More than a week after the Taiwan earthquake which damaged a number of undersea optic fiber communications cable (see: Taiwan Earthquake Rocks Internet Marketing World), things are still not quite up to speed.
Although there is Internet connectivity in the 99% region, the available bandwidth has been affected. I estimate that in Asia (southwards of Taiwan) are probably at about 60%-80% of the pre-earthquake levels. I suspect the Internet Service Providers might be metering the bandwidth and skewing more resources towards corporates.
Although I have both cable modem and DSL connections, I’m finding that hosted applications like web-based email, my WordPress blog (which is hosted on a US server) and especially photo stock archives like Sxc.hu have excruciatingly slow load times. Lag times of 10-20 seconds for WordPress page loads are common, and widgets like MyBlogLog slow it down even further. It feels like we’ve moved back to the 28.8kbps dial-up modem days.
Being hostage to fast big data pipes is one bugbear we’ll have to deal with, especially as web applications are, well, more web-based. We’ll increasingly be held to the mercy of fiber optic (or should that be optic fiber? I’ve heard it used both ways) cables.
YouTube and other video streaming sites have pretty much come to a screaming halt for me.
I was checking out Kris Jone’s PepperJamBlog post “The Next Lonely Girl – ShmulTube is on Fire” about Shmuly Tennenhaus and was looking forward to viewing Shmuly work out at the Walmart Center. All I get is a black screen.
Having a vulnerability such as being subject to a major POP (point of presence) through Taiwan will put a major dent in the Asia’s plans to lead the technological charge. Singapore’s recently rolled out free wireless broadband Internet access in the city center. This will be fairly hollow if we can’t surf out of the country at fast speeds.
Content will be one of the major determinant of success, as well as choke points in this drive, especially since the majority of content resides mainly in the US.
Although the government have activated contingency plans to route data through alternative routes, it clearly isn’t providing the same quality of service. “404 Page Not Found” errors are becoming a daily occurence.
If my business was primarily audio or video-based, or I used VoIP applications like Skype for the majority of my business communications, the estimated two week period to repair the underseas cables would make a major dent in my revenue and profits. Certainly not a good start to 2007.
I’ve heard some advice such as using an Australian public proxy to get faster browsing, but I think it’s more a stopgap measure more than anything.
If Asia plans to stay on track after we recover from this round of natural diaster (and my heart goes out to the people of Taiwan), telcos will need to continue to invest in more infrastructure.
As the Web continues to become more bandwidth intensive, we’ll experience the equivalent of ‘bandwidth blackouts’ and that certainly isn’t anything to look forward to.