Two in every 100 Internet users lose out on 1/2 a day of service per month. The rest of us aren’t nearly as bad off.

Like companies and cities, communities can sometimes realize that smart thinking about how best to use their resources yields incremental improvements that lead to bigger, more immediate benefits.

Researchers at Washington-based NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) have identified a tendency in the internet community to leave far too much to chance, and hope that a future of smarter data management can help reverse that situation.

In their findings, researchers report the contrast between how jurisdictions and companies manage their data. From testing as-run operational assessments of the internet’s DNS nodes and infrastructure, they noted that the private sector tended to look at about every component of the infrastructure in a manner that focused on the infrastructure itself, without any focus on the people and communities in which the infrastructure exists. Examples of these communications data performance issues include:

The network segments either unavailable or unaccessible to users

A fragmented network with some parts still unoptimized for the complexity of users or traffic flow in those regions

Regional variations in the operational performance of local DNS services

Regional data quality inconsistencies

The researchers decided to weigh the data from these comparisons and found that every one of the 20 areas — 15 neighborhood neighborhoods and 4 communities — experienced a one-time increase in performance. These spots were clustered around Washington, D.C., Chicago, Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area.

In addition, we found that the largest one-time positive performance improvements from 2018 to 2019 occurred across two distinctly different groups: Older cities and newer cities. While all 13 of the operational assessments — or as-run assessments — showed slightly improved results across most cities — particularly the older areas of the globe — newer cities saw some astounding results, making a total of 20 one-time population increases for every one-time decline in the performance of the DNS infrastructure.

This is not a small and overly theoretical benefit. For example, in the world’s most dense urban areas, the biggest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) — often the Internet Infrastructure Company (IOCs) that service large slices of the country, often around the world — could invest even in the most basic, low-priority network segment and improve its network performance by a huge 20 to 40 percent. That means the IOCs could increase access to 70 to 80 percent of the population, especially in rural and remote areas that are unlikely to see up-to-date network investment improvements.

While there are still many questions to be asked and answers to be had regarding the effects of consumer complaints and the underlying influence of ISPs on the DNS performance of their end-users, NREL researchers hope that their results can inspire the next generation of internet service providers — including ISPs that serve the fastest-growing segments of their regional communities — to build stronger connections and better service by investing more in the technologies and networks that provide that connectivity.

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