was this 10% myth page [familyresearchinst.org] from the Family Research Institute [familyresearchinst.org].

        Also featured today on the Family Research Institute [familyresearchinst.org] home page:

        • Homosexual rape is 5-10% of all rape and is increasing
        • Story of Jim, homosexual sex offendor
        • Link between pedophilia and homosexuality
        • Children raised by homosexuals have "childhood difficulties"
        • Special Study on Homosexuality (realaudio "lessons", I didn't bother listening to it)

        You can also check out their " educational pamphlets [familyresearchinst.org]", such as " Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do [familyresearchinst.org]" ... utter homophobia (and a lot of hetrosexual couples have oral sex, anal sex, kinky S&M play, but the text is pure FUD, mostly Fear) I wonder if their pamphlets are made by the Chick Tract guys [chick.com].

        Later on the same google result is this paper which at first appears to be based on some honest research [qrd.org] which claims 5% and goes on to say "On the basis of the Bagley et al.(1994) sample data, it is now known that the recent studies producing 1%(90) to 3% estimates for gay males, or for males who are homosexually active, are seriously flawed." Turns out this one is hosted by the Queer Resources Directory [qrd.org], but the author appears to be dedicated to helping troubled homosexual teens (more google searching)

        So I guess I learned something new today. The gay population numbers are in a lot more dispute than WorldCom's traffic growth due to the tension between homosexual communities and homophobic right-wing groups, the 10% number I've always heard before does appear to be a bit high. Hmm. Personally, I'm het, but I'd much rather be around people who are homosexual than people who are homophobic. Fortunately, repressed homophobics are a lot easier to spot.

        Very off-topic, someone please mod me down, if for nothing else other than wasting time on this instead of what I should be working on....

    • Same reason... (Score:2, Insightful)

      Same reason people believed eating carbohydrates would help them lose weight. They wanted to believe. They wanted to believe eating chocolate eclairs was good for them, and they wanted to believe that "nice man" wouldn't lie to them. And they wanted to believe the future was "so bright" they had "to wear shades." That's the one thing Clinton was able to impart to the country that Shrub doesn't seem to be able to. Optimism.
    • You know the fact about 500K kids are kidnapped each year? The truth is most are run aways, and 5K are kidnapped by family members. Out of that, around 100 are kidnapped by strangers. Read this on some FBI response to the total amount value reported by missing children agencies. They claim the number has dropped by to under 100 in 2001.

      How would I know how many kids are kidnapped? News and word of mouth are the only stats I get. Who can you trust will give you correct answers? The news makes it look like every minute a little kid is kidnapped, we have had 2 in the last couple of weeks, lucky 1 got away.

    • Be fair. Practically every successful politician walking pulled that shazz. I hated Reagan as much as the next liberal, but Gore made a whole lot more grievous lies before he became veep. Helms was another massive offender in that regard.

      "In my great state, there's a plumber named Egbert Hershog who lost his home to ravenous man-eating spiders. This never would have happened if we had passed bill #234423..." etc. Lies, lies, lies.
  • by smashr (307484) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:09PM (#3946445)
    I think we can safely file THAT particular statistic away with the MPAA's and RIAA's claim that piracy has cost billions and billions of dollars in lost revenue.

    Of course, I could see the BSA, RIAA, and MPAA getting together and claiming that the piracy of billions of dollars of software is the CAUSE of traffic doubling every 100 days!
  • by gentlewizard (300741) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:10PM (#3946457)
    The problem with this article, as well as the original Worldcom estimate, is that they assume linear growth. In reality, the demand for Internet bandwidth grows and shrinks with the economy in general. We're in a slump right now, so growth has slowed down. In the next boom, more people will want to download rich content such as video, which will in turn increase the demand for bandwidth.

    Like the stock market, the bandwidth market has its up times and its down times. When you invest in the stock market, you invest for the long-term trend which historically has been up. In the same way, the need for bandwidth will continue to grow over the long term as we continue to find new and cool things to do with it.
    • Price of Bandwidth (Score:5, Interesting)

      by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:24PM (#3946558)
      We've all heard talk of over-built data networks and "dark fiber". What interests me is how this apparent over-capacity does not seem to match up the price of bandwidth and the apparent bandwidth management of consumer-level heavy users.

      Is there a mismatch? Do we actually have a demand that's being held in check by an inappropriate pricing schedule (perhapse even businesses with a lack of vision)? Or does potential capacity fail to overcome the cost of "lighting up" and maintaining these over-built networks?
      • What interests me is how this apparent over-capacity does not seem to match up the price of bandwidth and the apparent bandwidth management of consumer-level heavy users.

