Net Neutrality Part I

Posted by Thomas Thu, 06 Sep 2007 18:21:05 +0000

There has been a whole lot of buzz around net neutrality, so I’m going to take a crack at it from my perspective. There are a lot of people out there commenting on this, such as here and here and even at Ask A Ninja. I’m in the middle of reading some of the commentary over here at the moment. I’m in the middle of a 65 page position paper that I’m not sure quite gets the gist of the real network neutrality debate. Which is especially hard to do now, because none of the telcos have actually yet disturbed network neutrality. So, that means that everyone is commenting on pure speculation as to what the telcos might do in the future. And, unless you have some inside information as to what that might really turn out to be, you’re sort of tilting at windmills. From what I can gather, the telcos would extort money from website owner. Telcos would penalize those who didn’t pay up, making their websites slower or even unreachable. And in today’s “Web 2.0″ atmosphere, latency is king, which is why I can imagine many websites would pony up to gain yet another advantage. Some say that it would akin to freeways

If you think of this in terms of freeways, what if the rich people were allowed to go faster than the poor people simply because they paid more taxes?1

Which I don’t think is quite right, because I don’t think that the telcos would make us pay, but rather I think they would find more money getting websites to pay. This document (that I’m not done reading yet) speaks to congestion economics, which I can only imagine are really talking about user of streaming video, peer to peer (P2P), and Bittorent traffic squeezing out other users. Which I also don’t think is quite right. I would imagine that most people would be happy to have those general file transfer protocols QOS’ed heavily to make room for the latency sensitive traffic such as http, voip, ssh, streaming video, etc. (Streaming video is both high bandwidth and latency sensitive…) I think he misses the point and the likely way that this will be turned against internet-goers. As always, companies will pass the buck. If they have to pay extra to get better latency to their customers, but ultimately the cost will simply be passed on to the customer as higher priced goods and services. So the telcos might squeeze the website owners in the beginning, but we’ll get squeezed in the end. So not only do I think that he missed the way that net neutrality will be used against us, I imagine that he also missed many of the technical aspects of how hard it really would be to really reduce peer to peer traffic. Not only will people turn to obfuscation, encryption, and anonymization, but QOS’ing bittorrent traffic might actually have the exact opposite effect, being more detrimental to an ISP’s bandwidth2. Now whether or not this is true needs more study, but it is interesting none the less. Also, if telcos were to implement what I have outlined here, I am curious if they then become liable for the content being transmitted over their network. Up until now, I don’t think that the telcos are in any way liable or responsible for anything illegal done via their phones or via their backbones. I think they’ve been immune to such lawsuits, but I’m curious if they start filtering on the application level, if they will then be sued so that they have to filter for illegal music or movie downloads, child pornography, spam, viruses, etc.

Posted in Technology | 1 Comment


  1. realizePhiladelphia said on November 5, 2008 @ 6:30 pm:

    If you wanna read more about net neutrality, check out our blogs at

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.