For this project I used the traceroute command on Linux to examine and map the journey that a packet of information would take from it's source to it's destination.
When I (or anyone else) connect to a website (such as gmail.com), the traffic has to go through several intermediaries before reaching the website. These are things such as my local router, my internet service provider's routers (or NYUs) and then onto larger networks and so on. By doing traceroute, I can see the path that traffic takes to reach my website/destination. I can also see the delays that may occur at each stop along the way or any issues I may be having reaching a website (maybe there is a problem somewhere along the path between my computer and the websit's servers).
I concentrated on a destination that I used multiple times a day, Gmail. By doing this, I was able to identify the major network providers my internet traffic crossed paths with in my daily life. For most of us, including myself, we rarely question who or where data travels through, so this project proved to be an especially enlightening one. I tried looking for patterns and differences across the different places and times I tracerouted from.
I focused my traceroute on one site: gmail.com, changing both the place I tracerouted from (school, home and cell hotspot) as well as the time of day (morning, afternoon or night).
These were the top service providers that constantly came up:
ANS was an internet service provider created in 1991 and sold to AOL in 1995. ANS CO+RE was created as a for-profit subsidiary of the non-profit Advanced Network and Services (ANS).
Fios (Fiber optic service) is part of Verizon, but stands for fiber optic service. It uses fiber-optic cables to transmit signals in order to get high speed internet access. This is faster than dial-up, DSL. For all my home traceroutes, the first hop was always from the Fios quantum gateway. Verizon Fios is the largest fiber-optic provider in the U.S. by coverage area (services in 10 states). It was one of the first U.S. carriers to offer fiber in the home (started in 2005, expanded in 2010).
AT&T offers Internet service to 22 states and is an American multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Texas. It is the world's largest telecommunications company. (I use them for my cell service).
Formerly called VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited), TATA is an Indian telecommunications company. (Had trouble finding out more about them/their relation to the US).
Below is a further breakdown of what I found based off of location and time.
September 25th, 10:30 PM (NIGHT):
I've attached some screenshots of my traceroutes, but I ended up putting them on an xlsx (excel) file in order to see the different destinations/ hops better. Every hop from my home wifi always started out with the fios quantum gateway. It then went on to use Verizon (MCI Communication Services) in Virgina, then back to New York, using ANS CO + Re Systems Inc. FInally it reached Google LLC in California, the final destination for Gmail.
September 30th, 9:55 AM (MORNING)
September 30th, 2:15 PM (AFTERNOON)
I wanted to see if there was a difference in going to the same destination at different times of the day (with different amounts of internet traffic). While there were a few slight differences, there was nothing drastic. Using traceroute at 2PM vs. 9AM, the former required more hops (one more, making it 19). Other than that, the route in which it travelled was the same. It would go through NYU's network, out to TATA communications in NYC, then in Virginia and finally to Google in California. What I did find interesting was that the traceroute went through TATA Communications in three different locations: one on 60 Hudson street, then to 8th Ave in NYC, and then to Virginia.
September 25, 11:00 PM (NIGHT)
September 20th, 1:45PM (AFTERNOON)
Using my Cell hotspot was a little harder to track. I got a lot of private IP addresses when I tried using the whois command on traceroute. IANA always came up for the private IP addresses, which stands for the internet assigned numbers authority for DNS and IP addresses. When I searched the IP online, it affiliated the IP address with Verizon, although the exact IP address wasn't the same. This was apparently due to the accuracy of IP based geolocation lookup. It then travelled through AT&T in New Jersey, which was my cell phone provider and finally to Google. Using my cell hotspot to go to Gmail, required the least amount of hops.