In order to address net neutrality, let’s examine a bit of history.
The Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860 called for the simplest net neutrality scheme: All messages -- in this case, telegrams -- had the same characteristics. All messages were to be treated equally. There was the simplest possible traffic management (FIFO), and this simple traffic policy prioritized government messages. All these features were approved in Chapter 137 U.S. Statutes by the 36th Congress. Now it’s 150 years later.
The Internet is perceived as neutral -- a fundamental right of every person on the planet. Traffic management exists to manage limitations in capacity and different services through quality of service (QoS) and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). The question is: Should all IP packets be treated equally? This is a difficult and important question.
Telecommunications law specifies distributing, preventing, restricting or delaying the transmission or delivery of a telecommunication message as a criminal offense. It’s punishable by up to three years imprisonment (although it is rarely implemented if at all).
Early disruptions of that model included attempts by some mobile service providers to block VoIP traffic on mobile broadband networks (as it did for wireline networks). This attempt was rejected by regulators and the FCC faster than a speeding bullet. Telecom laws were amended last year to allow principles of net neutrality, subject to fair and efficient traffic management. The regulator may now decide which traffic management practices are deemed “fair and efficient."
In the United States, the top two carriers have appealed this decision, and it is still being worked out. Meanwhile, the Internet continues to improve.
So, what does limited capacity mean? Simply put:
- Bandwidth limitation, latency, jitter, packet loss
- Temporary Congestion especially as HDTV and 3-D technologies spread on the Internet
What services are most sensitive to limited capacity?
- VoIP telephony
- Video conferencing
- Gaming applications
- Streaming video (which will truly take off in 2014)
- Cloud services –- though the jury is out on the impact this will have on the network
- File Transfer/Sharing
- Social Networks
- Normal Browsing
- Helps encourage the free flow of ideas and content
- Provides access to a wide variety of services
- Provides access for the development of new services
- Offers incentive to develop new services
- Offers free choice for customers
- Providing good services
- Becoming more than just a dumb pipe
- Reduced income from value added services (VAS)
- Reduced return on investment
- Losing captive customers