I have a dream – Reasonable Network Management


Reasonable Network Management will be the basis of much philosophical debate  going forward

Reasonable Network Management – how will it be challenged?

Three little words that will undoubtedly continue to grab the headlines following the FCC vote of Feb 26th - Reasonable Network Management.   So we move from the lawyers to the Engineers (and then back again).  According to the FCC’s New Rules to Protect an Open Internet (here) there will be No Blocking; No Throttling; No Paid Prioritization.  What about caching?  Optimization? Application-based traffic steering or charging? The list goes on….

So caching seems to be OK, but what if ISPs are only caching certain types of content?  Most operators today are using CDN services to store/cache local content.  Many Service Providers are caching popular video content locally within their own networks in order to speed up the delivery process and/or reduce peering overhead.  If they are only caching video traffic, is it discriminatory?

Many Service Provider are using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and other techniques to identify traffic problems and reduce/alleviate/manage traffic during peak congestion times.  Is intervention under these circumstances valid?  Is it legal? Is it Reasonable Network Management?

What if all the congestion is created by three customers viewing high definition video?  Is it OK to reduce the quality of the video stream in order for the other customers to gain access to the service they paid for?  Is it ethical?  Will it be legal?  Video optimization on mobile networks is now commonplace.  Will this practice now be outlawed?  Or is this OK under certain circumstances?  If so, will the FCC be examining and adjudicating on each case individually?

What about application-based steering and load-balancing?  Many service providers implement intelligence in their networks to handle (forward/route/switch/steer) traffic differently depending on the payload (type of application).  A major SDN/NFV use case is Service Chaining. The scenario sees a particular type of application traffic or subscriber’s traffic will pass through a number of services.  In many cases the path and the services are application-dependent.

Application-based charging is a phenomena that has taken off in many places around the globe in recent times (albeit not in NA).  Bundling applications into Digital Lifestyle packages and the like.  While these would not fall under any definition of Reasonable Network Management, but will the practice be deemed illegal?

If we believe even a fraction of the traffic growth reports, video discrimination is likely to be one of the first test cases for Title II legislation.


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