The US government has issued a new report that recommends blocking access to popular websites during a pandemic outbreak in order to preserve internet bandwidth for investors, day traders and securities clearing house operations. The concern is that a pandemic would cause too many people to stay at home and download YouTube videos and porn, hogging all the internet bandwidth and blocking throughput for investment activities, thereby causing a stock market meltdown.
This isn’t an April Fool’s joke. It’s all based on a public report issued by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), available from their website at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d108.pdf
In this article, I’m going to explain how a pandemic outbreak could theoretically bring down Wall Street. But to get to that, you’ll first need to find out what the GAO said in its curious report (see below). Parts of this article are presented as satire, but the underlying facts quoted here are all true and verifiable (links are provided to all sources).
This report in question is entitled, “GAO Report to Congressional Requesters, INFLUENZA PANDEMIC” and includes this subtitle: Key Securities Market Participants Are Making Progress, but Agencies Could Do More to Address Potential Internet Congestion and Encourage Readiness.
As the report explains:
In a severe pandemic, governments may close schools, shut down public transportation systems, and ban public gatherings such as concerts or sporting events. In such scenarios, many more people than usual may be at home during the day, and Internet use in residential neighborhoods could increase significantly as a result of people seeking news, entertainment, or social contact from home computers. Concerns have been raised that this additional traffic could lead to congestion on the Internet that would significantly affect businesses in local neighborhoods, such as small doctors’ offices or business employees attempting to telework by connecting to their employers’ enterprise networks.
Can Hulu, Twitter and porn destroy Wall Street?
To translate this concern of the GAO, what they’re saying is that if too many people stay home and use the internet, Wall Street might not be able to function smoothly. Therefore, in order to protect Wall Street (because as you know, our government does everything possible to bail out Wall Street), the feds might need to shut down some popular websites.
But where, exactly, is all the bandwidth usage really coming from? Twitter uses virtually no bandwidth, given that it’s a short, text-based messaging service. Text articles also don’t use up much bandwidth. In terms of clogging the internet’s “series of tubes” (to use a hilarious term coined by a U.S. Senator), the real culprits are videos. While a Twitter text message might be less than 1k in size, a typical video is 350MB, or roughly 350,000 times larger than a Twitter message.
So where, exactly, are people getting video downloads? The most popular non-porn video destinations today are MySpaceTV.com, YouTube.com, LiveLeak.com, Yahoo Video and Hulu.com. But as it turns out, even these highly popular websites may not account for most internet traffic.
P2P traffic uses the most bandwidth