Internet 100 by 100

Even as we struggle for bandwidth in India, researchers in the US are already thinking of how the Internet will scale-up to handle higher speeds. WSJ writes:

Starting Tuesday, researchers from four big universities and other research outfits gathered on the Carnegie-Mellon campus in Pittsburgh for the initial planning session of the “100 by 100” consortium. With a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the group is spending the coming few years thinking about how to improve the Internet so that 100 million U.S. homes can have everyday speeds of 100 megabytes a second.

Most people think that improving network speeds is a simple matter of installing faster pipes. But Prof. Hui Zhang, the Carnegie Mellon computer-science professor who heads the consortium, says even with so-called fat pipes everywhere, today’s Internet might not “scale up.”

The professor explains the problem: The routers that serve as the Web’s traffic-control devices are so complex that only a few companies can build them. What’s more, keeping a big network running is getting harder and more expensive — “a black art,” he calls it.

As far as pipes, Prof. Zhang thinks that because of the 1998-2000 telecom bubble, there are enough fiber-optic lines buried in the U.S. to handle all of the backbone, “long haul” traffic of even the fastest Internet.

However, connecting up homes — the “final mile” problem — remains tricky and expensive, though new ways of using wireless communications, including reallocating some or all of the radio spectrum, could help.

Prof. Zhang acknowledges he stands on contested terrain when he says the Internet can’t continue to simply make incremental progress and expect to reach the goals of the 100 by 100 program.

What’s more, in this evolution vs. revolution debate, the revolutionists have another challenge. Networking companies, which weren’t around when the initial decisions about the Net were made, might oppose any technical changes, no matter how well-deserved, that threaten their market positions.

Lets set a “100 by 1” goal for India: 100 million Indian homes and business to get 1 Mbps connectivity for less than Rs 1,000 per month.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.