Net neutrality: an everyday scenario

After my earlier post about Net neutrality, I'd like to follow up with an example that I've seen in real life around me:

It's a flat-share where 4 IT savvy people live.
Everyone has a computer and there's a local wireless network setup to allow them to share the internet broadband connection (ADSL).

They were all foreigners, staying in the country for a year or two.
They used Internet primarily for web, email and Instant Messaging.
The 1 Mbits internet connection was fast enough for everyone to share.

Then, they progressively made use of P2P technologies, and the usability of the Internet degraded dramatically for normal web, email and IM use.
It has been easy to prove that the degradation was a direct consequence of the use of P2P.

When one of them wanted to do voice conference with relatives abroad, he had to announce it to all his flat-mate and warn them not to use P2P at the scheduled time of the Internet voice calls.

After moans, discussions and unhappy Internet life they did capsized the bandwidth used by their P2P software.

Soon after they decided to centralize P2P use to one central server and to limit its availability to daytime when nobody is at home.

Occasionally, they received emails from their ISP, telling them to reduce their consumption, mentioning port blocking if no progress made.

So, what's the moral of the story?

  • All Data are not equal

  • According to some ISPs, 20% of customer uses 80% of the network resources

  • action to fix the issue has been implemented both on the local network and at ISP level

With traditional medias joining webcasters to distribute video and audio on Internet, using P2P technologies like Kontiki, and the growing population of audio and video podcasters, the situation is not looking good.

Effectively, from a standard user (who does web, email, IM), the Internet will look more and more like it's dying.

What's the solution then?

  • I think the originators of the increase in resource consumption should pay for the traffic they are monopolizing:

    • ISPs should ask for a higher monthly rate from their P2P users

    • New Media companies should be required to paid a premium for media distribution

  • Priority of routing could be introduced and could be like that

    • * higher priority to communication oriented data transfer*

    • lowest priority (and usage limit) to generic P2P usage (BitTorrent, eDonkey, ...)

    • fee based increase of priority for webcasters

That will allow ISPs to buy more pipes (I've got that strange feeling of being over-naive here ;-) )

The trouble with that model is that community originated media maybe be unfairly treated.
New media companies can afford QoS Internet service.
Podcasters and creative individuals can't.

In other hand, guaranteeing Quality of Service really matters if money is at stake.
It's then more relevant to new media companies.

So, as long as podcasts and distribution of individual creations are not de-prioritized as if they were generic P2P, the model could work.

Having to pay higher for your Internet connection if you are a P2P users may not be the best thing you've wished for.
Capsizing the bandwidth used and avoiding rush hour might be an alternative.
But as for the model described above, everybody has to play the same rules for the whole thing to work.

Technorati Tags:
internet, connection, broadband, wireless, adsl, cable, bandwidth, p2p, netneutrality

Rija Ménagé

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