If you have a fast broadband Internet connection, enjoy it while it's still fast. According to a study by Nemertes Research, video and interactive web sites will begin to overwhelm Internet service providers as early as 2010.
"Users will experience a slow, subtle degradation, so it's back to the bad old days of dial-up," Nemertes President Johna Till Johnson told USA Today. "The cool stuff that you'll want to do will be such a pain in the rear that you won't do it."
According to the report, cable and phone companies, which provide 94% of the United States' broadband access, must invest about $55 billion to upgrade their networks to cope with the coming bottleneck. That is far more than planned, says Nemertes.
The biggest upgrades will need to be made in upstream data capacity. Until recently, the web was mainly read-only, and service providers built their networks around downloading. But with the explosion of video and photo sharing, self publishing (blogging, etc.), and bandwidth-intensive activities like video conferencing, networks will begin to feel the strain on the upstream end.
"Two years ago, nobody knew what YouTube was," said Johnson. "Now, it's generating 27 petabytes of data per month."
Much of the cost of upgrading will be in installation of higher-capacity lines, according to the Nemertes study. Verizon's new fiber optic service, FiOS, which reaches 1.3 million users in the US (myself included) is a start, but the study implies that the upgrade may not be happening fast enough to stave off an impending bandwidth crunch.