The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has new requests for ISP (internet service providers). The Net Neutrality Order, containing 400 pages of rules, states that it is illegal to favor certain kinds of web traffic for money.
But many network engineers were surprised by a provision regarding packet loss. Packet loss is when networks lose track of the data under transit. The internet providers will be forced to monitor and publish data about packet loss on their networks.
Internet protocols are designed in such a way that they can resist packet loss, but if the loss is very big, this will prevent browsing and streaming from working properly. Naturally people will prefer providers with less packet loss. This will lead to a competition for lower packet loss between providers: companies will do the best they can to improve their internet services in order to have a clean network. An advantage would be that there will be a widespread improvement of the internet with less and less packet loss.
Although this doesn’t seem to be a bad idea at all, some engineers find this idea to be disastrous. The main problem is the fact that a good network is not measured by its packet loss. A system entirely destined to reduce packet loss will, on the contrary, lead to slower network.
The NCTA (National Cable and Television Association), strongly opposing Title II, declared that the provision regarding packet loss will lead to the degradation of internet performance.
In fact the metrics stated in the regulations fit into the current requirements on medium bandwidth and latency. This changes the situation quite a lot. If latency and bandwidth are also taken into consideration, it is not the same thing as having packet loss as the only metric. Although for the customers things will not be clear, ISP will have to balance the three values. So in reality the situation will not be as grim as NCTA predicted.
Nicholas Weaver, previously a critic of the packet loss requirement, seems to consider it now a blessing in disguise because it contributes with vital information without destroying the balance between quality and connection speed.
Yet it is hard to tell what will be the influence of this new requirement overall. ISP may still not agree with the new rules and customers may not be able to weigh all the information but they will still be able to choose the network operators they prefer.
Image Source: Business Computing World
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