From the streaming television to the conference room, bandwidth has become a major concern for just about everyone online. With more than 2.4 billion people using the Internet for everything from surfing the Internet and checking email, to venturing into an online class, bandwidth is becoming a precious commodity for modern business, education, and entertainment.

If you are not familiar with it, bandwidth is the total amount of information that can flow through the various channels of the Internet; it’s not a measure of speed, so much, but of the capacity. When the Internet was in its infancy, it was primarily dedicated to research and educational ventures, mainly because not much else required Internet access. However, when the Internet, as we know it, came to fruition around 1995, bandwidth limitations became a critical issue. As more and more of the public wanted to jump on the Internet bandwagon, the Internet began to experience “traffic jams.”  And soon the problem was exacerbated by application development in the areas of communication and entertainment.

The Internet has serves as a gateway to an endless supply of information. It is a much easier, and significantly more time-efficient, to access information via the Internet rather than searching through a card catalog at the library. Now, we simply flick on the computer and type our query into a search engine and we are instantly presented with a seemingly endless supply of results. You can search for anything; from recipes to long-lost relatives, there is nothing that you cannot find on the Internet. Many people are active participants in blogging and social media, which is another great way to stay connected, however, all of these activities require bandwidth.

Let’s look at a few of the statistics: according to TeleGeography, international bandwidth availability has soared over the years from 1.4 terabytes per second in 2002, to an astonishing 92.1 terabytes per second in 2012. They project these numbers will reach 607 terabytes per second by 2020. This is largely due to the fact that technology is becoming more affordable, as well as, more readily available to a larger portion of communities. Research has also shown that peak Internet usage is between the hours of 9 p.m. to midnight, and during this time, traffic is at its highest on streaming services, social media, and other data sharing sites. The amount of traffic is expected to increase threefold by 2017, amounting to the equivalent of 720 million people streaming a high-definition video continuously.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic: Netflix accounts for 33% of all streaming traffic during peak hours in North America. Meanwhile, Facebook accounts for 37% of all social networking traffic. This is a bit surprising, considering it’s down from 54% in November 2011. An astounding 35% of all Internet downloads are pornographic in nature. One of the most popular sites hosts over 100TB of content and serves more than 100 million page views per day, which equates to an average of 950 terabytes of data transferred per day!

Take a look at this infographic from WhoIsHostingThis? to see how bandwidth use has evolved:

Another element that has effected the demand on bandwidth is our increased usage of mobile devices. As of 2013, nearly one in three website visits were made from mobile devices. Taking online classes, staying connected, and shopping online can all be done from tablets and smartphone; however, they all demand their share of the Internet traffic. This is not taking into consideration the  thousands of Internet-enabled games, apps, and stores accessed and utilized by millions of people daily. From our gaming consoles to streaming boxes, the Internet is a very prevalent part of our lives.

How does this compare to the way you spend your time on the Internet? Have you noticed any decrease in Internet speed during peak hours?

Featured photo credit: World Map/Flickr via nationsonline.org

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