A Net Neutrality Solution: Opinions Wanted

I’ve been thinking about Net Neutrality for some time and wanted to get your thoughts and feedback on a solution that seems, well,  so simple and obvious that I can't believe nobody has proposed it.  A bit of background before you dive-in.

I’ve been thinking about Net Neutrality for some time and wanted to get your thoughts and feedback on a solution that seems, well,  so simple and obvious that I can't believe nobody has proposed it. 

A bit of background before you dive-in. Before analyzing and tracking collaboration technologies, I spent about five years tracking the Internet and carrier services in Europe in the '90s. This was during the fall of regulation and we saw what an amazing impact competition had on the market (and how the incumbents fought it tooth and nail).

Listening to the Net Neutrality debate today reminds me of those fights in the '90s.  Internet services today are all over the map. Given differences in oversubscription ratios. Internet users have no guarantee that the 5 Mbit/s service they're buying will even reach 5 Mbit/s.

Furthermore,  while open access was so critical to the evolution of the wireline network, we're still left with applications that are choked by today's Net. Watching HD video or trying to remotely control a devcie from over the Internet remain a nightmare. More bandwidth will address part of the issue, but invariably there will be regions of the Net where congestion control and Quality of Service (QoS) will be necessary.

So here's where my thinking comes in. Given that:

Users should be concerned that the Internet services they pay for are the ones that actually get delivered (given oversubscription ratios that’s not a foregone fact…) and that

Certain applications, such as telemedicine and HD streaming video, will require better than the best-effort services we see on the Net today and that

Service providers would like to maximize their infrastructure investments and that

Content providers would like to guarantee their access to the global Internet community

ISPs/carriers could sell tiered access provided that those services

Offer a minimum class of service, we'll call it a Bronze service, that is nominally guaranteed to meet today level of Internet service. Research would have to be done here to determine what constitutes current standards, but there's enough historical data to make that possible.

• Bronze service would be available to all customers and content providers.

ISPs would need to detail the regions where their Gold/Platinum services were available. Content providers will need this information to assess that the Gold/Platinum services are hitting their target markets or regions. Consumers would need that information to a lesser extent since they rarely care about the location of their content providers.

Customers and content providers who would like a superior experience could choose to pay for a higher quality of service (Gold/Platinum).

Monitoring and enforcement would be done by the FCC or some other appointed body.

Do we end up with the best of all worlds? Let's see. Consumers and content providers what finally know what sort of "Bronze" Internet access is really being sold to them. They would also be able to determine whether "Platinum/Gold" services offers sufficient performance and coverage density to be worthwhile. If they weren't worthwhile, content providers would be able to continue offering their video services on the Bronze services.

ISPs could deliver differentiated services to address specific application niches and gain the benefits of traffic engineering.They would also be encouraged to make their Gold/Platinum services competitive enough to attract more consumers and content providers. Publicizing the geographic reach of those services (not the underlying network) forces them to work with their Internet peers to meet servie agreements.

Initially, the Verzon's and AT&Ts would compete and probably refuse to exchange Gold/Platinum traffic. It's always that way with new services. Over time, however, as they build up their customer bases and realize that they can't beat one anotehr we'd see direct peering between them.

Could this work? Let's hear it.

Dave

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