Written in my home office and despatched to silicon.com from a free domestic wi-fi connection in a forest glade just outside Chelmsford UK
Have you noticed the net slowing down these past couple of weeks? Have you noticed the amount of spam rising? Have you spotted the incidence of virus attacks, worms, Trojan Horses etc seems to be almost doubling? How come? I reckon it's all because school's out.
Thousands of youngsters are home for the summer and they ain't sat watching TV, they're surfing the net, downloading music and movies, emailing and playing online games. And worse, they are unwittingly increasing the opportunity for anything that spreads by viral propagation or undesired hosting. It happens every school vacation but I have never seen it so bad.
Seems to me we have the coalescing of many forces here. The availability and spread of broadband; the fall in the cost of IT equipment that now sees the majority of homes having at least one PC; the majority of kids now capable of driving a PC really well; and the sheer growth in content and interactive sites available. The scope of sites is vast - from music and movies and games through eBay, shopping, chatrooms, alternative reality sites, instant messaging, videoconferencing, VoIP and much more.
For sure, this summer ain't a flash in the pan - we haven't seen the last of this vacation surge. Unlike their parents these kids have time, a lot of time, as well as motivation, money and almost total freedom.
When I was a kid I escaped the parental eye by heading out over the empty fields to a fantasy world of camping, cowboys and Indians, pirates and warfare. Today's youngsters it seems head for the PC as their alternate to the real world. And year-on-year there are more of them worldwide, so traffic surges will most likely grow rapidly vacation on vacation.
Can we do anything about it? Almost certainly not! We are going to have to build a bigger net for starters, and then the ISPs, plus the rest of industry, will have to take a very serious look at the threat posed by those responsible for virus attacks and other malware. If we do nothing we could see another net meltdown this summer, or next Christmas, or whenever, it will happen.
Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.