[Special Section on Net Neutrality] Net Neutrality: The Technical Side of the Debate ~ A White Paper

Jon Crowcroft


Network Neutrality is the subject of much current debate. In this white paper I try to find the signal in the noise by taking a largely technical look at various definitions of network neutrality and the feasibility and complexity of implementing systems that support those ideas.

First off, there are a lot of emotional terms used in the context of the "net neutrality" debate. For example, "censorship" or "black-holing" rather than route filtering, fire-walling and port blocking; "free-riding" rather than overlay service provision to describe the business of making money on the Net; or "monopolization" instead of the natural inclination of an organization with a lot of investment trying to make revenue from it.

This paper describes the basic realities of the net, which has never been a level playing field for many accidental and some deliberate reasons, and then looks at the future evolution of IP (and lower level) services, the evolution of overlay services, and the evolution of the structure of the ISP business space (access, core and other). Finally, I appeal to simple minded economic and regulatory arguments to ask whether there is any case at all for claiming the Internet as a special case, different from other services, or utilities.

Full Text: