WASHINGTON -- Talk about turning in your homework late: The government just finished a report on Internet traffic that Congress requested seven years ago.
Lawmakers had demanded the $1 million study, ultimately called ''Signposts in Cyberspace," under a 1998 law. Passed almost at the dawn of what became the Internet boom, the law required the Commerce Department to seek a study about Web addresses and trademarks by the National Research Council and wrap up the report within nine months.
The council published its findings yesterday -- two presidential administrations later and years after the implosion of what had been a bustling Internet economy.
''Time got extended," said Charles Brownstein, director of the research council's computer science and telecommunications board.
In the intervening period, Google emerged to dominate the Web, technology executives made and lost billions, lawyers shut down Napster over music piracy, high-speed Internet connections soared, and the number of Web addresses climbed to more than 65 million from 2.2 million.
The council concluded that the Internet's behind-the-scenes address scheme, called its domain name system, is remarkably robust and suitable to meet the Web's future needs.
The report urged minor technical improvements to secure the system from hackers and prevent outages from natural disasters, such as moving some of the Internet's 13 key traffic-directing computers outside Washington and Los Angeles.
It also recommended those traffic-directing computers continue to be operated by volunteers, organizations, and corporations around the world rather than governments. And it advocated dozens of new Internet address suffixes -- similar to ''.com" and ''.net" -- be introduced each year to allow for new websites and e-mail addresses.
Brownstein said the government report was delayed substantially as the authors noticed dramatic changes in the same issues they were studying. These included improvements to Internet search engines, better protections for safeguarding Web trademarks, and questions about the role of governments and the United Nations in the Internet.