Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate [Telecom]

Today's (20-JUNE-2014) FAS' "Secrecy News" cites the following, among many others, Congressional Research Service's (CRS) report entitled:

Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate, June 12, 2014:

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331kB, 25 pages

Info about FAS and "Secrecy News" are at the end of this posting.

Two interesting items in the report are "Deep Packet Inspection" and "Metered/Usage-Based Billing". Here's the first part of the "Deep Packet Inspection" section:


The use of one management tool, deep packet inspection (DPI), illustrates the complexity of the net neutrality debate. DPI refers to a network management technique that enables network operators to inspect, in real time, both the header and the data field of the packets. As a result DPI can allow network operators to not only identify the origin and destination points of the data packet, but also enables the network operator to determine the application used and content of that packet.

The information that DPI provides enables the network operator to differentiate, or discriminate, among the packets travelling over its network. The ability to discriminate among packets enables the network operator to treat packets differently. This ability itself is not necessarily viewed in a negative light. Network managers use DPI to assist them in performing various functions that are necessary for network management and that contribute to a positive user experience.

For example, DPI technology is used in filters and firewalls to detect and prevent spam, viruses, worms, and malware. DPI is also used to gain information to help plan network capacity and diagnostics, as well as to respond to law enforcement requests. However, the ability to discriminate based on the information gained via DPI also has the potential to be misused.

It is the potential negative impact that DPI use can have on consumers and suppliers that raises concern for policy makers. For example, the information gained could be used to discriminate against a competing service causing harm to both the competitor and consumer choice. This could be accomplished by routing a network operator's own, or other preferred content, along a faster priority path, or selectively slowing down competitor's traffic. DPI also has the potential to extract personal information about the data that it inspects, generating concerns about consumer privacy. [...]

{section continues on page 17 of the report}

+--------------------------------------------------------------+ "crs" = Congressional Research Service which produces documents for the US Congress.


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Thad Floryan
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