The UK could be forced to introduce Internet rationing, following warnings it could consume the nation’s entire power supply within 20 years.
Experts say the UK is close to “filling up” its network of optical fibres, with the demands of video-streaming websites like YouTube, iPlayer and Netflix putting an unprecedented strain on communications infrastructure.
Industry figures will be meeting at London’s Royal Society later this month to discuss the impending “capacity crunch” facing Britain’s Internet companies, and experts said that with devices such as PCs and TVs included, Internet transmission already accounts for between 8 and 16 per cent of Britain’s power.
Andrew Ellis, professor of optical communications at Aston University, said rationing Internet use or charging more so that more cables can be installed may need to be considered. Unless action is taken, optical fibres could reach their limit within eight years.
“Since we had the first modem, the capacity people have been able to achieve has been growing exponentially, doubling every two years,” he said. “We can’t get much more capacity in one fibre, and there have been signs of slowing since 2010.
Ellis said the major telcos alone account for national energy consumption equivalent to the output of three nuclear power stations, and rising Internet demand could consume the nation’s entire power supply by 2035.