Why Is the Internet so Slow?!

  • Ilker Nadi BozkurtEmail author
  • Anthony Aguirre
  • Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran
  • P. Brighten Godfrey
  • Gregory Laughlin
  • Bruce Maggs
  • Ankit Singla
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10176)


In principle, a network can transfer data at nearly the speed of light. Today’s Internet, however, is much slower: our measurements show that latencies are typically more than one, and often more than two orders of magnitude larger than the lower bound implied by the speed of light. Closing this gap would not only add value to today’s Internet applications, but might also open the door to exciting new applications. Thus, we propose a grand challenge for the networking research community: building a speed-of-light Internet. To help inform research towards this goal, we investigate, through large-scale measurements, the causes of latency inflation in the Internet across the network stack. Our analysis reveals an under-explored problem: the Internet’s infrastructural inefficiencies. We find that while protocol overheads, which have dominated the community’s attention, are indeed important, reducing latency inflation at the lowest layers will be critical for building a speed-of-light Internet. In fact, eliminating this infrastructural latency inflation, without any other changes in the protocol stack, could speed up small object fetches by more than a factor of three.


Active Queue Management Page Size Massive Open Online Course Median Inflation Ping Time 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Dhruv Diddi helped process the ESnet data. Data on fiber mileages from GÉANT, the high-speed pan-European research and education network, was obtained through personal communication with Xavier Martins-Rivas, DANTE. DANTE is the project coordinator and operator of GÉANT.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilker Nadi Bozkurt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anthony Aguirre
    • 4
  • Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran
    • 2
  • P. Brighten Godfrey
    • 3
  • Gregory Laughlin
    • 5
  • Bruce Maggs
    • 1
    • 6
  • Ankit Singla
    • 7
  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.TU BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.UIUCChampaignUSA
  4. 4.UC Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  5. 5.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  6. 6.AkamaiCambridgeUSA
  7. 7.ETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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