        Bandwidth is getting cheaper - when you purchase by the 10's of Mbps. I've seen $100/Mbps and below in quantity.

        But on a per customer basis, the costs of billing/help desk/etc. for users of under 10 Mbps may actually be more than the bandwidth cost.

        And for home users, you have that nasty last mile owned by a local government granted entrenched monopoly, the costs of running new lines, or questionable wireless technologies.

        That said, I see plenty of $600/month T1's around (including local loop).
      • ok - something that occured to me a few days ago...

        Once the infrastructure (or is it extrastructure? but I digress) for bandwidth is there, isn't bandwidth actually free? I mean, I know that there are costs involved with running the network, upkeep of epuiptment, salaries to pay, ect...

        But is there really a difference in the cost of providing bandwidth (other than hardware, which is still a fixed cost) if I want a low end ISDN line or an OC3 pipe? I would liken it to cable TV. Somehow I manage to now get digital cable with a few hundred more channels than its anolog predecessor for the same price. The cable company didn't really have to do all that much other than give me a new cable box (which I rent from them).

        My phone line has been there for years. Other than a $50 line cleaning kit, what is really the increase in cost for me to get DSL? Other than equiptment that the telco buys to provide DSL. If they buy it to provide access to one user, what is the increase in cost when you add another 300 users? I understand that hubs and routers have physical limitations, but it just seems that we are getting porked.

        I might back up the above by comparing it to wireless (cell) phones vs traditional land lines. Don't the cell division make hand over fist compared to the land line division? I mean, they put up a tower that can service thousands of people. No cables (from telco to your phone) and thus significantly less service persons and cost per customer. It makes me wonder if my inflated cost for use of a cell phone (in my opinion) is there to offset the money-sucking land line division... Shouldn't cell phone service be only a small % of the (my) cost of wire-based telephone service in my house?

        Hopefully, some of you might be able to give me some insight on the actual difference in costs of providing limited bandwidth vs high capacity bandwidth.

        Seems like a giant scam to me.

        Of course, I certainly don't want to go back to dial-up. But I would think that the industry's standardization of the costs for these services (at least smacks of some sort of collusion) has set them unreasonably high and thus out of the price range of many consumers.

        PC manufacturers have met the need for low cost computing, but what about bandwidth providers who are still giving us the slowest element of our computing architecture.
        • by jratcliffe (208809) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @05:01PM (#3947238)
          But is there really a difference in the cost of providing bandwidth (other than hardware, which is still a fixed cost) if I want a low end ISDN line or an OC3 pipe? I would liken it to cable TV. Somehow I manage to now get digital cable with a few hundred more channels than its anolog predecessor for the same price. The cable company didn't really have to do all that much other than give me a new cable box (which I rent from them).

          Sadly, not true. First, there are big differences in the cost of the customer prem equipment between different networking technologies. You can buy a cable modem for $80 or less in bulk - a SONET box capable of supporting an OC-3 link will cost you ~$15,000. That being said, if you want internet access, your local access provider (be it the phone, cable, or whatever company) is going to have to purchase a connection to the backbone, and that costs money too (figure $40k for a 155Mbps link). Secondly, on the cable front, going from a few analog to a lot of digital channels required billions of dollars in capital expenditures for the cable companies. First of all, they had to upgrade all the amplifiers and passive components in their networks, and introduce a lot of new elements, since the higher frequencies used for digital channels attenuate over shorter distances, and hence need to be re-amplified more often. In many cases, they had to replace the actual physical cable as well.

          My phone line has been there for years. Other than a $50 line cleaning kit, what is really the increase in cost for me to get DSL? Other than equiptment that the telco buys to provide DSL. If they buy it to provide access to one user, what is the increase in cost when you add another 300 users? I understand that hubs and routers have physical limitations, but it just seems that we are getting porked.

          The equipment on the other end of your DSL connection (called a DSL Access Multiplexer, or DSLAM), doesn't come cheap, and the unit's cost scales pretty close to 1:1 with the number of ports it has - net/net, the cost does rise with the number of customers. Beyond that, the telephone companies had to make some pretty significant adjustments in their network architectures (pushing fiber down the network, for example), to make DSL available on a widespread basis.

          I might back up the above by comparing it to wireless (cell) phones vs traditional land lines. Don't the cell division make hand over fist compared to the land line division? I mean, they put up a tower that can service thousands of people. No cables (from telco to your phone) and thus significantly less service persons and cost per customer. It makes me wonder if my inflated cost for use of a cell phone (in my opinion) is there to offset the money-sucking land line division... Shouldn't cell phone service be only a small % of the (my) cost of wire-based telephone service in my house?

