Ars Technica's Nate Anderson does a nice job evaluating the claims coming from Internet research firm Nemertes Research, who made headlines in 2007 by predicting a huge spike in traffic by 2010 (the "exaflood") that would cause internet "brownouts" (Nemertes' answer was to limit what people were allowed to do on the internet by giving ISPs the power to cut off access to services that they didn't like).
Now, Nemertes has a new claim: that net neutrality -- the idea that ISPs should manage their networks to deliver the bytes you requested as quickly as possible, rather than slowing down some bytes if they're sent by companies that refuse to pay bribes for "premium" access to you -- will result in a netpocalypse where we have to pay for every byte we receive.
Fortunately, actual Internet traffic growth rates are between 50-60 percent year over year, not 100 percent, according to the authoritative MINTS project at the University of Minnesota. And in countries like Canada (where carriers revealed much of their data to regulators as part of a net neutrality hearing), growth rates have dropped from 53 percent (2005-2006) to 44 percent (2006-2007) to 32 percent (2007-2008).
The Internet's core has plenty of bandwidth, so traffic growth really poses the biggest problem for access lines. Fortunately, big gains in capacity in the last mile aren't "excruciatingly expensive." While Johnson's single example is the most expensive last-mile buildout in the US (Verizon's transition from copper lines to fiber optics), cable and DSL operators can upgrade their lines for bargain basement prices by adopting DOCSIS 3.0 (cable) or by running fiber deeper into the network (as with AT&T's U-verse, which already offers 18Mbps connections over copper wire compared to 6Mbps on the rest of its network).
Even Verizon, which is dropping $18 billion on the job, is doing so in the very sort of environment that Johnson says will sink the 'Net--one where neutrality is assumed and differential protocol pricing is not utilized.