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David Reed on the neutrality of the Net’s code

Barbara van Schewick has posted two brilliant posts (1 2) about the practical effects removing Net neutrality would have on innovation. Now David Reed, one of the authors of the original argument for the Net’s neutral architecture, has responded, in agreement, but with a shading of emphasis.

David’s point (as I understand it) is that we should remember that Net neutrality isn’t something that we need the law to impose upon the Net. Rather, the Net was architected from the beginning to be neutral. The Internet as a protocol explicitly is designed to move packets of bits from source to destination without knowing what information they contain, what type of application they support, or who created them. All packets move equally in those regards.

So, David asks, “[W]hat do we need from the ‘law’ when the ‘code’ was designed to do most of the job?” After all, he writes, “merely requiring those who offer Internet service to implement the Internet design as it was intended – without trying to assign meaning to the data content of the packets – would automatically be application agnostic.”

In particular: We don’t need a complex rule defining “applications” in order to implement an application agnostic Internet. We have the basis of that rule – it’s in the “code” of the Internet. What we need from the “law” is merely a rule that says a network operator is not supposed to make routing decisions, packet delivery decisions, etc. based on contents of the packet.

David along with Barbara disputes the claim that the need to manage traffic to avoid congestion justifies application-specific discrimination. The Net, David says, was built with traffic management in mind:

… network congestion control is managed by having the routers merely detect and signal the existence of congestion back to the edges of the network, where the sources can decide to re-route traffic and the traffic engineers can decide to modify the network’s hardware connectivity. This decision means that the only function needed in the network transport itself is application-agnostic – congestion detection and signalling.

So, the only law we need, David is saying, is that which lets the Net be the Net.

6 Responses to “David Reed on the neutrality of the Net’s code”

  1. Neither Reed nor van Schewick is credible. Reed has always been the crazy General Jack D. Ripper of the Internet, claiming that the Net’s “precious bodily fluids” must not be contaminated by even basic management practices such as prioritization. (Ironically, this has never been the case; even the Internet’s original “Fuzzball” routers were designed to prioritize time-sensitive traffic.) Van Schewick, on the other hand, has a monetary incentive to deceive: a substantial portion of her paycheck comes from Google, which wants the Net to be regulated so as to preserve its dominance and its monopolies. The fact is that regulation of the Net would be harmful to everyone EXCEPT large content providers such as Google. It would degrade the quality of service, increase the price of access, stifle innovation, kill jobs, and limit consumer choice. We must all fight to overturn any regulation of the Net which the FCC – illegaly – attempts to foist upon the Net on the darkest day of the year: December 21st, 2010.

  2. On Tuesday, there will be a full moon and a total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. This hasn’t happened since 1638, the year Shah Jahan moved the capital of the Moghul Empire from Aggra to Delhi, Sultan Murad IV captured Baghdad, and the Finnish postal service was founded. Coincidence? I DON’T THINK SO.

    [Brett… you NEED this information. Run with it! Don’t let me down!]

  3. Dave,

    We’ve been over this. Governments have defined a censorable Internet as an existential priority, and they will get it. But if they could not make it censorable, they would shut it off — and, to a fifth or sixth approximation, no one would care.

  4. Just a note: A Net neutrality policy from the FCC would not regulate the Internet. It would regulate those who sell access to the Internet. That is another way of putting David Reed’s point.

  5. David, do not try to use weasel words. The regulations do regulate the Net. Fortunately, they will be overturned.

  6. […] David Reed keine Argumente in der Richtung finden.  Eine Netzrecherche ergab meinerseits nur einen Blogpost, der Reed unterstellt für Netzneutralität zu sein. Aussagen von Reed selbst konnte ich dazu nicht […]


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