Transparency & Fairness vs. Net Neutrality

Today, broadband providers have to carry all kinds of traffic that they can't block -- content, Web pages, platform services and other modes of communication –- because of the principles of net neutrality.

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:

  1. Bandwidth limitation, latency, jitter, packet loss
  2. Temporary Congestion especially as HDTV and 3-D technologies spread on the Internet

Mobile Broadband networks are more vulnerable to this limited capacity and lack of spectrum.

What services are most sensitive to limited capacity?

  1. VoIP telephony
  2. Video conferencing
  3. Gaming applications
  4. Streaming video (which will truly take off in 2014)
  5. Cloud services –- though the jury is out on the impact this will have on the network

Other services are less sensitive to fluctuations in capacity:

  1. File Transfer/Sharing
  2. Social Networks
  3. Email
  4. Normal Browsing

There is currently a huge conflict of interest when it comes to net neutrality, from small players to big players. Let me explain the benefits of net neutrality for the consumer and society as a whole. Net neutrality:

  1. Helps encourage the free flow of ideas and content
  2. Provides access to a wide variety of services
  3. Provides access for the development of new services
  4. Offers incentive to develop new services
  5. Offers free choice for customers

The big broadband service providers have other concerns. They worry about:

  1. Providing good services
  2. Becoming more than just a dumb pipe
  3. Reduced income from value added services (VAS)
  4. Reduced return on investment
  5. Losing captive customers

See the next page for some policy alternatives -- ideas that might make everyone in the industry and the world happier about the future use of IP.

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paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:44:49 PM
re: Transparency & Fairness vs. Net Neutrality


I use Webex and Skype everyday at work.  We use Youtube and Netflix daily at my house.  No network issues.

Red Herring...to get control of customer's traffic.  Not a real user issue.



Telco 12/5/2012 | 5:36:22 PM
re: Transparency & Fairness vs. Net Neutrality

We have policy management in an expensive but high quality SONET/SDH product.  We are gaining policy management in GigE, OTN networks which by the time policy management is implemented will be a just as expensive.  What we are lacking is a good model to charge low volume, important content, as well as new products into the network with reasonable pricing. 

A refinement to your premise (that I agree with), is the ability for the service providers to bill consumer and content/application (including Cloud & SaaS) with reasonable network costs.  The shame would be for valuable domains to be un-reachable only because they do not have significant user presence to warrant the higher quality connections. 

We have a little bit of this in small business vendors using basic broadband pipes to support their small sphere of customers.  It would be a shame if the basic broadband pipes became dribbles of pipes while only effecient corporate usage with bigger budgets get all the priority.

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