The Internet is non-neutral with respect to applications and to location, but it’s overly neutral with respect to content, which causes gross inefficiency as we move into the large-scale transfer of HDTV over the Internet. Over-the-air delivery of TV programming moves one copy of each show regardless of the number of people watching, but the Internet transmits one copy per viewer, because the transport system doesn’t know anything about the content. Hit TV shows are viewed by tens of millions of viewers, and their size is increasing as HDTV catches on, so there’s major engineering to do to adapt the Internet to this mission. Until this re-engineering is done, HDTV is trouble for the Internet.
Presently, the P2P problem is being worked by the DCIA in its P4P Forum, and in the IETF in the P2P Infrastructure group. P2PI held a meeting last month at MIT, and will most likely meet again in Dublin the last week of July. They have an active e-mail list, and are charitably receiving complaints and suggestions about the best way to handle P2P interaction with Internet core protocols. The system is working, and with any luck these efforts will address some the unsolved problems in network architecture that have emerged in the last 15 to 20 years.
We need to let the system that has governed the Internet for the last 35 years continue to work. The legislation that has been introduced has been described by one of its sponsors, Rep. Adam Schiff (D, Burbank) as a “blunt instrument” designed to “send a message.” The message that it sends to me is that some people believe that the Internet’s core protocols have reached such a refined level of perfection that we don’t need to improve them any more.
I know that’s not true. The Internet has some real problems today, such as address exhaustion, the transition to IPv6, support for mobile devices and popular video content, and the financing of capacity increases. Network neutrality isn’t one of them.