Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The subtitle is The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. The ground rules of the panel are that it’s not about politics or policy. It assumes there will be net neutrality, and it’s about getting actual network engineers and architects involved in implementing it. Prior reading: pages 41-51 of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). I’d actually recommend starting at page 37, which is where the NPRM discusses codifying the existing four Internet principles (see below).

A huge number of comments have been received already, by Jan 15 deadline. More comments are solicited. See also

The general idea is to take six proposed principles and turn them into rules that are enforceable and not unreasonable:

Proposed Rules: 6 Principles

  • Access to Content
  • Access to Applications and Services
  • Connect Devices to the Internet
  • Access to Competition
  • Nondiscrimination
  • Transparency
The first four principles have been around for several years. The last two, nondiscrimination and transparency, are the same as the ones Scott Bradner’s petition recommended back in June 2009. Back then I mentioned as I always do that the FCC could also stop talking about consumers and talk about participants. Interestingly, their slide at this talk did not use the word “consumer”, so maybe they’ve gotten to that point, too.

The FCC is also making a distinction between broadband and Internet. There are existing rules regarding “managed” vs. “specialized services” for broadband Internet access, but for net neutrality in general, maybe different rules are needed. Also mobile wireless broadband may need different rules than wired, specifically for connectiving devices and reasonable network management.

FCC really wants policies that “are clearly and appropriately defined to fit current and emerging technologies” and they want input from the technical community for that. They held a first public meeting 8 Dec 2009, and are continuing to hold more, in addition to appearing at panel discussions such as this one.

The rules will apply to Internet access providers, not to hosting companies or to backbone carriers (if I heard that right). Yet it would be prudent to self-regulate similarly even if your network is not providing end-user access. Other laws, regulations, frameworks may deal with other issues, such as copyright protections.

An audience menber asks to be sure not to prohibit less than best effort transmission, especially for traffic from organizations that want it carried that way, for example for massive research data transfers. FCC answer: a core principle in the NPRM is user choice. Fred Baker points out “the user” can be twofold in such cases: the provider of the content and the client who’s downloading it, and the latter might file a complaint.

An audience members asks if we’re really focusing on the eyeball, the end-user, not the rest of the Internet. Moderator rephrases as whether the focus is on the residential broadband user? FCC person says focus is on relation between broad provider and residential user, with further clarifications needed. And of course the end user is not just an eyeball, they send as well as receive. The key is direct access to that network.