‘Net neutrality’ reading list

Science guidance for policymakers

I was recently asked by a client to pull together a reading list on ‘net neutrality’. Below is the download link to the resulting PDF, plus a copy of the text for those who simply prefer to scroll. I picked out the three most important things to read, with various supporting articles and presentations.

Download PDF of ‘net neutrality’ reading list

#1 Beyond ‘neutrality’: How to reconnect policy to reality?

This summarises the basic issue: that the policy-making process has disconnected from the science, and thus is ignoring the constraints of technology. Why is this? It is because there is widely-ignored ‘labyrinth of luck’ that joins traffic management to the user experience. Ignoring the stochastic nature of broadband is like ignoring the electromagnetic nature of radio. It doesn’t result in good policy!

A more detailed exposition of the problem of this ‘science gap’ can be read in why telecoms regulators must ignore ‘lawgeneers’. Also see the real reason why network ‘neutrality’ is impossible.

This misplaced focus on local traffic management, rather than global end-to-end quality means that ’neutrality’ is too weak to protect broadband buyers. Indeed, network ‘neutrality’ is somewhere between a fantasy and a folly for regulators.

An example of how a US Supreme Court justice got his technology wrong is inPackets are not pizzas: Why ISPs are content, not carriage. The FCC also managed to issue ‘net neutrality’ rules that are technically unworkable.

If you want some amusement from me venting my frustration at this issue of insufficient scientific understanding, read How is network neutrality like pigeons playing chess?.

#2 Essential science for broadband regulation

So what’s real about the science and technology? Ofcom made the effort to get their science in order before making any rules. The above presentation summarises the key findings from the study they commissioned on traffic management detection. It also offers a framework in which to consider the problem. An additional in-depth summary is here.

To understand the technology’s key properties, see Three under-appreciated facts about broadband. Remember we construct these networks and set the rules: seeThe unnatural nature of networks. If you want to dig deeper, read about the illusion of benevolent broadband teleology to see why there’s a widespread false assumption of intentionality to what are random processes.

#3 How the broadband farmers and cowmen can be friends

What should policymakers do instead of ‘neutrality’? The above article outlines a solution to the policy problem. See ‘Net neutrality’ died today. So what else, instead?to also get a sense of why a ‘quality floor’ is the necessary alternative to ‘neutrality’.

If we are to have a quality floor, it begs the question of how should regulators measure broadband quality? The answer is simple: ΔQ is the ideal network metric. To measure this property, see how to X-ray a telecoms network.


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