Internet

Gates on congestion: what, me worry?

It's widely acknowledged that the stampede to get on the Internet is causing a worldwide traffic jam, but Bill Gates says he isn't worried.

It's widely acknowledged that the stampede to get on the Internet is causing a worldwide traffic jam, but Bill Gates says he isn't worried.

Speaking to a group of educators yesterday in Bellevue, Washington, the Microsoft chairman played down the growing online congestion and reiterated his belief that Internet access will become cheap, easy, and ubiquitous, according to a report by the News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington.

"We're not facing big problems," Gates was quoted as saying. "Imagine everything being totally available. In the next couple of years, we're going to get pretty close to that ideal."

Some would beg to differ. In a memo obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle last month, an international group of physicists warned the Federal Networking Council that the Internet was in a "disastrous state."

"It is essentially impossible to log in and control execution of jobs across the network; transferring graphics information is out of the question," stated the memo, released by researchers at Stanford University, Cornell University, Fermilab, and the European Nuclear Energy Center in Geneva, Switzerland.

The jams are caused not only by the sheer number of users but also the increasing size of files as graphics, audio, and video become more available over the Net.

Gates himself has a hand in running a company that could dramatically alleviate the congestion: low-Earth orbiting satellites that pass wireless Internet transmissions along a network, akin to a cellular phone signal bouncing from tower to tower.

Turning to some land-based issues in his speech yesterday, such as the future of one-time nemesis Apple Computer, Gates wasn't quite so optimistic. "Apple has to do a better job," he said. "While the new leadership is impressive, they've got to do new things. If they stay where they are today, the [computer growth] cycle won't be helping them."

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