Internet Infrastructure

CSE291 - Fall 2021

Meets on M/W/F from 10:00am to 10:50am in EBU3B 2154
The instructor is Aaron Schulman (aka Aaron Shalev) and he can be contacted via Piazza
Aaron's office hours are Monday from 3-4:00pm in his office (and on Zoom)

The Internet's success can largely be attributed to the simple abstraction it provides: any host can send packets to any other host, on any type of link, anywhere in the world. Hidden underneath this simple abstraction, the Internet is made of vast network of heterogeneous infrastructure. In this course, we will read and discuss the latest research on the infrastructure behind the Internet. Topics will include wireless Internet access links that provide high performance in increasingly challenging environments, including 5G mobile, rural ISPs, and Low Earth Orbit satellite networks. Also, we will discuss large-scale wireline Internet infrastructure, including metropolitan and long-distance fiber,
Fiber-To-The-Home, and Fiber-To-The-Node (e.g., DOCSIS).

This is a research-oriented course focusing on current and classic papers from the research literature. Further, all students will work on an original research project, culminating in a project writeup and conference-style presentation. In the past, the very best of these course projects have resulted (with additional work) in publication in top conferences.

As with many other research seminars, the course will be predominately a discussion of a set of research papers. However, we will also discuss the technical details behind each aspect of the Internet's Infrastructure (Mondays).


Students should have taken an undergraduate networking course. Although this perquisite is strongly recommended, you can also supplement your understanding with readings in an undergraduate networking textbook if you would like to catch up on your own time.

Grading Criteria

If you are taking the course for full credit (4 credits - letter grade), grading will be based on the following breakdown: Individual or group project (50%), quizzes (25%), and class participation (25%).

If you are taking the course for partial credit (2 credits - pass/fail), grading will be based on the following breakdown: quizzes (25%) and class participation (25%).

Instructions for Reading Papers Before Class

This class is focused on discussing papers rather than lectures. You should read the assigned papers before each class. While reading the papers, keep in mind that your goal is not necessarily to understand the details about every single paragraph. Rather, you should be able to answer the following high-level questions about the paper before we discuss it in class. If you have any questions while reading, write them down and bring them to class!

  • What is the problem the paper addresses?
  • Why is the problem important?
  • What is the proposed solution?
  • What were the challenges that the authors faced?
  • How did the authors evaluate their solution?
  • What falls outside the scope of this paper?

If you want additional help understanding how to read a paper efficiently, please spend some time reading the following paper: How to read a paper.

Reading Schedule

M Nov 28
Day Topic Readings to be done before each class (or Notes)
Week 1: Introduction
F Sep 24 Lecture: Introduction Slides
Week 2: Long-Haul Infrastructure Overview
M Sep 27 Lecture: Origins of Internet Infrastructure 1. Distributed Comunication (1964) Chapter IV
2. Attracting Capital for Railway Development in China Pg. 161 - 173
3. Slides
W Sep 29 Long-Haul Terrestrial Internet Links InterTubes: A Study of the US Long-haul Fiber-optic Infrastructure
F Oct 1 Undersea Cables 1. Untangling the world-wide mesh of undersea cables
2. Non-cooperative Diagnosis of Submarine Cable Faults
Week 3: Internet Access
M Oct 4 Lecture: Overview of Wireline Internet Access
Project: Form teams (notify staff on Piazza)
W Oct 6 Overview of Internet Access Networks Inferring Regional Access Network Topologies: Methods and Applications
F Oct 8 Last-mile - Fiber-to-the-Home Design and Implementation of a Fiber to the Home FTTH Access Network based on GPON
Week 4: More Last-mile Links
M Oct 11 Lecture: Overview of Last-Mile Access
W Oct 13 Last-mile - Cable TV (DOCSIS) CableMon: Improving the Reliability of Cable Broadband Networks via Proactive Network Maintenance
F Oct 15 Last-mile - Wireless ISPs 1. The Challenge of Scaling WISPs
2. Low-cost sustainable wireless Internet service for rural areas
Week 5: Satellite Internet Access
M Oct 18 Lecture: Overview of Satellite Access
W Oct 20 Low Earth Orbit Design Exploring the "Internet from Space" with Hypatia
F Oct 22 Geostationary Satellite Internet Performance 1. Satellite Internet Performance Measurements 2. Mile High WiFi: A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity
Week 5: Space and Challenges of Last-mile
M Oct 25 Inter-satellite routing Delay is not an Option: Low Latency Routing in Space
F Oct 29 Radio Access Network Lessons from Building Loon's Stratospheric Communications Service
Week 6: Introduction to Cellular Last-mile
M Nov 1 Lecture: Overview and 4G Packet Core
W Nov 3 Lecture: 4G Radio Access Network
F Nov 5 Lecture: Key innovations in 5G
Week 7: Cellular last-mile
M Nov 8 How 5G looks in reality 1 Understanding Operational 5G: A First Measurement Study on Its Coverage, Performance and Energy Consumption
W Nov 10 How 5G looks in reality 2 A Variegated Look at 5G in the Wild: Performance, Power, and QoE Implications
F Nov 12 Rural cellular Experiences: Design, Implementation, and Deployment of CoLTE, a Community LTE Solution
Week 8: Internet Exchange Points
M Nov 15 Lecture: Internet Exchange Points
W Nov 17 How Internet Exchange Points affect Internet topology On Properties of Internet Exchange Points and Their Impact on AS Topology and Relationship
F Nov 19 When IXPs Fail Detecting Peering Infrastructure Outages in the Wild
Week 9: Exchange Points (cont)
M Nov 22 Why IXPs matter On the importance of Internet eXchange Points for today's Internet ecosystem
W Nov 24 Exchanges for cellular roaming Insights from Operating an IP Exchange Provider
F Nov 26 Class Canceled: Thanksgiving
Week 10: TBD
IoT use of cellular exchanges Where Things Roam: Uncovering Cellular IoT/M2M Connectivity
Week 11: Project Presentations
Week 12: Final Project Deadline Week (Sprint Week)
Thur Dec 9 Final Projects Due Submission on Canvas