Network Neutrality or Internet Innovation?

 The author argues that granting network providers pricing flexibility should reduce the costs borne by consumers.

 "It is all too easy to forget that the Internet is not a monolith with a brooding omnipresence overseeing the entire system. Instead, it is a collection of autonomous systems that determine the terms of interconnection between them through a series of arms-length negotiations. Given the Internet’s essence as a network of networks, it should come as no surprise that no two packets will pay the same amount for the same service.

The developments that I have outlined in this article have made such differences even more likely. The network no longer adheres to the rigid and uniform hierarchy that characterized the early Internet and its predecessor, nsfnet. Data packets can now travel along radically different paths based on the topology of the portion of the network through which they travel. This is the inevitable result of reducing costs and experimenting with new structures. At the same time that network providers are experimenting with new topologies, they are also experimenting with new business relationships. Gone are the days when networks interconnected through peering and transit and imposed all-you-can-eat pricing on all end users. That fairly simple and uniform set of contractual arrangements has been replaced by a much more complex set of business relationships that reflect creative solutions to an increasingly complex set of economic problems. Again, these differences mean that the service that any particular packet receives and the amount that it pays will vary with the business relationships between the networks through which it travels. Although many observers reflexively view such deviations from the status quo with suspicion, in many (if not most) cases, they represent nothing more than the natural evolution of a network trying to respond to an ever-growing diversity of customer demands. Imposing regulation that would thwart such developments threatens to increase costs and discourage investment in ways that ultimately work to the detriment of the consumers that such regulation is ostensibly designed to protect."

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Posted on 02/01/2011 by


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