A Technical Perspective on Net Neutralityby@netneutrality
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A Technical Perspective on Net Neutrality

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This paper provides a technical perspective on Net Neutrality, discussing Internet fundamentals, the role of ISPs, and government regulation. It explores how existing Internet economics are based on usage and advocates for legislation to regulate ISPs regarding Net Neutrality in the United States.
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(1) William P. Wagner IV, Claremont Graduate University.

Abstract & Introduction

Definition of Key Terms

Fundamentals of Internet Operation


Usage-Based Economic Models

Net Neutrality

Legal History

Researcher Conclusions

Areas for Further Exploration & References


This paper serves as a brief technical examination of Net Neutrality and the Internet fundamentals relevant to the discussion. This document seeks to provide sufficient technical perspective that it may inform the political and economic debate surrounding the issue in the United States. Further, this research demonstrates that existing Internet economics are based strictly on usage, and that this model can account for all uses. Finally, I will argue that there should be some legislation and regulation of ISPs with regard to Net Neutrality in the U.S.

Keywords - Net Neutrality, Internet, ISP, Provider, Government Regulation

1. Introduction

Net Neutrality has been in the news over the last decade as a topic of political, economic, and civil rights consideration in the United States [1][2][3]. As documented in the rest of this paper, The U.S. Government as well as those of other nations [4], state and local governments, the national private networks that make up the Internet backbone, and major technology and content providers are all engaged in an active push-pull to define internet standards that protect innovation, corporate interests, and consumer needs.

The Internet is fundamental to success in the modern world [5]. Communities, law enforcement, hospitals, militaries, corporations, and individuals with a certain level of access to the internet are all demonstrably better equipped for success in the current United States and globally.

In 1996, in section 230(b) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, Congress describes its national Internet policy. Specifically, Congress states that it is the policy of the United States “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet” [6] and “to promote the continued development of the Internet [7].”

Because of this need, it has become desirable for infrastructure planning and budgeting to define minimum standards. What those minimum standards are and what mechanism should regulate them is the first piece of the Net Neutrality debate. Proponents of Net Neutrality want legislation that prevents ISPs from restricting or prioritizing traffic – known as “fast lanes” – claiming this will stifle freemarket innovation, investment, expansion, and user choice along the “Edge” of the Internet. Opponents of Net Neutrality claim the legislation will stifle freemarket innovation and expansion by ISPs.

Figure 1.Government, ISP and Consumer Relationships

As illustrated in fig.1, the consumer’s interests are protected through a combination of free enterprise and legislation, so this paper explores any relevant technical considerations and existing protocols, before moving to the economic models, then finally the legal fight in the courts.

This research paper demonstrates how all Internet traffic uses a process known as Encapsulation to achieve complete separation between the content/application developers, and the hardware/networking engineers.

Finally, this paper explains how the current economic model, based strictly on usage, accounts for all internet traffic down to the smallest possible unit of measure – a single bit.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to fully explore the socio-political and economic ramifications of any changes to the current system such as supply-side assistance that would encourage network expansion vs. demand-side stimulus to reduce consumer cost, however this researcher will provide some legal history and make some observations on the current state of the political and legal debate.

This paper is available on arxiv under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 DEED license.