          Actually, the cellular service providers are LOSING money hand over fist. First off, building those towers isn't cheap, esp. when you consider the legal aspects of getting access to the sites, permitting, etc. Second, they have to buy landline connections from the towers to their networks, and that is usually slow and expensive. Third, there's a limited number of users you can support from a given tower - spectrum isn't endless. This doesn't even begin to consider the costs of obtaining the spectrum itself - look at the billions of $ that the European wireless carriers paid for 3G licenses there. That being said, it's certainly cheaper, if no network exists, to serve an area with cellular than build a physical phone network. A lot of phone companies in the developing world are doing just that (Telmex in rural Mexico, for example). The real costs of cellular, on an operating basis, are operating - marketing, customer service, etc. The industry still has really severe bad debt problems, and customer churn is high, so getting and keeping customers sucks up a huge amount of the revenue pie.

          Overall, are we getting hosed? Basically, no, I don't think so.
        • Once the infrastructure (or is it extrastructure? but I digress) for bandwidth is there, isn't bandwidth actually free? I mean, I know that there are costs involved with running the network, upkeep of epuiptment, salaries to pay, ect.

          No, it's not free. Because it isn't PAID for yet.

          If they'd charged everybody an instalation fee that covered their costs to install the entire infrastructure, THEN it would be very cheap - maintainence, repair, helpdesk, billing department, etc. But would you want to pay, say, ten grand to get a phone hooked up? I don't think so.

          So instead they borrow the ten grand per customer (or whatever) to build the network, and pay it off with interest over the next thirty years from the money they charge the customers. Your instalation fee pays maybe part of the installer's visit and the equipment he installs (if they don't wave that in a promotion to get more people hooked up.)

          That's why it's such a disaster when they plan for customers who don't show up. They still have to pay off the loans, but they don't have a gang of people like you paying bills for your "almost free" bandwidth.

          A price war (where there's competition) doesn't really solve the problem, because if they lower prices enough to attract people, they cut what you're paying so much that, even if they get EVERYBODY hooked up they won't collect enough to pay off the loan.

          And that means that if people don't sign up and pay reasonable bills the providers will go bankrupt. If that happens the bond holders get paid pennies on the dollar, while the successors inherit or buy the installed equipment for pennies on the dollar. THEN the pices come down - possibly getting close to the maintainence cost plus a price-signal fee. But don't expect investors to pay for any new equipment when that new suburb goes up, or to string wires anywhere that doesn't already have them. Bandwidth fees become a way of rationing the installed base, like a natural resource limited commodity, rather than actually paying for the construction of the net.

          Same thing happened with cable TV. Most cable systems went bankrupt, sometimes several times, before they actually became profitable (if they ever did). The original investors mostly lost their money while the systems ended up in the hands of the media conglomerates.
      • by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:38PM (#3947080) Homepage
        We've all heard talk of over-built data networks and "dark fiber". What interests me is how this apparent over-capacity does not seem to match up the price of bandwidth and the apparent bandwidth management of consumer-level heavy users.

        I think what happened a few years ago was that the price was pushed below the sustainable level by VCs indirectly financing your bandwidth. For a couple of years I had a deal that actually cost me nothing whatsoever for my internet connection; actually it saved me 10% of my telephone line rental as well.

        What's happened now is the VCs have gone away and the price has bounced back to where it really should have been in the first place and the companies supplying bandwidth are turning a profit again. For companies profit is like breathing- you can hold your breath for only so long and then you die; the companies are breathing again; but looks like some held their breath for too long.

        However the cost per bit is going down all the time, and we should gradually see the price that we pay come down with it. (Should being the key part of that sentence ;-)

      • by tdogboy (464521)
        A big part of the confusion that comes from these kinds of statistics is failure to understand the problem well. There are many parts to the equation of Internet growth and these statistics are a gross oversimplification to anyone who's in the telecom industry.

        A simple example is the difference between access networks and core networks. Access networks are those such as phone lines or DSL to the home. Core networks are those such as UUNET. Companies buy big pipes from those guys. Both types of networks need to be in place and operating before Internet access will grow. If one slows down, the other slows down because they are positively correlated (I hope that's the right term).

        So, you've got the access networks (ISPs and RBOCs for example) preaching their growth numbers and core networks (UUNET, Global Crossing and AT&T for example) preaching their numbers and no one looks at the big picture.

