Is it possible that too much traffic can “break” the Internet?

April 12, 2021
Is it possible that too much traffic can “break” the Internet?
In January 2021 the Northeastern coast of the United States experienced numerous problems with Internet connectivity.

In many cities access to the Internet was completely shut down. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Zoom, Slack, and some other services didn’t work. According to the Bloomberg agency, the reason was an unexpectedly quick increase in the load on providers’ networks due to the growth of Internet traffic.

After one of them made adjustments to its peer-to-peer system it triggered an unintended surge in traffic which overloaded several networks along the East Coast. Bloomberg agency sources accord that the incident was not related to hacker activity.

In March 2020 at the request of EU authorities, Netflix and YouTube were reducing the quality of their streaming video to offload the networks of telecom operators. During the coronavirus pandemic in May 2020, former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that regulators in the country “don’t know” what amount of money telecom operators will need to spend to upgrade infrastructure to handle the load. In many states traffic has increased by almost 100% and at this time the situation was similar in other countries of the world.

The obvious question comes up: is it possible that too much Internet traffic can “break” the Internet? Even though the pandemic is in retreat now and it seems that the Internet is unscathed, what if it was just good luck and the next time the Internet will break? Let’s try to figure it out.

What’s really going on with the network

According to experts from the American Foundation for Information Technology and Innovation, the increase in traffic isn’t able to break down the Internet. Experts think that even considering the increased load during the pandemic, the Internet speed hasn’t decreased seriously. In most cases, the reduction reaches about a few megabits per second, which doesn’t really change the usual scenarios of Internet use for most users.

As we know from large ISP’s statistics, new traffic peak patterns had quickly stabilized and are within the operational capabilities of modern networks. Despite the plenty of business video calls, Internet users’ activity is still highly asymmetrical – download traffic is much higher than upload. Unlike watching videos on YouTube, video calls on a static background usually don’t overfill the channel.

Despite changes in the coronavirus traffic surge structure, it stayed within the forecasts according to which operators around the world formed network upgrade plans. Also, most video streaming (which makes up 60% of today’s traffic) supports adaptive coding and can “decrease” if the network is overloaded.

What are the other options to solve the problem?

At the beginning of February, the French operator Orange Business Services became the third foreign provider that launched a direct connection to its global network in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Content providers and local telecom operators can take this opportunity. The company plans to extend its offer to other cities in the future as well. It is assumed that direct connection to the company’s network will improve the stability of the Internet in the country, provide more advantageous conditions for roaming traffic exchange, improve the quality of access to foreign services, and enhance competition in the market of international traffic transfer offers.

Another way to optimize network load is to use DPI-platform with QoS (Quality of Service) function support, which can give up to 25% of capacity channel saving. QoS analyzes traffic packets and adjusts bandwidth according to preset settings. In addition to setting rules for packages and Internet resources you can set up prioritization on specific subscriber traffic, VLANs, or by port if you have multiple UPLINKs. It is also possible to limit bandwidth for an individual user based on the tariff plan.


A situation when too much traffic will “break” the Internet could be quite unlikely. You can safely use modern services and use channels for video without restrictions, there will be no destructive consequences for the global network.

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