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The demands placed on the UK's broadband infrastructure may see internet access being rationed or restricted in the future, a leading scientist has warned.

Andrew Ellis, Professor of Optical Communications at Aston University, told the Sunday Times that Britain faces a "potentially disastrous" capacity crunch, as data consumption continues to rise.

Outlining the subject matter of a Royal Society discussion meeting on May 11th and 12th, he explained that the internet is already consuming at least eight per cent of Britain's power output.

This is equivalent to the output of three nuclear power stations, Prof Ellis explained.

He said demand is rising so quickly - as connected-TV and online video proliferates - that the internet could require all UK power generation by 2035.

“We cannot make all that extra power, so we will have to restrict or reduce access, perhaps by metering consumers so they pay for what they use," Prof Ellis warned.

He said the public has to decide whether it is willing to pay more for broadband, should restrictions prove necessary.

Andrew Lord, Head of Optical Access at BT, told the news provider this is the first time the telecoms industry has had to worry about optical fibres "filling up".

“We could expand the network by laying more cables but the economics of that do not work and it would increase power consumption," he added.

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