Contrary to reports from analysts and other industry pundits, the internet is not shrinking — traffic actually grew fourfold over the past year, according to one of the internet's 'fathers'.

According to a study conducted by Lawrence Roberts, founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Caspian Networks, internet traffic quadrupled between April 2000 and April 2001.

As a designer and developer of Arpanet, the computer network that either evolved into or merely contributed to the creation of the modern internet, Roberts is considered by many to be a 'father' of the internet.

Roberts' findings, based on data culled from the backbone trunks of the top 19 ISPs, run counter to the assertions of many industry observers, who link the slowdown in service provider capital expenditures and resultant falloff in equipment sales to slowing growth of internet traffic.

"All of this is a presumption, an assumption," Roberts says of the linkage between internet traffic and the reduction in capital expenditure and equipment sales. "The internet has been growing faster than ever."

One research firm that made such a connection, RHK, said the fourfold growth was in capacity, not in traffic. The firm also questioned the Roberts study methodology. RHK contends that traffic growth slowed to 90 percent from 128 percent in the past year.

One could also question Roberts' motives with this study. Even though the study carries some measure of credibility due to Roberts' status as an internet pioneer, he now heads a young company trying to sell equipment for the core of the internet.

In any event, Roberts claims his data shows that core internet traffic has been doubling every six months, much faster than the average 2.8 times per year since 1997. He also says his data is the first to track internet traffic since the National Science Foundation ceased this practice in 1996.

Traffic growth is being fuelled by corporations, which use the internet as a cheaper inter- and intracompany communications alternative than private networks. Corporate traffic accounts for 80 percent of all of the internet's traffic, Roberts says.