Release at 4 P.M. EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Glitches and goofs aside, traffic jams on the Internet are largely a product of human greed, scientists said Thursday.
Since most net-surfers pay a flat rate, they feel justified ''to consume greedily while thinking that their actions have little effect on the overall performance of the Internet,'' researcher Bernardo Huberman and colleagues wrote in this week's edition of the journal Science.
In part, this is because of the vast size and anonymity of the service, Huberman said; a more intimate group might feel more accountable for the common good.
Huberman's research showed that there were repeated spikes in congestion, as if users had all agreed to surf the net at appointed times, then got frustrated at delays and quit.
This had the effect of slowing transmission times to a crawl, the researchers found by sending packets of information on round trip journeys from a station at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, to a wide variety of sites, including a web server in Britain, rural parts of the United States and within the San Francisco Bay area.
Huberman said there was little chance Internet users would voluntarily surf more responsibly if warned that overuse would degrade the network. More likely, he said, providers would offer customers a less-degraded Internet -- faster, less congested -- for an additional fee.
Another alternative would be to charge customers according to how much of the Internet's capacity they used, determined by how long they stayed on and how much data they sent.
Huberman acknowledged that other factors can interfere with Internet speed and performance, including such web-friendly events as the Mars mission of the Pathfinder spacecraft, which drew hundreds of thousands of users to various Internet sites.
Human error and software glitches can also gum up the works, as they did on July 17 at Network Solutions Inc., the company that is the exclusive registrar for the most popular Internet domain names. That problem was fixed after four hours, but the aftereffects lingered all day, preventing some users from accessing certain web sites and snarling e-mail traffic.
© Copyright 1997, Reuters News Service