Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality seems to be one of the biggest current issues in Internet architecture. Telecommunication companies seem to think of themselves as providing a unique service, but I think of them as a simple utility.

A recent article on the topic reports that AT&T believes that net neutrality rules should allow "paid prioritization". I'm fine with a corporate network using QoS to shape its internal traffic, but I'm uncomfortable with ISPs doing this with other people's traffic. I have had too many experiences where "cleverness" with traffic shaping caused inexplicable problems. For example, on BYU's network I have seen SSH connections terminated or stalled for no obvious reason, while other types of traffic worked fine. Even the network engineers can't necessarily figure out what is going on.

Rather than ISPs implementing complicated traffic shaping, why not keep the network simple? If a customer is using enough traffic to cause congestion, they should throttle that user's traffic irrespective of which protocol is being used. They should charge a customer for the bandwidth being used without trying to extort extra fees.

Above all, ISPs should fairly advertise what service is being provided: if the network is congested enough that there is a consistent need for paid prioritization, then the ISP is not providing the advertised bandwidth to its customers. Instead of "Download speeds up to 15 Mbps with PowerBoost", the fair advertisements might read "Peak bandwidth 15 Mbps, minimum guaranteed bandwidth 20 kbps". Another ISP might advertise "Peak bandwidth 15 Mbps, minimum guaranteed bandwidth 500 kbps" by better throttling users that are "hogging" the network. I just don't see how extorting content providers does anything to solve the problem. How could you fairly advertise bandwidth to reflect complicated traffic shaping methods?  "Bandwidth of 1 Mbps for; 800 kbps for; 100 kbps per second for Skype; SSH and Bittorrent traffic have lowest priority; forged reset packets may be whimsically sent..."

NAT already makes it hard enough to try interesting new protocols on the Internet. Do the ISPs really need to make things even worse?

No comments:

Post a Comment