Implications of an improving Internet

Most of the Internet has been getting better over the past few years. In much of the world, the Internet is now good enough for all but the most demanding applications.

This improvement has been in the default “best effort” service and hasn’t depended on ISPs implementing fancy QoS mechanisms. Paradoxically, some ISPs might see this news as a threat to their future financial health.

There are a number of research groups currently studying Internet performance, although it still is not easy to get good data, as KC Claffy details in one of her talks.

Claffy is the main investigator ofCooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), an analysis and research group that is one of the best Internet-related research centers.

Members of the physics community also are studying the Internet.

The International Committee on Future Accelerators has had working groups thinking about Internet performance since at least 1997. One such group was formed in 2002 and published a paper on the state of Internet performance in January.

Their latest report mostly deals with packet loss in data transmissions, with round-trip times and with data throughput between the Stanford Linear Accelerator and testing points throughout the world. The countries where the testing points are located represent 78 per cent of the world’s population and 99 per cent of the world’s Internet users.

The test results show that by the end of 2003, the packet loss rate to countries with 77 per cent of the world’s population was low enough that VoIP would work with good or acceptable quality. This is up from 48.8 per cent in 2001.

Round-trip times have fallen and data throughput have increased. These improvements have been in the standard Internet “best effort” service.

Disclaimer: Harvard claims not to be in the commodity service business but has not expressed an opinion on carriers that may be forced to be so – thus the above is my own opinion.

– Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University’s University Information System. He can be reached at

Related links:

Internet more critical for purchasing

Japan’s Internet users near 63 million says survey

Study depicts life without the Internet

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