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Our goal is to design a traffic model for noncongested Internet backbone links, which is simple enough to be used in network operation, while being as general as possible. The proposed solution is to model the traffic at the flow level by a Poisson shot-noise process. In our model, a flow is a generic notion that must be able to capture the characteristics of any kind of data stream. We analyze the accuracy of the model with real traffic traces collected on the Sprint Internet protocol (IP) backbone network. Despite its simplicity, our model provides a good approximation of the real traffic observed in the backbone and of its variation. Finally, we discuss the application of our model to network design and dimensioning.