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Communications of the ACM

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Technical Perspective: Tracking Pandemic-Driven Internet Traffic

computer screen showing Zoom meeting

Credit: BBC

The Internet is a research experiment that "escaped from the lab" to become a critical global communications infrastructure during our lifetimes. Over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet has supported friends and families staying in touch and supporting each other, remote work and learning, and the global collaboration of experts designing much-needed treatments and vaccines. As challenging as the past year (and more) has been, the Internet has made it possible for many important aspects of life, work, and culture to continue.

In March 2020, the Internet suddenly became a lifeline for people all over the world. Designed to withstand failures, attacks, and fluctuations in traffic, the Internet proved up to the task. Almost overnight, demand for Internet services grew dramatically, and shifted in both time and space. Many Internet service providers (ISPs) had network designs with spare capacity, deployed more bandwidth in critical locations, and relaxed bandwidth caps on low-income households. The Internet protocols, designed to adapt to changing conditions, were able to deliver reasonable service to many users by sharing the available resources dynamically.


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