Nuts and Bolts of Network Neutrality

This paper explains the "mechanics of network discrimination" i.e. "the technical motivations for discrimination, the various kinds of discrimination and how they would actually be put into practice, and what countermeasures would then be available to users and regulators" to facilitate a more meaningful discussion on network neutrality.

"Readers looking here for a simple policy prescription will be disappointed. The network neutrality issue is more complex and subtle than most of the advocates on either side would have you believe. Net neutrality advocates are right to worry that ISPs can discriminate—and have the means and motive to do so—in ways that might be difficult to stop. Opponents are right to say that enforcing neutrality rules may be difficult and error-prone. Both sides are right to say that making the wrong decision can lead to unintended side-effects and hamper the Internet’s development. There is a good policy argument in favor of doing nothing and letting the situation develop further. The present situation, with the network neutrality issue on the table in Washington but no rules yet adopted, is in many ways ideal. ISPs, knowing that discriminating now would make regulation seem more necessary, are on their best behavior; and with no rules yet adopted we don’t have to face the difficult issues of line drawing and enforcement. Enacting strong regulation now would risk side-effects, and passing toothless regulation now would remove the threat of regulation. If it is possible to maintain the threat of regulation while leaving the issue unresolved, time will teach us more about what regulation, if any, is needed."

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Posted on 02/01/2011 by


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