Stuck in an Internet traffic jam?

Parallels from physical traffic jams shed light on Internet congestion.

Tatan Syuflana / AP / File
This Sept. 24, 2010 photo shows a traffic jam in Jakarta, Indonesia. Tolls and HOV lanes can help ease physical traffic congestion, but what's the equivalent for Internet bandwidth jams?

Can we build enough new roads to reduce traffic congestion? The answer is no. The same issue arise in the case of Internet capacity. As usual, we look for engineering solutions rather than demand side management pricing efforts. Time of day pricing could certainly help but I don't know how users would be charged. It would also interest me to learn whether "traffic congestion" and "internet traffic congestion" are really the same thing? What is the externality in each case depending on the physical realities that must playout to get from point A to point B on a road versus in a light beam.

Switching Subjects:

I was thrilled to read that the Chilean Miners may soon be rescued. I have wondered if the expectation that they will be rescued and will be heroes and celebrities has affected their social interactions underground? If I knew that a movie would be made based on my lecture tomorrow at UCLA, I would "play nice". Maybe this is the right dynamic incentives for a subset of men who know each other. If they must be forced to be with each other for months in a very scary environment, maybe you do want both social incentives and future expected pay incentives (being a celebrity) to nudge you to be co-operative and sane. If there is a villain in the set of miners, will he be shamed?

Switching Subjects Again:

I just had the opportunity to spend two days at BYU in Provo, Utah. Their Department of Economics is strong and has an active research group. They do not have a graduate program but instead seek to produce at least 15 undergraduates to place in top PHD Econ programs each year. What struck me over the course of my visit is the group loyalty. Most of the faculty at BYU are graduates of that university. Yes, they also share a common religion but I think that it really matters that they are all graduates of the institution. When I was a student at the University of Chicago, many of the faculty had Chicago degrees and I think this had the same effect. In contrast, I have taught at several schools where the faculty do not hold degrees from their institution. At these schools, there is an aspect of "free agency" --- The rational "free agent" builds up general human capital but not firm specific human capital. I'm now starting to see that serious universities need both types of skills and that in this era of high faculty turnover that ambitious universities may end up with a lack of the 2nd type of "capital".


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