(1) I support network neutrality, but it's a vague term and I support it
according to my own understanding of the technical and social issues. I believe
that Network Neutrality(tm) as less knowledgeable people have allowed big
content providers to define it is broken, and do not support it.
(2) It's not economically feasible to build a network where everyone has
guaranteed bandwidth all the time. We don't build roads that way for the same
reason. You don't get your own reserved lane, because the whole system is built
around the concept of people not consuming peak resources at the same time.
Ditto for the electrical grid, water/sewer systems, etc. The alternative would
be hugely wasteful, so this is - quite rightly - how our world works.
(3) In such shared systems, occasional or even frequent contention for resources
is inevitable. Look at cars and traffic jams again. Anybody who has run a large
shared computer system knows the importance of dealing with CPU hogs, memory
hogs, disk-space hogs ... and network hogs.
(4) To resolve contention, network operators must make decisions about which
packets to drop. They have a right and even a duty to make these decisions in a
way that best protects their other users. Utilitarian "greatest good for the
greatest number" should be the goal.
(5) Some users and some applications (protocols) respond well to dropped packets
or other indicators of contention, by reducing or redirecting packet flows.
Other users and other protocols (e.g. BitTorrent) respond poorly by increasing
load, crowding out other users even more. Worse, they bring the whole system
closer to "congestion collapse" which is when the system is too busy handing
reconnection and retransmission requests to do useful work.
(6) "Make no choice" (i.e. drop packets randomly) is really a choice, and one of
the worst. It actively incentivizes poorly behaved users and protocols to hog
even more of the contended resources, making the network less efficient for
everyone (even including the hogs themselves).
(7) Unfortunately, "make no choice" is the only choice allowed by many Network
Neutrality(tm) advocates. Whether it's by design or the result of sloppy wording
in the resulting regulations doesn't even matter. The consequences are there
(8) Real network neutrality would preclude outright bans of certain endpoints or
protocols. It would also preclude throttling of specific traffic when sufficient
resources are available, but allow intelligent most-effective throttling when
needed. Under contention, this means throttling the most ill-behaved users the
most to restore proportionality among all users' service. Traffic jams again.
When traffic is heavy, everyone crawls along at the same slow rate.
(9) Real network neutrality would not bind network operators to the will of
the big content providers. If a network provider's duty to provide fair service
to all of its users precludes a content provider (e.g. Netflix) shoving all the
traffic they want through an already-congested part of the system, it's the
content provider's responsibility to find and fund other solutions that work
with the network instead of against it. Using the rhetoric of "neutrality" and
abusing the regulatory apparatus to force a very non-neutral outcome is
(10) Other kinds of discriminatory or anti-competitive behavior by network
providers are already addressed by other areas of law. In particular, anti-trust
law should already preclude network providers from getting into the content
business themselves, or favoring certain content partners, partly because those
would make it impossible to follow the principles outlined above. Content
providers (e.g. Google) should likewise be precluded from entering the
network-provider space for the same reasons. What's good for the goose is good
for the gander. It doesn't get more neutral than that.