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News Release 96-008

Traffic Jams on the Internet

New Connections Program to Force Internet Technology

March 14, 1996

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

While the Internet grows in popularity, a related problem is growing: traffic jams. The increased demand of more people on-line using increasingly sophisticated tools has caused delays in transmission unacceptable for some scientific uses.

The National Science Foundation has introduced a new twist to its connections program: emphasizing innovative solutions that may have broad implications for all Internet users. The program will look for meritorious applications that require high performance networking, and will then fund development by university and college campus network service providers. Technology developed for this program will likely affect future operation of the Internet.

The technology will introduce the idea of prioritization to Internet traffic. For example, if planning to use the U.S. Postal Service to send a package, you have options: overnight mail, first-class service, or third-class service. The rate of the package delivery is contingent on how it is designated. Freeways around major cities often have either express toll roads or high-occupancy-vehicle lanes to bypass congested areas. Similarly, NSF's connections program is expected to spur the development of switches and routers to help alleviate bottlenecks of information.

"There is no single solution. We hope this grant program will stimulate the development of a technological option for the Internet, to introduce prioritization and provide a new style of connection that gives a guaranteed level of service at a national level," said Mark Luker, manager of NSF's connections program.

Currently on the Internet, all packets of information are treated alike. While this worked fine before the popularization of the Internet, it now interferes with some uses that require high performance service. One example is to use high performance connections of multiple small computers to create a large workstation cluster distributed across the nation. The Internet is currently too congested for such a system. Teleconferencing or videoconferencing also places too great a need on the current capacity. And, some scientific instrumentation requires specific fast connections, though not necessarily high bandwidth. Interruptions or delays caused by Internet congestion could be fatal to experiments.

One solution might include prioritization of traffic on the Internet. Another solution might involve diverting specially coded traffic to high performance, special use networks, such as NSF's vBNS (very high speed Backbone Network Service).


Media Contacts
Beth Gaston, NSF, (703) 306-1070, email:

Program Contacts
Mark Luker, NSF, (703) 306-1950, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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