Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Network Neutrality

Network Neutrality is a policy whereby a computer network is free from restrictions. The term is frequently used to refer to issue involving the Internet, but the same principles apply to every network.

A restricted network may block or hinder:
  • Equipment used
  • Applications or protocols used
  • Content viewed

Key services in the debate:
  • Peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P)
  • Voice Over IP (VOIP)
  • Streaming video

Although the concept of net neutrality has been around since the early 2000’s some would argue that it has existed since the telegraph. In 1888 Almon Brown Strowger created the automatic telephone exchange in order to bypass telephone operators who would sometimes redirects
his customers to his competitors. In doing so Strowger created a neutral environment that was free from tampering.

In 2001 the Internet2 project stated that Quality of Service(QoS) technical protocols were not probable on the Abilene Network with the equipment that they had at the time.

The first time a proposal for concrete rules over net neutrality came about was in a paper written by Tim Wu, “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination” in 2003. It proposed it in terms of neutrality between data, QoS-sensitive traffic and also between applications. He urged for some type of legislation to deal with such issues.

One of the earliest documented attacks on net neutrality involved a small DSL provider named Madison River Communications which blocked any VoIP(Voice over Internet Protocol) service for a short period of time. The Federal Communications Commision (FCC) stepped in to enforce network neutrality principles.

Later that year the FCC created a policy statement that stated they would adhere to four principles of network neutrality. They are as follows:

(1) Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice

(2) Consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement

(3) Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network

(4) Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers,application and service providers, and content providers

Technical Overview:
The Internet consists of many networks connected together through peering agreements, whereby two or more parties agree to allow each other's traffic to traverse their network. Internet Echange points facilitate these agreements, allowing networks to make new peering arrangements more easily. When two parties disagree on terms, this can result in depeering.

Benefits of a Neutral Internet:
  • Unrestricted access to information
  • Ability to use any Internet service without being hindered
  • A fair environment to foster innovation
  • Control lies with the user

Benefits of a Non-Neutral Internet:
  • Greater speeds and reliability

For example, %50 - %65 of download and %75 - %90 of upload traffic is used for peer-to-peer services.


If Network Neutrality policies are not permanently adopted, corporations will likely assume total control of the Internet, effectively destroying the free flow of information we have come to take for granted.

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