Research NewsComputer Science

Model Explains Internet 'Storms'

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Science  25 Jul 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5325, pp. 477
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5325.477

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The Internet suffers spates of congestion, and the explanation lies in social behavior. Because flat-rate pricing gives users no incentive to economize, they flood the net with data, clogging it, and then get discouraged, relieving the congestion--all at roughly the same time. In this issue of Science, researchers present a mathematical model that explains why the congestion comes in short spikes. The model could help evaluate the effects of pricing schemes designed to relieve the congestion.