COMS 4995: Internet Technology, Economics and Policy (Fall 2017)
The categories below are approximations - all projects may include
quantitative analysis, interviews with experts, literature surveys and
software development. In all cases, the relevant literature should be
carefully considered and cited.
Any of the projects listed as part of the
and Potential Research Questions 2013 would likely be suitable
as a project.
Project reports should conform to the recommendations on writing
style and avoid
Experiments and Implementation
- Measuring Internet port blocking: Most consumer Internet
services block some Internet ports, sometimes for historical reasons,
sometimes for security reasons and sometimes for reasons that are less
obvious. Develop a tool that allows a user to test which UDP and TCP
ports can be used for both incoming and outgoing packets, and whether
other IP features such as IP options and IPv6 are usable.
- Video quality: How does bandwidth and packet loss affect the
video quality of streaming and interactive applications such as YouTube,
Netflix and Skype? Consider using a network emulator to simulate various
- Measuring Internet bottlenecks: When Internet applications
suffer from performance problems, it is often difficult to tell whether
the problem is found in the home (Wi-Fi) network, in the first-hop
access network (e.g., the shared cable network), the middle-mile
network, the Internet backbone or at the server or CDN. Develop a tool for
either a desktop or mobile OS to estimate where the performance problem is
likely to be found.
- Wi-Fi performance: It is not uncommon that Wi-Fi is slower
than LTE. Map the performance of Wi-Fi (e.g., the Columbia Wi-Fi
network) vs. LTE in a geographic area, including indoors, e.g., using
the FCC mobile measurement application.
- Wi-Fi congestion: Measure Wi-Fi spectrum usage in the 2.4 and
5.8 GHz bands in various locations in New York City (or wherever you may
want to travel...), both indoors and outdoors. How many stations are
visible on what frequency channels? Where are publicly accessible
access points, such as "Cable Wi-Fi" visible and accessible? Measure
the impairment due to interference, i.e., how much lower throughput is
between a mobile device and the base station compared to a "silent"
- Location measurements: What is the reliability of
handset-provided geographic location data? Build a tool that allows
users to indicate their true location based on a map and compare it to
the location provided by GPS, Wi-Fi or cellular tower data. Explore the
reliability systematically, both outdoors and within a building.
- Indoor positioning: Can you determine the room (apartment,
office, ...) you are in by comparing Wi-Fi "fingerprints"? Can you apply
machine learning techniques to the task?
- Altitude information: Many modern smartphones have built-in
altimeters based on barometric pressure. Altitude (elevation)
information can be very useful to dispatch first responders after a 911
call. Conduct experiments that allow you to evaluate the accuracy of
this data in various buildings.
- Emergency assistance: How can citizens be better integrated
into emergency response activities, e.g., after large-scale natural
disasters? Consider an app that allows citizens to volunteer, be vetted,
and then be dispatched similar to official first responders.
- TTY replacement: People who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing use
text-based communication, either directly or via a relay service. The
first text-based communication used TTYs,
using analog modems. Architect and design a system that replaces the
outdated TTY technology with an Internet-based system that can use
either a dial-up modem or broadband, but still communicate with relay
services (via IP) and existing analog TTYs (via a gateway).
- Speech-to-text evaluation: Using a commercial speech-to-text
system (e.g., Google
or Nuance), test how well this works for telephone speech, for either
traditional or wideband audio, for both trained (known speaker) and
untrained cases. Such text-to-speech tools may offer opportunities to provide
basic communication capabilities to people who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing
and do not speak sign language.
- Broadband metrics: The FCC now gathers a range of broadband
performance indicators that are highly correlated, e.g., as part of the
Measuring Broadband America data set. What is their relationship
with each other? Which of these are independent or dependent
- Radio, TV: Using FCC databases and TVStudy (OET69) software,
estimate the number of TV or FM radio stations that can be received in
various places. Provide estimates of population averages by state and
population reach by station. (For example: "The average household in
North Dakota can receive 3.5 TV channels. The average TV station
reaches 150,000 households.")
- Broadband pricing: Try to estimate, based on online surveys
(e.g., your Facebook or LinkedIn contacts) what they pay for wireless or
wireline Internet connectivity and compare by performance, region and
- Media: For different TV and radio stations (e.g., in the NYC
area), determine their programming mix, e.g., children's programming,
local news, advertisements, syndicated programming, ...
- Consumer expenditures: Gather all available data on consumer
expenditures for telephone, cellular and Internet services, comparing
government data, industry analysis and corporate annual reports. (The
BLS consumer expenditures survey
provides some information, but may not map cleanly into current
categories.) Is the data consistent? Can it be compare against other
major OECD economies? How have expenditures changed?
- Broadband deployment: Analyze the FCC Form 477 broadband
deployment data to show how connectivity, technology and bandwidth
(speed) have changed over time. How do changes correlate to population
density and household income or other demographic variables? Using the
Universal Service Fund data, how does funding correlate to changes in
- Rural electric cooperatives: Analyze the service territories
of rural electric cooperatives. Using the FCC Form 477 data, how good
(or bad) is broadband connectivity in those areas? Has it changed
- Rural broadband: Analyze the cost of deploying fiber in rural
areas. What are the cost components, such as planning, fiber,
electronics and construction? How does take-up affect cost and
viability? What are financing models?
- Network reliability: Can you determine network outages, both
"sunny day" and "rainy day", from the FCC Measuring Broadband
America or ATLAS measurement infrastructure data?
- Communication networks during natural disasters: Using
interviews with residents and public safety officials, as well as
various data sources, describe how well various communication facilities
help up during Harvey and Irma, including land mobile radio
("walkie-talkies"), cellular, landline and Internet access.
- Spectrum usage: Analyze what spectrum is used for, by whom
and where, comparing use for categories such as broadcast, communication
and non-communication (radar, medical, industrial) applications.
- Spectral efficiency: Compare the spectral efficiency of FM
radio, digital over-the-air (ATSC) TV, land-mobile radio and cellular
systems. Consider the encoding of information, the air interface, and
how many bits of content are delivered to users, or how much spectrum it
would take to replace a traditional service such as radio or TV with a
cellular service. Note that there is no single definition of spectral
efficiency, so the project should consider existing definitions in the
literature and justify choices.
- TV stations: Using the TV
study software, combined with map coloring algorithms, explore
channel packing scenarios, i.e., how many channels are needed to
accommodate all TV stations.
- TV stations: Investigate whether one could put all TV
stations on cable or satellite, either generally or in more rural areas.
How many stations are must-carry vs. retransmission consent? What would
be the costs, potential sources of revenue and benefits?
- Cybersecurity: What are the principal causes of cybersecurity
problems? Is there quantitative evidence? What remedies are likely to
reduce the frequency or impact of such events? (Cite research to support