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Engineers: P2P is not "fair" usage; Reverse Robin Hood: Bandwidth rich steal from bandwidth poor

Three times a year the Internet Engineering Task Force meets to discuss and work through major Internet issues.

  • To my delight, one of the technical issues they recently discussed has great import to net neutrality and the FreePress petition on Comcast's reasonable network management.
  • Kudos to Iljitsch van Beijnum who wrote "Growth of P2P leads IETF to debate "fair" bandwidth use" in ars technica.
    • His excellent article explains a new paper being debated by the IETF that raises the core question, if the voracious bandwidth appetite of P2P is "fair" to non P2P users.

The paper and the article point out that users of "unattended" P2P applications use dramatically more bandwidth than users of "interactive" applications like web browsing -- and then poses the question of whether this excess usage is fair. 

Van Beijnum points out that the paper's authors suggest that P2P users are using 500 times the bandwidth as average interactive users. Moreover, he points out that this assymetric bandwidth dynamic disincents an ISP from upgrading their network because the assymetry would make them even less competitive. 

The fundamental point here is a question of fairness.

  • The unreasonable net neutrality crowd that is part of the FreePress Comcast petition, maintain that no traffic must be altered or treated any differently than any other traffic. 
  • There are two big "fairness" problems with their extreme net neutrality position.
    • Economically, they are insisting on the conditions of a "tragedy of the commons" which is simply when some people who don't own property or pay for its usage, are incented to overuse or abuse the resource to everyone's detriment.
      • The Tragedy of the Commons is "fair" to no one since the resource is destroyed by the few who have no mechanism or incentive to restrain their destructive consumptive behavior. 
    • Politically, net neutrality proponents find themselves in the ironic and unenviable position of advocating for what I have called a "Reverse Robin Hood" dynamic where the bandwidth rich steal from the bandwidth poor --with impunity. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the FreePress/ net neutrality crowd have over-reached and are unreasonable in the neutral expectations.

  • Common sense and basic fairness are injured by net neutrality's tragedy of the commons economics and its Reverse Robin Hood politics.

At its core, net neutrality is about protecting the interests of the bandwidth abusers, at the expense of the average Internet users.

  • What's pathetic is how few people who say they support net neutrality have really thought the issue through to its logical "unfair" conclusion.
  • Of course relative bandwidth gluttons like Google, eBay and support net neutrality, its all about forcing the many to subsidize their high relative bandwidth usage.