CS Chair Leads Group Studying Internet's Future

July 22, 2009

Over the past 40 years, the Internet has become part of society's fundamental infrastructure, but for it to continue meeting its obligations, major improvements are needed in security, accessibility, predictability and reliability, concluded a Computing Community Consortium (CCC) group led by Professor Ellen Zegura, chair of Computer Science.

The Network Science and Engineering (NetSE) Council, which released its conclustions in July after a year of study, was charged by the CCC with developing a comprehensive research agenda that would support better networks in the future. The group studied previous reports and held meetings and workshops that included both network specialists and other scientists from other areas of computing.

"Computer networks, and especially the Internet, have gone from research curiosity to fundamental infrastructure," Zegura wrote in the NetSE report. "In terms of societal impact, the Internet has changed the way we live, work and play, and altered our notions of democracy, education, healthcare, entertainment and commerce. In terms of its design, the Internet has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to, even inspire, changes in technologies and applications. In short, the Internet has been a powerful engine for technological innovation and societal evolution."

The report went on to list four main recommendations:

  1. The funding agencies of the United States government must increase investment in research that will lead to a better Internet or risk a marginal future role.
  2. Funding agencies should rebuild the experimental capabilities of networking researchers, through funding individual systems-building efforts, providing adequate and persistent shared experimental infrastructure, and supporting research that leads to continued improvements in experimental methodology. Experimental work is expensive and long-term; typical [National Science Foundation] awards are insufficient, therefore either NSF will need to change its award portfolio or other agencies will have to play a significantly increased role.
  3. Funding agencies should foster and support research activities relevant to network design within the theoretical computer science community, the new Network Science community, and other theoretical disciplines.
  4. Funding agencies should support a broad array of interdisciplinary research activities related to understanding the current Internet and designing future networks to include the Internet.

To read the NetSE Council's full report, visit http://www.cra.org/ccc/docs/NetSE-Research-Agenda.pdf.