But is this just another Marty Rimm study?
Rimm, you may or may not remember, wrote a paper at Georgetown Law in 1995 claiming 85% of Web traffic was dirty pictures. This was later disproved, but the damage was done and Congress passed the ill-fated Communications Decency Act.
Mike Godwin, the former EFF counsel who fought the Rimm study and is now senior counsel at Public Knowledge, remains skeptical, noting that the Cachelogic study hasn't gone through peer review. He also notes that, since Cachelogic sells systems to control P2P traffic, it has a natural bias.
The Cachelogic claims may have logic behind them, however. Many ISPs do report that over half their traffic is on ports commonly used by P2P applications. Brett Glass of Lariat.Net, near the University of Wyoming, says the claim seems accurate, noting that unless ISPs cut-back capacity to those ports (a process called P2P Mitigation), the applications quickly discover the fat pipe and divert everyone's traffic to it, filling it at the cost of thousands per month.
And that is at the heart of the problem.
Any protocol that grabs all available bandwidth is truly viral in nature. When ISPs try to throttle back such protocols, or ban the applications' use, new versions of the software simply break the port system, pushing the traffic onto even Port 80, used for Web activities, or Port 25, used for e-mail.
What the Copyright Wars set in motion wasn't just mass defiance, but mass hoarding of content. (Picture from Healthyplace.Com.) Millions of people are afraid that the industry will succeed, that content will become unavailable at a reasonable price. So they go online to get copies of all their favorite stuff, and hoard it.
These fears, like the Cachelogic study, are not irrational. As Michael Geist notes in his Lawbytes column this week, Canadian artists are now trying to destroy the iPod and Webcasting with outrageous demands for half or more of gross revenues from these new media. News like this simply stimulates more hoarding.
What is happening in the market is that bandwidth demand is growing to absorb even the excess capacity created by Moore's Law of Bandwidth, or DWDM.
But the price of bandwidth is being raised artificially, by activities that are essentially waste. If the problem of spam was solved, and if the Copyright Wars were ended so people felt comfortable they could get the content they wanted at a reasonable price, then actual demand for bandwidth would drop sharply. This fact makes it impossible for a private company to reasonably plan new capacity, except under government control or with government guarantees. As governments gain more control over Internet capacity, the temptation for them to control Internet activity will increase.
We're heading for a crisis.