NN Misconceptions

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Gli ultimi commenti di Isenberg su network neutrality e la vicenda Google-WSJ.

NN Misconceptions: “[Buried lede alert: Peer to peer is edge caching at its finest, and it's NOT a violation of NN.]

Boy, howdy! Network Neutrality news blankets the bloomin’ blogosphere. Steve Schultze has compiled 20-some blog articles triggered by the WSJ’s clumsy-to-clueless article.

I have been in smoldering slow burn mode on a couple points, and Brendan Ballou’s piece in JZ’s blog fanned the smoke to light . . . so here goes:

Making bits go from one location to another faster is not, of itself, a violation of ANY REASONABLE DEFINITION of Network Neutrality. I am flipping tired of hearing about treating all bits (or packets) exactly the same. Nobody does this. Nobody can do this. There is no reasonable definition of NN in terms of exactly the same treatment of bits or packets.

If my server has a 10 gigabit per second connection to the Internet, and yours only has a 256 kilobit connection, chances are good that bits from my server will arrive faster than bits from yours. This is not a violation of NN.

Of course a 10 gigabit connection costs more than a 256 kilobit connection. I need to be rich enough to afford a 10 gigabit connection. There are some advantages that come because you’re big and rich that have nothing to do with NN. If I’m a big and rich Internet applications company, I can afford a great cafeteria for my employees, et cetera. By the same token, I can afford to access multiple paths through the Internet and I can figure out which paths are faster, and send my data preferentially over these paths, and that’s not a violation of NN.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to fear big, rich Internet applications companies, or to limit their power. But these reasons might well have nothing to do with NN.

Edge caching, as Google’s Derek Slater defines it in an earlier comment in this blog, is not inside the Internet. It is at the edge of the Internet. Content arrives at an edge cache via anybody’s stupid pipes. It leaves via anybody’s stupid pipes. An edge cache, defined this way, is not a means for violating NN.

Note that Peer to Peer is a form of edge caching. It might be THE ULTIMATE form of edge caching. When I use Skype or BitTorrent, some of the relevant data may be cached on my machine, precisely because it is closer (in some statistical Internet topology sense) to the next potential user of that data.

Do the hackles on your neck go up when somebody suggests that the Internet should be used for what it was originally designed to do? Mine sure as flack do! As if it were designed to do Web surfing and email but not video or meter reading! Hey, we’re not done inventing all the things we can do on the Internet, and we sure don’t need the telcos and cablecos, who didn’t invent any of it, telling us what we can and can’t do. When the telcos and cablecos tell us we can do this, but not that, or that we can do this activity or access that information but it will cost us more, that’s where the Internet starts to lose its groove.

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(Via isen.blog.)

2 Responses to "NN Misconceptions"
  1. Davide Baroncelli says:

    Come la pensa su questa cosa? Io da quando ho letto l’articolo del WSJ ho pensato “ma di che si lamentano?? e’ la stessa cosa che fa Akamai da una vita!”, e poi mi sono coinvolto in una lunga polemica con Zambardino di Repubblica e un paio di altri giornalisti dello stesso giro che avevano scritto di “voltafaccia”, “tradimenti”, “evil Google” et similia: ero indignato dal modo sensazionalista (e “pregiudizialmente anti-Googliano”, per usare un termine in voga nella politica italiana) di trattare quella che secondo me era una non-notizia, ma chiaramente il fatto che io sia un dipendente Google espone il fianco ad una serie di considerazioni non nel merito che pero’ limitano l’efficacia delle argomentazioni.

    La mia opinione e’, comunque, che il progetto di Google sia un’ottimizzazione, e quindi non una violazione di nessun principio di neutralita’: benche’ mi pare di aver capito che il concetto di neutralita’ della rete soffra di una molteplicita’ di definizioni non in perfetto accordo, credo che nessuno possa affermare che essere neutrali consista nell’andare tutti ugualmente lenti.

  2. Certamente, neutralità non vuol dire tutti con le stesse prestazioni. Io non ho seguito tutta la vicenda. Ma mi pare che la sintesi che ne fa Isenberg sia piuttosto chiara.

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