        Taking this example to the Internet boom, where we are today is that core networks are way overbuilt and access networks suck eggs. The ISPs just don't have the subscriber base to support them buying more bandwidth from the core network providers.

        (Keep in mind, this is on the service provider side of the equation. There is a whole other side that's the enterprise side of the equation, where big companies buy bandwidth from access and/or core network providers to connect their people together. It's a big part of the market and is almost the only thing keeping these network providers afloat these days until the service provider market returns.)
    • > The problem with this article, as well as the original Worldcom estimate, is that they assume linear growth.

      Doubling every 100 days is NOT linear growth, it's exponential. Worldcom was most certainly NOT assuming the growth was linear.

    • The problem with this article, as well as the original Worldcom estimate, is that they assume linear growth. In reality, the demand for Internet bandwidth grows and shrinks with the economy in general.

      Excuse me? Doesn't the statement that Internet traffic doubles every hundred days presume exponential growth? Maybe you mean that their assumption was wrong because it assumed constant growth.

      -a
    • Keep in mind that without irrational exuberance, there's no reason why we have to have booms and busts. If investors had never gone stupid, we might have never seen a dotcom bubble, just solid growth. Perhaps we'll learn from this mistake and we'll do it right once this whole thing levels out.

      Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but...
  • "Unfortunately for the telecoms firms that rushed to build networks to carry the reported surge in traffic, it wasn't true"

    In Canada, our telecoms built a network that could support HALF of the current subscribers, and are only catching up lately. In theory, if this statement from the article were true, we should experiencing a GOOD network of Internet access, not the "limiting of bandwidth" we're seeing....

    -YoGrark

    "Canadian Bred with American Buttering"
  • by SpanishInquisition (127269) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:11PM (#3946465) Homepage Journal
    The Internet will be 2 times as fast and a 100 times more expensive.
  • Skeptical (Score:4, Funny)

    by L. VeGas (580015) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:12PM (#3946467) Homepage Journal
    Personally I find it hard to believe that Worldcom would engage in this kind of unethical behaviour. It's the stability of large companies like Worldcom that make me believe our economoy will never go worng.
  • Unbelievable (Score:2, Interesting)

    by targo (409974)
    I find it really strange how otherwise serious and well-educated people very often go along with these "X doubles every Y days" stories. Everybody who is familiar with even basic math should know that this kind of growth can only last for for a very short time, otherwise we would all be impersonating Elvis [peterborough.on.ca] by now.
    Now Worldcom probably tweaked the facts but if some people really believe in this kind of exponential growth then I hardly have any compassion for them, and blaming Worldcom or someone else for your own stupidity is just silly.


    • Yeah. What was that Moore guy thinking in 1965
      when he forecasted chip density doubling every
      18 months. That obviously couldn't last more
      than a couple of years, could it?

      Some predictions seem to work better than others.
    • I agree. Who ever believed that processing power doubles every 6,480 days really needs to have their head examined. After all, there's NO WAY we could ever keep up with that kind of growth, it just isn't possible.
      </sarcasm>

  • Exponential growth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delfstrom (205488) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:15PM (#3946488)
    "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."
    -- Bartlett, as quoted in my 1st year physics textbook
  • by Badgerman (19207) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:15PM (#3946489)
    How many other "marketing-oriented" "facts" are being touted today as justification for business, hiring, tactical, or hiring strategies? Or to be cruder, how many other business lies are out there mucking things up?

    There's a re-evaluation of business tactics and laws going on. Maybe its time to re-evaluate supposed technological "truths" as well.

    And maybe we techies can use this as yet another example of the hype over reality in technology, since WorldCom is in the use. Next time someone non-technical tosses out something obviously ridiculous, bring THIS up and ask them where they got their idea.
    • How many other "marketing-oriented" "facts" are being touted today as justification for business, hiring, tactical, or hiring strategies? Or to be cruder, how many other business lies are out there mucking things up?

      Just remember, 83.5% percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

      ...or was that 53.8%? Hrmmn.

      -R

    • When you get every college graduate looking for a job, each one is going to promise the interviewer that THEY will increase their profits 200% compared to the people they already employ. And so these young nubile collegues lower the bar with a few underhanded strategies until the whole deck of cards collapses.
    • by bons (119581) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:12PM (#3946892) Homepage Journal
      You mean "facts" like:
      • "Open Source is more secure because everyone can look for security holes"? (Even if no one actually does, which is likely on some of these projects.)
      • P2P increases/decreases music sales (pick your favorite, they're both just guesses)
      • COBOL is dead
      We live in a world of blatent lies and guesses. What bothers me is that the article tries to pin the blame on the source of the "facts" instead of the horde of people who just accepted the "facts" as facts. Heck, Slashdot readers will rip into any moderator dumb enough to make THAT mistake. Why are we willing to accept such a low standard from anywhere else?

