Friday, May 26, 2006

Net Neutrality vs. Packet Prioritization

Last article I said that I would detail the concepts of net neutrality and packet prioritization. I have discussed these points at length in several previous articles, and this article is what will be the final philosophical discussion of the issue—I hope. Unfortunately the concept of packet prioritization is being associated with denying certain service and application providers’ unfettered access to the Internet or degrading their service. Packet prioritization is a tool that can improve the user experience of real-time services like VoIP or streaming video. The two concepts can co-exist in harmony to provide a superior Internet experience for users and service providers. What follows is a rather matter-of-fact comparison of the two.

There are two principals for companies that make a business of the Internet should always keep in mind:

  1. Internet access has no value without content provided by a variety of sources. This fact is a corollary to Metcalf’s Law.
  2. Users expect a certain quality of service from their application providers regardless of the underlying network infrastructure.

So there is a symbiotic relationship between service and access providers. Neither one can stand on their own despite AT&T’s desire to distribute content and Google’s attempt to build a network.

Packet Prioritization Net Neutrality
Allows time sensitive packets to travel through the Internet first while not restricting or impeding traffic unless a bandwidth limitation exists then traffic is gracefully limited until the condition clears Does not limit or impede any type of traffic
Reduces impairments to voice and video Does not attempt to manage the user experience or quality of service
Provides no noticeable impact on other applications like web browsing and e-mail Some definitions require all packets to be treated equally so browsing and e-mail could arrive before your movie or phone call interrupting the call or movie
Manages bandwidth efficiently to maximize the amount of traffic through the network Believes throwing more bandwidth will solve the problem.  There will always be more traffic than bandwidth
Can improve the quality of some Internet applications May restrict access providers from allowing application providers the opportunity to improve the quality of their services
Does not have to be used by all Internet applications Internet Access providers should not give preference to their content over competing application providers

Net neutrality should be defined not to exclude Internet Access providers from providing packet prioritization. Packetprioritization is a valuable tool that all content providers can use to insure a superior user experience and most efficient use of bandwidth.

Tag: AT&T, Google