Net Neutrality in the United States and Europe

Jan Kramer, Christof Weinhardt, Lukas Wiewiorra, Mar 29, 2012

The Net Neutrality (“NN”) movement essentially believes that the traditions of the internet ecosystem should not be altered. The NN debate originated in the United States, and particularly gained momentum after it became public that large Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) overtly or covertly tried to change some of these traditions. The most prominent acts of alleged NN violations that especially stimulated the debate in the United States were:

  1. The 2005 Madison River Communications case, which accused Madison of blocking voice-over-IP (“VoIP”) internet traffic because it was in competition with Madison’s regular telephone service;
  2. The 2008 Comcast case, which accused Comcast of restricting the flow of peer-to-peer (“P2P”) traffic in its networks in order to reduce costs; and
  3. The 2005 statement of former ATT CEO Ed Withacre, who announced that, in order to refinance the networks, content and service providers (“CSPs)” should pay an additional fee to the eyeball ISPs where the CSP’s traffic terminated.

To understand why these acts are considered a violation of NN, it is important to recapitulate two fundamental traditions of the internet that built the foundation of the NN movement. The first is the best-effort principle, which means that intermediate network nodes (routers) forward internet messages (packages) on a first-come-first-served basis. If routers’ queues are full, new incoming packages are deleted and mus


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