      It's depressing to watch a reporter claim someone else is being irresponsible for starting a bad rumor and forgive everyone else for their complete failure to verify the truth of what turned out to be an urban legend.

  • by r00tarded (553054)
    internet pr0n/mp3 xfers double every 100 days, not traffic in general.
  • Exponential growth (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maniakes (216039) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:16PM (#3946499) Journal
    According to this [ziplink.net], there was about 1 gbps of internet traffic in 1995.

    If this doubled every 100 days, there would be 50,000 terabits per second of internet traffic today. There's actually less than one terabit/sec of traffic.

    By 2010, we could expect more bits per second of internet traffic than there are atoms in the universe.
    • By 2010, we could expect more bits per second of internet traffic than there are atoms in the universe.

      Then what will be used to transmit that traffic?

      • This is no problem.

        First, internet data is generally transfered in electrons or photons, which are (or at least can be) more numerous than atoms.

        Even if there weren't so many it still wouldn't be a problem since there is no rule saying an atom (or electron or photon) can only represet one bit per second.

        -Peter
  • by hughk (248126) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:18PM (#3946508) Journal
    Nobody would put down a single fibre. It is too expensive to physically lay it. You lay two (or more) fibres instead but leave them unused (dark fibre). However, repeaters are there it is just they aren't attached wither end. Theoretically all you need is to connect a switch and you have your extra capacity.

    This should have meant high bandwidth and low prices, but as suppliers like Worldcom had to borrow heavily for their infrastructure costs, they were stuck with high prices. Something similar happened with Deutsche Telekom in Germany. They built a fibre network through the former DDR but borrowed heavily to finance it. The things is that nobody was going to pay for that capacity at a premium price. Telekom didn't mess around with their predictions in the way that Worldcom did, but they also came unstuck.

    The problem comes down to the revenue models and the telecom analysts in the banks. If I have a bank of 64K connections and I upgrade them to 1024K, I can't simply charge 16 times the price. A few customers can afford this (think banks), but many others can not.

    Capacity including dark fibre definitely was doubling every 100 days but usage wasn't and certainly not revenue.

    • yeah but (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lingqi (577227)
      there really isn't a way around that you know -- i hate the phrase "viscious cycle" but it's very necessary to use it here.

      there are some basic facts we have to deal with when doing this

      1) laying 1 fibre vs. laying 32 fibres costs about the same
      2) you need to lay tons of fibres regardless (because the US is sparced out compared to, say, Tokyo / Seoul)
      3) you need capacity *today*. not 32-fibre worth of capacity, maybe 1 or 2 fibre worth.
      4) you probabbly need the 32-fibre worth of capacity in the future -- okay -- not the *near* future, but you know for a fact it will be utilized later

      so basically, you need to invest in this infrastructure regardless -- because let's face it, you need them damn fibre runs even for today's economy. the choice boils down to
      1) you spend 85 billion for 2 fibres today, and another 80 3 years later when you need to double the capacity
      2) you spend 100 billion for 32 fibres today, and be home free for 12 years or so.

      okay -- simplified math, bs statistics. but pretty much the same point.

      if you were the CEO / CTO, what's gonna be your plan? i know i will bank on the 100 billion.

      so they took a bet and ran out of $$ before it turned profitable. but it's was a lost gamble -- not a bad decision.

      i like to point out that the interstate highway system is pretty much the same except the US got enough cash to cover it while it slowly became... profitable (on a entire economy scale)
      • The issue is that it is questionable whether the 85 billion investment should have been made, it is then even more doubtful about the 100 billion.

        Is it really such a gamble, are the revenue models that bad or are the ones that get used somehat unrealistic? Unlit fibre isn't an issue, but overborrowing is.

      • The real problem was that too many companies all made the same calculation at the same time, when only a few could possibly survive. An interesting variation was everyone assuming they could rent out excess capacity to cover the costs, when so many companies were building their own extra capacity to rent out, rather than renting it themselves.

        When ten companies all accumulate huge debts with the aim of repaying it when they get 50% market share (especially when they drastically overestimate the market size), it's pretty clear that several are going to be very disappointed.

        For the world, this fiber is valuable. It just isn't valuable enough to justify the huge investment that it required. Now that these companies go bankrupt, the huge debts will get swapped for equity, and they will hopefully be able to turn a profit, once they have basically gotten the fiber for free.

