Congestion control has been one of the most active areas of research in computer networking from the earliest days of packet switching. The work of Jacobson and Karels in the 1980s laid the foundation for decades of subsequent work by introducing a suite of congestion control mechanisms into TCP. This was done at a time of crisis, with the Internet showing signs of congestion collapse. Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalf famously predicted the Internet would collapse in the 1990s and followed up on his promise to eat his words when it did not. But it was clear even then that congestion control was not a fully solved problem, and improvements to the algorithms on which the Internet’s smooth functioning depends have multiplied ever since.

This book grew out of our own involvement in developing congestion control algorithms over the last three decades. There have been so many developments in congestion control over that time that it’s nearly impossible to include all of them. What we have tried to do in this book is provide a framework for understanding congestion control as a systems problem, and to characterize the many approaches along a few main themes. For example, our work on TCP Vegas opened up a line of research that continues today, where the aim is to avoid severe congestion rather than react after it has set in. We thus consider avoidance-based approaches as one of the main categories of congestion control.

We expect this to be an evolving manuscript. There are many efforts in congestion control that are not currently covered, the algorithms that are covered continue to be refined, and new approaches will likely emerge to address new use cases. We will update the book as necessary to reflect the state of the field. Please help by submitting your comments and feedback. We also welcome contributions to the on-line annotated bibliography.

Finally, we extend our thanks to those who have contributed to the open source effort to improve this book. They include:

  • Bill Fisher

  • Giulio Micheloni

  • J van Bemmel

  • Omer Shapira

  • Nico Vibert

  • Vik Vanderlinden

  • Vidhi Goel

Please send us your comments and feedback using the Issues Link. See the Wiki for the latest todo list.

Larry Peterson, Lawrence Brakmo, and Bruce Davie
May 2022