Thursday, February 16, 2006

Is 'Best Effort' Good Enough?

The term 'best effort' describes how packets are routed through the Internet today. No prioritization of packets occurs so, for example, a packet of audio data for a phone call doesn't get any better treatment than part of a web page you just requested.

In their efforts to wrassle the Internet back into the box it came from (think of Pandora for sheer futility here), the telcos and cable companies have been arguing that 'best effort' won't get it done. The carriers assert that video and audio require special prioritization to ensure there's little or no latency that would affect user experience.

But as fiber optic "last mile" connections get rolled out, is best-effort really good enough? Representative Boucher (D-VA) clarifies the issue:

Internet2, a nonprofit partnership of universities, companies and affiliate organizations, including federal agencies and laboratories, has been studying this matter and has demonstrated that a multitrack Internet model is unnecessary to assure quality of service. Internet2 has for the past seven years deployed an advanced broadband network to more than 5 million users and has learned that in a network with enough bandwidth there is no congestion and no bits need preferential treatment because all of them arrive quickly enough to assure excellent quality, even if intermingled...

In countries such as Japan and Korea, network speeds over the last mile of 100 megabits per second (mbps) are common. In the United States, our typical speed is less than 1 mbps. If broadband providers would increase their network speeds to approximate those in other countries, all content would reach consumers with assured quality. No prioritization of bits would be needed.

Exactly. Let's mark this down as reason #813 that the carriers should not be allowed to violate network neutrality.

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