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Report: Internet Traffic Expected to Triple by 2018

FILE: Sites such as YouTube help make video the dominant force in U.S. Internet consumption, a new Cisco Systems report finds.
Faster broadband speeds, more users and more video viewing are expected to nearly triple the world’s Internet traffic in five years, a new report projects.

The annual report by Cisco Systems Inc. – a California-based firm that makes networking equipment and analyzes devices, connections and data – predicts that by 2018 global Internet Protocol (IP) traffic for fixed and mobile devices will reach an annual usage rate of 1.6 zettabytes. (According to, a single zettabyte contains a billion terabytes – itself an almost-incomprehensible figure.)

The report, released Tuesday, also says video is expected to grow from 78 percent of current U.S. Internet traffic to 84 percent by 2018. That raises questions about whether Internet service providers should prioritize traffic, a controversial issue.

Cisco’s report comes as the Federal Communications Commission debates legislation on Internet traffic, or "net neutrality," that could allow telecommunications companies the right to prioritize some traffic.

Consumer groups and some businesses have criticized the proposed revisions, saying they would create "fast lanes" for companies that pay up and slower traffic for others.

Cisco’s vice president of government and community relations, Jeff Campbell, told Reuters that "as the FCC looks at rewriting its net neutrality rules, it is important that we allow for things like managed services and specialized services that can provide new applications for consumers."

Not all Internet traffic will be the same, according to the report. Internet-connected medical devices, for example, would have a different data profile than video streaming and a higher speed urgency.

Diminishing role for PCs

By 2018, the report forecasts, most Internet traffic "will originate from devices other than personal computers," with Wi-Fi overtaking wired devices and high-definition (HD) video surpassing standard definition.

The FCC voted 3-2 last month to offer a plan that could allow major Internet service providers such as AT&T and Comcast to make deals with companies such as Google and Facebook that would enable faster content delivery for consumers.

Upon releasing its proposed “net neutrality” rules May 15, the FCC set a 120-day period for public comment, with 60 days for initial comments and another 60 days for responses.

PC World reported last week that the FCC had received more than 64,000 comments, with 45,000 in May. It said thousands appear to have been generated by a comedic piece skewering the FCC and broadband providers. First airing on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” it got more than 1.6 million hits on YouTube.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.