While most people have been worrying about the obvious effects of an H1N1 epidemic — you know, stuff like people dying, vaccine shortages, overcrowded hospitals, that kind of thing — the Government Accountability Office has identified a terrifying new threat linked to the flu: It will bring the Internet to its knees, as millions of bedridden patients spend all of their idle hours online.
According to a report by the oversight agency:
Concerns exist that a more severe pandemic outbreak than 2009’s could cause large numbers of people staying home to increase their Internet use and overwhelm Internet providers’ network capacities. Increased demand during a severe pandemic could exceed the capacities of Internet providers’ access networks for residential users and interfere with teleworkers in the securities market and other sectors.
The 77-page report recommends that one effective way to deal with the coming flu-driven Internet meltdown would be “voluntary public reduction of Internet use,” including asking those sick, bored, bedridden patients to “limit video streaming, gaming and peer-to-peer and other bandwidth-intensive applications during daytime work hours.”
While we’re sure the GAO is simply trying to avoid any serious flu-related infrastructure crises, we’re with StorefrontBacktalk on this one. As that site recently said:
Somehow, this report just doesn’t add up. The premise comes down to the fact that a sharply increased bandwidth load will disrupt sites. That makes sense, but the argument that homebound workers and students will cause that sharp increase in bandwidth is where this argument falls apart. Isn’t it likely that the homebound workers would simply be downloading and sending the same files they would have at the office, making the overall bandwidth impact a wash? To get nitpicky, we can assume that a flu-infected worker might be downloading less than at the office because the worker would have to spend some of that time dealing with flu-related activities (that seems to be the least graphic way of describing it).
There is one way we’re willing to accept the report’s recommendations, however. As of now, we’re cutting out one bandwidth-intensive activity: Downloading 77-page government reports about the flu’s effect on Internet usage.
U.S. Govt. Report: The Flu May Cause E-Commerce Site Outages [Storefront Backtalk]
Influenza Pandemic: Key Securities Market Participants Are Making Progress, but Agencies Could Do More to Address Potential Internet Congestion and Encourage Readiness [GAO]
(Photo: Laptop Laidback)