Saturday, November 07, 2009

Vote for Net Neutrality Now

There is a lot of talk about Net Neutrality now, and the issues are not completely clear cut as I will discuss later. However, there is also a big threat that needs to be addressed right now.

Bills are being proposed in Washington with friendly names like "The Internet Freedom Act" whose effect would be to give more control of the internet to the big ISPs and take away power from the people who are giving us innovative services like Google, Skype and Amazon. While there is also a friendly bill, and the FCC is on the side of Net Neutrality, everyone needs to act to let their congressman know whose side they are on. Visit "Save the Internet" and take action now!

Now that you have done your bit to save the internet, we can talk about the problem. When a node on the internet gets too much traffic, the traffic control algorithm will pick connections at random and kill them. While this is good for keeping the traffic flowing in the aggregate, it tends to favor one class of user over another. The disadvantage user is the one who is using a single connection to browse the web, download a song or make a voice call. The advantaged user is using Bit-torrent which opens a large number of connections to do a massive download. It does not matter if Bit-torrent loses a connection, it has many others to make up for it, but it does matter when a web browser, or Skype conversation loses a connection.

One solution is to answer greedy software with greedy software. That is every internet application would emulate Bit-torrent and greedily create hundreds of connections in case any one of them gets stomped. While this solution puts all applications on an equal footing, it may strain resources leading to a "Tragedy of the Commons", something that should not be in our bright digital future.

Another solution would be to limit the number of simultaneous sessions a user can have. I personally feel that this would be better than having Comcast or AT&T doing deep packet inspection of my packets. However a hard limit on the number of sessions may cause all sorts of problems with software that is not expecting it, leading to deadlock and other bad behavior. Does anyone have any other ideas?

No comments: