Tag Archives: videoconferencing

Net neutrality in a bandwidth-limited Internet

The phrase “net neutrality’ was coined by Tim Wu, the author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, to describe a so-called open Internet in which all packets from all users are treated equally. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

I’ve managed corporate networks since 1987. When all clients were the same, treating their packets equally made sense. As videoconferencing and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) traffic joined these networks, latency caused frozen video frames and dropouts in VoIP telephone conversations — all verboten in a business environment. One cure is to implement QoS (Quality Of Service) across the enterprise. Packets that are time-sensitive are created with a QoS field that asks routers that these packets go to the front of the line when packets queue for routing. In private networks, where IT departments control which stations and apps create packets with high priority, implementing QoS works nicely.

MUSE QoS architecture
IGMP = Internet Group Management Protocol
ASP = Application service provider
NSP = Network service provider

The Internet is anything but private. If all Internet routers accommodate QoS, is it sensible to assign the same high priority to packets carrying real-time heart surgery, HD video of Rocky XXII, and people playing online games?

The Internet will never be a boundless resource, so from a technical point of view it’s sensible to implement QoS. Who will pay for priority handling? If Netflix were to pay a premium for preferential handling of its streaming video packets, it could hurt the cable TV providers, so the cable TV industry piously supports net neutrality. Any argument against enabling QoS is purely political, and opens a Pandora’s box that revolves around the question, “What IS the Internet?”, or “What do we wish the Internet to become?”

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695