Net Neutrality, part 3. How to manage a network.

Comcast is one of the flash-points in the current Net Neutrality debate, thanks to a decision to slow some kinds of applications (Bit Torrent on purpose, Lotus Notes apparently by accident).

Networks need to be managed. As described in part one of these articles I managed my home office's network to suit my desired tuning. The method I have selected is called Quality of Service prioritization of packets: it simply handles some priorities of packets faster than others, thus metering bandwidth hungry applications that don't need real time performance in favor of those that do.

Instead of this fairly industry standard method, Comcast has selected a method of managing their network that disrupts some peer to peer traffic by pretending that the network between the two points is failing to complete transmissions. Some have argued that this is the best method available and that other methods would have drawn as much fire anyway.

I would argue there is a method that would not draw as much fire, and would be far more "fair" to the customers of the service: offering tiered service and being honest about doing so. As described in the second post in this series, I pay extra for both server hosting and my home office connection. In return, I expect superior service: in fact, I mostly get it. However, most of the providers want to pretend that the service is "unlimited", while at the same time trying to sneak limits in. A particularly amusing example was Robert X. Cringely (second item) being cancelled from Verizon and charged a $175 early termination fee... for reading his e-mail via an "unlimited" account.

Other instances are easy to find; the problem is simply one of marketing versus reality... the marketing department can't stand losing the ability to say "unlimited X" while the technical group obviously can't deliver on such claims. Really, such claims are empty without any further thinking on the issue than realizing that the provider has some limits of their own that they can't exceed: how can a limited resource provided unlimited service?

The solution? Honesty. Provide plans that have reasonable limits and provide plans with higher limits at a higher cost. Use the revenue from being able to actually turn a profit on your service to build out your service for the future. All this, without disconnecting your potentially best revenue sources: those who need the higher service levels you could provide if you were honest with all of your customers.