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Tech for Net growth still to come

WorldCom's John Sidgmore says the technologies that will foster the Net's tremendous growth have not been invented yet.

LAS VEGAS--Predicting a rosy future for the Internet, WorldCom vice chairman and UUNet chief executive John Sidgmore acknowledged that the technologies that will enable the Net's 1,000 percent annual growth--a rate he expects to continue--have not been invented yet.

"It is not going to slow down. In fact, it's going to go a lot faster," Sidgmore said in a keynote address at the Networld+Interop trade show today. "This environment is all about speed; it's all about change."

But afterwards, Sidgmore said the fundamental technologies on which the Internet is built need to change. "The technology [for Net growth] doesn't exist yet," he added, voicing optimism that the attraction of both financial and intellectual capital to the Net will bring the necessary building blocks online.

Sidgmore also warned that expectations of fast, cheap Internet usage may not be realized.

"Fast Internet access can't be cheap," he said. "That's a huge expectation problem because the world believes Internet access should be cheap with a $20 or $21 a month model. But the math doesn't work."

Users who access content nearby aren't the costly users, he said--it's those who fetch information from distant servers.

"We have to make content local for the Internet to scale," he noted.

Sidgmore's optimism about continued Internet growth stems in part from his belief that the increases in Internet usage to date have been fueled by new users.

"All the new multimedia applications--that's all in the future. When these new applications start to come on, we will see a new level of demand growth that we've never seen before" because multimedia applications demand far more bandwidth than text or graphics, he predicted.

Traditional telecommunications firms are jumping on the Internet bandwagon because they fear for their futures if they don't, Sidgmore contended. Half of international phone calls today are in fax transmissions, he noted, which could as easily go over the Net as on traditional voice networks.

"What is at stake for telcos is not the niche market but the core business," he said. "That realization made them move. That's why they started buying ISPs. They didn't start becoming cool overnight. They got scared."