Quartz: The Internet Has Been Quietly Rewired, and Video Is the Reason Why

October 21, 2016

The growing demand for streaming video has shifted the structure of the Internet and created an added hurdle for rural service providers in the process, according to a recent article in  

Video now accounts for an estimated 70 percent of all Internet traffic, with more than 800,000 minutes of video streamed per second each day, with up to 40 percent of peak time usage attributed to Netflix alone.

In order to minimize or completely eliminate interruptions and the dreaded buffering wheel, infrastructure has quickly expanded in the form of content delivery networks, or CDNs.

These private networks are owned by the some of the world’s biggest tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, and a handful of firms that specialize in their operation, that run in parallel to the Internet’s core traffic routes rather than rely on a single centralized server. 

From Quartz:

“The shift has been so pronounced that nearly half of all traffic flowing over the Internet today actually traverses these parallel routes, according to data from research firm TeleGeography. It’s a fundamental change to the way data has been routed over the Internet for decades, which was classically conceived of as a tiered hierarchy of Internet providers, with about a dozen large networks comprising the ‘backbone’ of the Internet. The Internet today is no longer tiered; instead, the experts who measure the global network have a new description for what’s going on: it’s the flattening of the Internet.”

The new networks represent a shift in how content goes from the producer to the consumer, as Google, Netflix and other larger producers now have more control over dissemination. That shift has also left some users underserved who live in rural communities or other areas with a relatively low population density.

About 3 million subscribers use wireless Internet service providers, or WISPs. Companies such as Rise Broadband have acquired 112 other WISPs in the last 10 years, with plans to buy more. The largest WISP has about 150,000 subscribers, but the next largest provider has about a tenth of those numbers. Read the full story here.

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