January 2018

Understanding "Network Neutrality"

Much of the press coverage around the issue of Network Neutrality is confused by the fact that not all Internet connections are the same.

Every network connection is between two endpoints. As an ISP subscriber, I am expected to pay for my end of the connection. By paying more, I can expect to get better performance on my end. The local network infrastructure is paid for by the network subscribers. Since I am paying for my end of the connection, I should have some freedom to regulate or control how it is used.

The pragmatic compromise between commercial and non-commercial use of the shared Internet has always been that the user decides what services they wish to use and what information they wish to receive, not the underlying network carrier.

The issue of Network Neutrality is about whether ISPs (Internet Service Providers) should be allowed to tax or charge content providers on the OTHER END of the connection for access to "their" customers. Imagine if UPS declared that they owned their delivery network and they had the right to delay packages or charge extra based on the what the package contained and who was sending it. This is the argument the major Internet Carries are making.

Requiring Network Neutrality is not imposing regulation, but maintaining the Internet status quo of letting users decide what content they wish to access, and treating Internet Service Providers like the carriers they are and not like they own the shared Internet (because they don't).

The shared Internet is not something commercial interests whether carriers or advertisers can treat like it was their private property. Until we distinguish between the shared Internet and the role of Internet carriers, we will remain easily confused.


Carriers still cling to the old business model of having monopoly control over a scare resource.
There must be high bandwidth applications that would benefit from tiered QoS. Somehow
these applications never seem to materialize. We already have Content Delivery Networks
that don't violate Network Neutrality principles.

The Rise of the Stupid Network

Finally there's the issue of fair competition. Telcos want "deregulation" until it threatens their monopoly, then they want regulation to protect their monopoly as illustrated by their response to municipal WiFi networks.

City WiFi: Fast, Cheap, and No You Can't Have It

The truth is this issue was settled over 15 years ago. What's different today is that the Carriers are more powerful and think they can get a better deal from Congress and the FCC.

- Peter Sichel
Sustainable Softworks
psichel "at" sustworks "dot" com

Understanding "Network Neutrality"