Thoughts while Commuting...

Now that i've got more time to think (commuting to the new gig), i used this morning's uber-slow, rainy drive to figure out how to make the whole net neutrality mess make sense for my new company who cannot be named (TM)

A few things hit me:

  1. The theory of actually, technically being able to differentiate bits across the internet is pretty far fetched. The ability to give one http packet preferential service over another http packet is likely absurd and unfeasible.
    • this would even be the case of for VoIP packets, so a carrier really couldn't prefer it's own VoIP product's packets over a competitor's packets, even if there was a way to do it…. and if the consumer moved their VoIP service between, say, home and cottage, and they had 2 different ISPs between home and cottage, the carrier could end up deprioritizing it's own service eventually…..
  2. If, for a second, carriers COULD figure out how to differentiate, then, in theory, you could actually offer different classes of service to consumers, and let THEM choose the priority of their packets. That would make infinite more sense, and would allow customers to put some muscle behind some of the applications that are just beginning to emerge.. ie home security, health monitoring, video conferencing etc…
  3. The biggest hurdle to differentiation is that carriers all have their own models for classes of service. Allstream's is different from Bells is different from AT&Ts is different from Verizons… and so on. Trying to get every carrier in the world to agree on one standard would likely be impossible…. so - even if a carrier says they are going to prefer one packet over another, it's only ever going to work on THEIR OWN NETWORK. Once it gets off their network, all bets are off…

So - what do we do? Well, someone really does have to help pay for enhancements to next generation networks. And likely the heaviest users of the network should be paying more than the consumer….

Historically, the cost of 1 mbps of bandwidth was theoretically the same, regardless of who you were… oh sure, wholesale and volume discounts could apply, but really, 1 mbps was 1 mbps…. Carriers didn't do themselves any favours, by simply dropping the prices for internet service across the board, and now are in a position that sees internet connectivity as a declining revenue product.

What if the carriers could differentiate on the *types* of bandwidth. If you were a customer who required IP transit, or used BGP, or needed redundancy/diversity, the cost of 1 Mbps of bandwidth would be MORE than if you were just in the market for internet connectivity. It would be a completely different pricing model. So the small business who just needed 10 Mbps of internet connectivity (and would rely on their own ISP for routing) would have a different per/Mbps price than a large business, say, IBM who needed IP transit to various different ISPs….

This new model could still satisfy those folks who are worried about the stifling of internet innovation, and yet protect carriers as well. If you were a wee web application company, you wouldn't need the whole IP transit/Redundancy/BGP product, all you would need is the "standard" service. You would still be accessible to the world, and you could beta test to your hearts desire. Once you had proven you had something that people wanted, and were willing to pay for, you would upgrade to the IP transit version, guaranteeing your connectivity.

It's not like that now, atleast not with the different companies i've had the pleasure to work with… but it could be canada's answer to net neutrality.

I'm off to get ready for the next commute - and to think about the alternatives…. what if the internet backbone mimicked Frame Relay? You would have Port speed and CIR to deal with… and the ability to "burst", and then you would have packets that were "discard eligible" if you started to run out of bandwidth…..