Be­ware jams on the in­for­ma­tion su­per­high­way says David Behrens

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Gadgets& Gear -

YOU’RE fa­mil­iar, I’m sure, with the chaos en­su­ing from the school run, when the roads be­come choked with traf­fic at eight in the morn­ing and four in the af­ter­noon. What you may not know is that the su­per­high­way has it as bad, if not worse, than the reg­u­lar high­ways.

Chil­dren of all ages have dis­cov­ered YouTube. For many of them it has taken over from tele­vi­sion as the de facto mode of en­ter­tain­ment, and the ef­fect of all that video stream­ing across the in­ter­net is enough to bring it to a shud­der­ing halt. The fact that that doesn’t hap­pen gives you some idea of the scale of its in­fra­struc­ture.

The av­er­age wired fam­ily now hoovers up broad­band data at a rate that was un­think­able just a few years ago. The iPlayer, on­line gam­ing and file down­load­ing have all contributed to this. But mainly it’s YouTube. There is, says Kelly Dorset, head of prod­ucts at the Sh­effield-based broad­band sup­plier Plus­net, a clear spike in con­sump­tion as chil­dren log on from their phones and PCs to con­sume videos over their break­fast ce­re­als, and again when they re­turn from school. Of­ten, he says, they don’t watch at all but sim­ply lis­ten to mu­sic.

In my teenage years, the qual­ity of the mu­sic counted for ev­ery­thing. But to­day, it’s all about con­ve­nience. And since home band­width is still cheap com­pared to mo­bile data, kids think noth­ing of stream­ing in pic­tures they’re not even watch­ing.

The evening sees the suck­ing up of yet more data, as dif­fer­ent mem­bers of the fam­ily take to Face­book, the web, Netflix and other ser­vices, of­ten all at the same time. Yet it’s still just the tip of the ice­berg. The in­creas­ing use of set-top boxes ca­pa­ble of stream­ing TV pro­grammes in high def­i­ni­tion will, says, Dorset, sig­nal an even more dra­matic rise in con­sump­tion. Such boxes will soon mi­grate to the main­stream, he says, and own­ers will want to use them to their full po­ten­tial.

The other ac­tiv­ity most likely to drain band­width is known as peer-to-peer down­load­ing, a mech­a­nism for ac­cess­ing files stored across the in­ter­net by mul­ti­ple users si­mul­ta­ne­ously. This is as­so­ci­ated with the il­le­gal shar­ing of movies and soft­ware. But, as Dorset points out, it’s also be­ing used in­creas­ingly, and legally, for dis­tribut­ing games.

All of which points to the ad­van­tage of choos­ing a broad­band deal that doesn’t limit your monthly us­age. I’d hate you to have to be the one who has to tell a teenager that their break­fast view­ing has been in­ter­rupted.

EAT­ING DATA: Teenagers’ videos over break­fast are heavy on the megabytes.

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