Are we Reaching the end of the internet?

Many web users tend to think of the internet as a vast, near-limitless network; a worldwide depository of information and users that has room for anyone and everyone.

The reality of the situation, however, is a bit less cheery.

According to a report released Wednesday by Nemertes Research, user demand for the internet is on track to exceed network capacity in two to four years. In fact, the growing popularity of online video, heavy web use and high-bandwidth content could begin to cause "internet brownouts" by 2012.

Unfortunately, the current global financial crisis could limit necessary network investments and other build outs, the group said, and actually make the problem worse.

"The exponential explosion of content will persist during challenging economic times, but a prolonged global recession could starve networks of the necessary capital investment," said Bruce Mehlman, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance. "It's more important than ever to develop a National Broadband Strategy that will encourage investment and innovations that accelerate America's global competitiveness and address major national challenges, such as energy efficiency, health care cost and quality educational opportunity."