        Of course, this equity swap only happens once the common stock becomes worthless. Keep in mind that once WorldCom has gotten through bankruptcy, their lower debt burden will be a huge advantage, and they will probably end up driving other telecoms bankrupt as they try to compete.
      • if you were the CEO / CTO, what's gonna be your plan? i know i will bank on the 100 billion.

        OK, but would you hide billions in expenses (commit fraud) along the way ??

    • Interesting. This situation is going to be very good news for some people and very bad for others. The good news is for bandwidth customers, since whoever buys up Worldcom's assets won't have to repay their debt, and will be able to charge low prices for bandwidth. The bad news is that the investors who financed this infrastructure can say bye-bye to their money.
      • Wasn't this what happened with Iridium?

        Someone mentioned the Federal highway system (note Federal), another analogy was the early days of the railroad. This is perhaps a better analogy because of the bubbles, corporate shenanigans and general dodgy practices involved during the early days.

        • You're right about Iridium. The new owners could never afford to operate it if they had to cover the original startup costs. But I don't get the big about railways and highways.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:18PM (#3946512)
    Bill Gate's nett worth
    Microsoft's profits
    Windows bugs
    IIS security holes
    The number of digits in the latest I.E. version number
    The megabytage of Windows Media Player
    The number of countries George Bush wants to bomb
    The length of Richard Stallman's beard
    The number of trolls on Slashdot
  • by guacamolefoo (577448) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:21PM (#3946533) Homepage Journal
    This issue (a dubious statistic repeated infinitely in press) results from the fact that facts are not checked thoroughly before publication. This sort of stuff happened with the stats the women's movement used, environmentalists, conservative groups, etc. The number of women dying from eating disorders was a classic error that was endlessly cycled and never questioned until the misconception was permanently rooted in the public consciousness.

    Every interest group pushing an agenda (yes, even profit-seeking corporations seeking to sell more bandwith) seems to come up with some dubious statistic like this. The media gobble up press releases, disguised oftentimes as "studies" which are bought and paid for by the interest group, and they spit them out on in the newspapers and other media outlets, sometimes virtually unchanged.

    I am not surprised by the Economist's story -- I am surprised that it took so long for it to make it into print. I wonder how many times the Economist itself published that same "fact" before discovering that the emporer had no clothes.

    • In the early 1950's (1952?) Isaac Asimov wrote an article called "The sound of panting". It traced the origin and persistence of errors in biology textbooks.

      This might be worth reading before one gets too worked up about news stories propagating errors. It seems to be a problem that can't be avoided, even with reasonable care. (And, as his examples prooved, sufficient care could usually avoid the problem.)

    • Moral: The media are stupid and lazy

      I wholeheartedly agree--up to a point. There are a small number of top-notch journalists, who really do objective well-rounded reporting. Unfortunately, it really is a small number of journalists. Also, unfortunately, they tend to report on lesser-viewed channels, such as some radio, public TV, and some magazines.

      The rest of the journalism industry is an overpopulated mass of careless wannabees who jump on anything even remotely reportable. Just look at local TV news, local newspapers, most of the national TV networks, most national newspapers, and, recently, most Internet news sites. All they do is propogate rumors, who-cares stories about kidnapped rich kids, slanderous stories about accused criminals, and tonight's prime-time lineup. Truly pathetic, given that they are the most watched and have the greatest influence on public opinion.
    • What does this have to do with media, guaco? A child knows not to believe everything in the newspapers. This is misinformation from sources with legal and fiduciary responsibility to act forthrightly. This is financial analysts spouting press releases as research, accountants fudging figures, corporate execs talking up the sleeves of their $3,000 suits in their annual reports.

      The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers. --Thomas Jefferson.
    • Are other companies that claim to track Internet usage next?

      Look at Alexa, for example. It claims to know where people surf, but it's information is biased toward people who use Alexa. Yes, I realize it's built into Mozilla, but most people don't use Mozilla and aren't going to download Alexa. It's interesting to note that Alexa claims to be the 10th-most-visited site on the Web, but if a user has to talk to alexa.com each time it makes a report, shouldn't alexa be number one on their list? It's not because that would cause people to suspect that their rankings were false. Still, they report that Alexa.com and go.com (which officially died over a year ago) beat out AOL, MSNBC, Amazon, Lycos, CNN, etc.

      I've always wondered about Media Metrix. Every news organizations seems to quote their "reports," as authoritative fact, but no one (including MM) has any way of verifying the information about where traffic goes on the Web.

