In 25 years from today when you will ask me papa where were you in the network neutrality debate, I would like to point you to this time and writing and hope I/we have taken sides in a way that is useful in your time.
I would be lying if I did not admit that with respect to Network Neutrality I am torn at this point in time. This has surprised many including myself but this dilemma also teaches and reminds of an important life lesson
Few years ago when the topic reared its head across US and few other European countries I organized debates between experts to shape broader industry view that attended industry meets.
Now I am relatively silent because I am unable to decide what is the right side to take; be it for my own benefit as a consumer or a near future producer ( entrepreneur ) or as a latent 3rd party observer of the network.
Entitlement of Ownership of Network that feels a public good
Network Neutrality is a battle of ideas about the ownership of the network between owner/license holders, consumers & producers of the network. Given that this is the most important resource that we as humans have now the Mahabharata war on this is not puzzling. Law making advisors on this (TRAI) have been forced to spell their views, while the law making (DoT) & keeping (GoI) bodies have been pressed into frantic action to keep order before chaos generated by these clash of ideas.
As is case with every decision the right one is very contextual and what was right in the past may not be right anymore.
Is there hard science that illuminates limitations how the ownership can be split ?
My internal conflict began when I was introduced to the notion of limits in physics when debating network neutrality. Packets are not neutral, it is a physically meaningless concept and every networking related academic agrees with this. Few folks I followed for close to a decade in telecom has been at the helm of interpreting on what are the developments in science of network and neutrality. Here is the summary of that thesis
Networks are fundamentally not understood, Networks are systems that trade throughput, loss & delay and conserve the three, ie increase of two will reduce the third. We need a unifying definition of quality for network owner, producer and consumer and need to model/manage the end to end flow of quality. DeltaQ provides the theory of information translocatability (claimed Turing equivalent for networks and mathematically provable). DeltaQ if understood then it can help understand that network neutrality (equality of outcomes) is wrong debate and not achievable. Also it will take us way from focusing on local maxima solution such as bufferbloats. There is even a PhD dissertation that explains DeltaQ in detail here Finally it is explained why it is hard to understand this, quoting John Day RINA, Cook Report on Internet other leaders in network design who have been involved in design of networks since TCP/IP. There is a good chance that this is not science but is gobbledygeek because I understand very little of it ( I had studied computer science engineering while taking all courses on statistics, signal processing and digital communication that a graduate course will allow but still don’t understand it yet)
This view says that if we do not create the right technical architecture foundation we will create a network that will fall under its own weight, is that what we want by arguing for network neutrality.
What are things that feel right to me ?
That there should be openness for innovation in platform like internet. Much of progress in internet has happened because of that. While agreed monopoly is a fact of life, however monopolizing is criminalizing for the society so giving current power bearers more tools to twist with more power does not feel right.
Thus the argument of keeping the distribution is neutral as possible make sense t0 me.
Dilemma is that if networking science postulates are indeed science so that means we can’t change the objective reality of the network.
Thus it feels as if stuck in a no man’s land of Kuhn’s paradigm shift. If there was a Feynman it would have made things simple to atleast understand..
SaveTheInternet team in India has now framed the network neutrality as equality of competition (of opportunity & not outcomes) as that would be create maximum societal benefit. I have sided this for protecting that openness
The other point to learn is that this Catch 22 of the situation is how the nature of human life, ie. that many point in time in history this happens it maybe constituted as failure of human psyche but it is it’s vital asset.
For others reading this, some disclosures – I am a contributing member of many groups, co-founder of Bangalore chapter of Mobile Monday in short MoMoB (2006-2013, legal entity exists but operatively not active) , Fellow at iSPIRT since it began in 2013, joined the general group at STI a few weeks ago. Day job is in Product Management with Intuit Any opinions are mine and have no bearing on official position taken by any of these organizations.