You are correct that replacing one bad constant with another is a problem, though I certainly argue many of our existing constants are egregiously bad and substituting a less bad one makes the problem less severe: that is what the cable industry is doing this year in a DOCSIS change that I hope starts to see the light of day later this year. That can take bloat in cable systems down by about an order of magnitude, from typically > 1 second to of order 100-200ms; but that's not really good enough for VOIP to work as well as it should. The enemy of the good is the perfect: I'm certainly going to encourage obvious mitigation such as the DOCSIS changes while trying encourage real long term solutions, which involve both re-engineering of systems and algorithmic fixes. There are other places where similar "no brainer" changes can help the situation.
I'm very aware of the research over a decade old, and the fact that what exists is either *not available* where it is now needed (e.g. any of our broadband gear, our OS's, etc.), and *doesn't work* in today's network environment. I was very surprised to be told that even where AQM was available, it was often/usually not enabled, for reasons that are now pretty clear: classic RED and derivatives (the most common available) require manual tuning, and if untuned, can hurt you. As you, I had *thought* this problem was a *solved* problem in the 1990's; it isn't....
RED and related algorithms are a dead end: see my blog entry on the topic: http://gettys.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/red-in-a-different-light/ and in particular the "RED in a different light" paper referenced there (which was never formally published, due to reasons I cover in the blog posting). So thinking we just apply what we have today is *not correct*; when Van Jacobson tells me RED won't hack it (which was originally designed by Sally Floyd and Van Jacobson) I tend to believe him.... We have an unsolved research problem at the core of this headache.
If you were tracking kernel changes, you'd see "interesting" recent patches to RED and other queuing mechanisms in Linux; this shows you just how much such mechanisms have been used, that bugs are being found in this day and age in such algorithms in Linux: in short, what we have had in Linux has often been broken, showing little active use.
We have several problems here:
1) basic mistakes in buffering, where semi-infinite statically sized buffers have been inserted in lots of hardware/software. BQL goes a long way toward addressing some of this in Linux (the device driver/ring buffer bufferbloat that is present in Linux and other operating systems).
2) variable bandwidth is now commonplace, in both wireless and wired technologies. Ethernet scales from 10Mbps to 10 or 40Gps.... Yet we've typically had static buffering, sized for the "worst case". So even stupid things like cutting the buffers proportionately to the bandwidth you are operating at can help a lot (similar to the DOCSIS change), though with BQL we're now in a better place than before.
3) the need for an AQM that actually *works* and never hurts you. RED's requirement for tuning is a fatal flaw; and we need an AQM that adapts dynamically over orders of magnitude of bandwidth *variation* on timescales of tens of milliseconds, a problem not present when RED was designed or most of the AQM research of the 1990's done. Wireless was a gleam in people's eyes in that era.
I'm now aware of at two different attempts at a fully adaptable AQM algorithms; I've seen simulation results of one of those which look very promising. But simulations are ultimately a guide (and sometimes a real improving insight): running code is the next steps, and comparison with existing AQM's in real systems. Neither of these AQM's have been published, though I'm hoping to see either/both published soon and their implementation happening immediately thereafter.
So no, existing AQM algorithms won't hack it; the size of this swamp is staggering.