      Last I checked, MM functioned by paying a chosen cross-section of the population to allow their surfing to be monitored. Based on their viewing habits, MM believes claims it can tellBut the Web is not like broadcast TV where you have less than a dozen options to choose from, or cable with a few hundred at most. The Web is more fragmented than any other medium. It's so easy to publish and exchange information that one can find one or more sites tailored to just about any interest imaginable. You can't just guess where everyone goes based on a miniscule percentage of the population (watch, a MM troll will "refute" this in a moment by claiming I don't understand statistics).

      It's interesting to note that each of these news organizations that quotes media metrix pays MM a hefty sum for this reports on a regular basis. Nearly all the companies that MM claims are among the most-popular do this because they want to be able to show their bosses and shareholders how well they're doing on the Web -- this includes the news organizations. So we have a never-ending circle in which companies pay MM to tell them what they want to hear. I believe that if you have a business proposition to sell that involves the Web, MM has a "report" to back you up -- for a price.

      Is it only a matter of time before we discover that MM's reports are based on the same self-interested lies as WorldCom's claims about Internet traffic? Or will the marketing industry succeed in fiercely defending its irrefutable source?

    • The true fallacy is not necessarily that statistics are made up or are wrong. The problem is that statistics themselves are just numbers that do not tell a complete story. The compelling question in any of these interests is not necessarily "how many" but "why are there that many?" For example, some hispanic interest group recently named St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio as one of the "Top 5 Law Schools for Hispanics." I remember being shocked, because I'm from the area and I know that St. Mary's basically sucks. I went on to read the article and found that the ranking was basically based on the ratio of hispanic students to white students in the schools studied and nothing else. Specifically excluded from the ranking was the percentage of students that actually pass the State Bar Exam (St. Mary's is one of the lowest in the nation on this statistic right now). The interest group had an axe to grind: higher admission rates for hispanic students. It doesn't matter if they are getting a quality education, it just matters that by claiming higher admission rates, they can claim a victory for their specific agenda. The reason St. Mary's has a high percentage of hispanic students is that San Antonio has a high percentage of hispanics (pretty close to 50%). It had nothing to do with St. Mary's being more "enlightened" or "tolerant" of racial diversity. The statistic simply told that St. Mary's was located in a predominantly hispanic area. What was interesting was that on the same list, an Ivy League school (I forget which) located much farther north and east (i.e. further away from Mexico), which had a lower overall hispanic population, also ranked very high on the list. In that case, the statistic really did represent something about the school other than its location, but again, the statistic by itself did not reveal what that something was. Only an in-depth analysis of the school, its culture, admission procedures and criteria and academic environment could have given a hint of what that something was. There we have two schools examined in the same study, gaining somewhat similar scores on the applied scale, and the statistics tell two completely different stories. Reducing people, institutions and other complex phenomena to simple data points is good only for those who then take the statistics and manipulate them to tell the story they want told.
  • by RumGunner (457733) <rumgunner&hotmail,com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:22PM (#3946540) Homepage
    Usage tends to grow by leaps and bounds every time someone comes up with a new file sharing protocol.

    Maybe that statement was from the good ol' days of Napster.
  • This perversion of Moore's Law was a fault (in part by the telecom industry for believing the hype that the rest of the money grubbing industries where touting. Movies over the Net. Everyone telecommuting. Attend college classes from home. More retail content than you can choke on. Plus a bevy of other "wouldn't it be cool" party line hype that drove the bubble. Me? I blame it on the GUI and Mouse. If it wasn't for those things, the Net would still be a usefull place (tool, etc).
  • by EMDischarge (589758)
    WorldCom isn't the first telecom to go bankrupt. This trend in this industry is just accelerating. Blame it on the classic business cycle: overbuilding, in this case excess capacity, traditionally overflowing inventories, usually are the downfall of boom times. This is especially true in the telecom industry. Sure, there's capacity, but instead of lowering prices to encourage consumption, the telecoms have to meet the bottom line. Unfortunately for some this is causing an industry shake-out.
  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:29PM (#3946593) Homepage
    LightReading [lightreading.com] had a very well-researched [lightreading.com] article about this earlier in the week. Here's a quote from the article, where a former employee explains the numbers:
    Here's how it worked, according to the former WorldCom employee: WorldCom would hook up new customers with connections capable of handling, say, up to 1.5 Mbit/s of data, knowing that for most of the time the lines would only carry a fraction of this amount. WorldCom would then use the 1.5 Mbit/s figures, not the actual traffic figures, when citing Internet traffic growth statistics.

