Observing and Improving the Reliability of Internet Last-mile Links

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Schulman, Aaron David
Spring, Neil
People rely on having persistent Internet connectivity from their homes and mobile devices. However, unlike links in the core of the Internet, the links that connect people's homes and mobile devices, known as "last-mile" links, are not redundant. As a result, the reliability of any given link is of paramount concern: when last-mile links fail, people can be completely disconnected from the Internet. In addition to lacking redundancy, Internet last-mile links are vulnerable to failure. Such links can fail because the cables and equipment that make up last-mile links are exposed to the elements; for example, weather can cause tree limbs to fall on overhead cables, and flooding can destroy underground equipment. They can also fail, eventually, because cellular last-mile links can drain a smartphone's battery if an application tries to communicate when signal strength is weak. In this dissertation, I defend the following thesis: By building on existing infrastructure, it is possible to (1) observe the reliability of Internet last-mile links across different weather conditions and link types; (2) improve the energy efficiency of cellular Internet last-mile links; and (3) provide an incrementally deployable, energy-efficient Internet last-mile downlink that is highly resilient to weather-related failures. I defend this thesis by designing, implementing, and evaluating systems.