    "There was massive connectivity growth, but UUNET's business wasn't growing as much, "says the former employee.
    UUNET was (still is?) a division of Worldcom.
  • Typical (Score:4, Funny)

    by llamalicious (448215) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:35PM (#3946644) Journal
    The next thing you know, they'll be telling us computers double in speed every 18 months!

    er.
    • Re:Typical (Score:3, Funny)

      by zCyl (14362)
      The next thing you know, they'll be telling us computers double in speed every 18 months!

      That's all lies! I've been watching mine since I bought it, and the damn thing is still going the same speed...

  • Worldcom Blame... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kakarat (595386) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:35PM (#3946646)
    I am sure that Worldcom's bloated statistics did mislead some, however it's quite convenient where the other companies are laying the blame.

    Rival telecoms companies believed the myth and cited UUNET's figures, even if their own traffic figures disagreed.

    I find it disturbing that these rival telecom companies aren't making their own decisions. "Tech: Sir, we are only using 3% of our bandwidth and 45% of the nations traffic traverse our networks. CEO: Damnit, can't you hear? We need more bandwidth!! MOORRRREEE!!!!"

  • Worldcom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs (35943) <ajs@@@ajs...com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:36PM (#3946651) Homepage Journal
    Meanwhile, MCI/Worldcom/UUNET was dubbed "Whipping Boy of the Hour" by 17 leading pseudo-news organizations around the world.

    Why is it that we pretend that such over-zealous predictions are unique?

    Worldcom is in trouble so attacking them is easy: they have bigger fish to fry. If you go after Sprint this way, those bastards might sue you!
  • by realgone (147744) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:37PM (#3946663)
    "The number of articles written about WorldCom and its ilk doubles every 100 days."

  • I think the Economist strectched the facts a bit here...

    For one Odlyzko's article first appeared in 1998. People in the network community were refering to it back in 2000.

    Also they are trying to pin the blame on Worldcom (kick them while they are down). If the AT&T executives failed to listen to their foremost expert why is that Worldcom's problem? The data Odlyzko quotes from MAE and other NAPs is publicly available. It was very easy for anybody to check and see if data was doubling or not...

  • As soon as the company files for ch. 11, we start blamming them for everything!
  • Of course the statistic was bogus. 47.2% of all statistics are made up.
  • Maybe they were saying stuff like this to get government aid for laying fiber optic lines? Fiber can hold a buttload of bandwidth... Maybe they were too cheap (too busy with accounting bullcrap?) to lay lots of it on their own dime?

  • Woo Hoo!! With all that extra bandwidth available, we should see prices dropping Real Soon Now!

    What's the world record for holding your breath?

  • If capacity has grown 500x in the last 5 years, and if demand has only quadrupled (4x), then webhosting should be dirt cheap, right???

    After all, all of this overbuilding was for backbones and not the last mile, right?

    So why are webhosting companies still charging $20 for 20 GB/month transfer rate, which is a little more monthly transfer rate than that of a 56K modem?

    Does anybody have an real insight into the problem, and how I might go about exploiting it?
    After all, How can we help the telecom industry if they can't give us discounts to access these overbuilt networks?

  • Some empirical data (Score:3, Informative)

    by swm (171547) <swmcd@world.std.com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:05PM (#3946841) Homepage
    from Jakob Nielsen

    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9509.html
  • by macdaddy (38372) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:12PM (#3946883) Homepage Journal
    ...when suits make decisions and don't believe what their own highly trained, highly experienced, and usually certified staff tell them. Believe me, I'm experiencing this first hand.
  • The RIAA and MPAA. Their clampdown is the reason for the diminishment of growth in network traffic.
  • The ISP's thought they could recover the losses on delivering bandwidth with the upcoming content buisiness. What they failed to see whas that no one would be buying content until the bandwidth was enough to support content like video and such at an acceptable quality. 512 kbit/s isnt near enough for semi quality video (no glitches and acceptable resolution). Bandwidth demand wont rise much until there is content that demands it and vice versa. If i do the things i do today i really dont need more bandwidth. I surf and d/l and chat. If i dont take pirating movies into the account there are few occasions where i really would benifit from having more bandwidth. A faster ping might help me when i run around fragging in fraggelonia but all the bandwidth in the world wont matter a bit. If movie companies start renting out movies on the net and does it broadly it would create a big demand for bandwidth but it has to happen at the same time and not one a while after the other. Worldcom and other ISP's have been waiting on the content companies and vice versa.
  • At that rate (doubling every 100 days) it only takes 8.9 years to go from 1 to 6.32 billion. How many people are there on earth? Oh yeah, 6.32 billion.

    Hmmm.... something smells fishy.

    -

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