[bestbits] FW: [IP] Ofcom scientific report on "Net Neutrality" debunks myths

Lee W McKnight lmcknigh at syr.edu
Wed Aug 12 14:41:03 EDT 2015

Maybe of interest.

From: Dave Farber <dave at farber.net>
Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 11:57 AM
To: ip
Subject: [IP] Ofcom scientific report on "Net Neutrality" debunks myths

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Brett Glass" <brett at lariat.net<mailto:brett at lariat.net>>
Date: Aug 12, 2015 11:54 AM
Subject: Ofcom scientific report on "Net Neutrality" debunks myths
To: "dave at farber.net<mailto:dave at farber.net>" <dave at farber.net<mailto:dave at farber.net>>, "Ip ip" <ip at v2.listbox.com<mailto:ip at v2.listbox.com>>

Ofcom publishes scientific report on net neutrality

August 9, 2015 By Martin Geddes

Imagine for a moment that a regulator, prior to issuing potentially controversial rules about "network neutrality", got its technical house fully in order. Imagine that regulator hired the leading experts in the field for scientific advice, so that its rulings were grounded in technical reality. If you can, imagine an open process that was open and subject to scrutiny by the whole technical community. Could this ever happen, or are these hopes just the ravings of a deranged fantasist?

I am pleased to reveal that the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has just published such a landmark scientific report. It is written by my colleagues at Predictable Network Solutions Ltd.

The download link is


The title of the report is "A Study of Traffic Management Detection Methods & Tools". Whilst that sounds rather dry and academic, its contents are transformative for the "network neutrality" debate. Why so? The report identifies the many false technical assumptions being made about detecting "discrimination" or "throttling".

Summary of key report findings

Here are some top findings and highlights from my interpretation and summary of the report:

* Not a single one of the players offering traffic management (TM) detection tools is fit for regulatory use in the UK (where localisation of issues in the supply chain is especially important). They all have limited utility, relevance, accuracy and/or scalability. ("…we must conclude that there is no tool or combination of tools currently available that is suitable for Ofcom's use"). There is a long explanation of their (often embarrassingly common and severe) individual and collective failures to deliver on their promise.

* You cannot conflate 'equality of [packet] treatment' with delivering equality of [user application] outcomes. Only the latter matters, as ordinary users don't care what happened to the packets in transit. Yet the relevant academic literature fixates on the local operation of the mechanisms (including TM), not their global aggregate effect.

* You cannot legitimately assume that good or bad performance was due to the absence or presence of TM. ("The absence of
differential traffic management does not, by itself, guarantee fairness, nor does fairness guarantee fitness-for-purpose.") The typical chain of reasoning about how TM relates to QoE is broken, confusing intentional and unintentional effects.

* Networks cannot choose whether to have traffic management or not. ("…since quality impairment is always present and always distributed somehow or other, traffic management is always present.") This ends the idea of a "neutral" network being one free from TM.

* There is a fundamental false assumption that any current observed performance outcome is intentional TM. ("…even if an outcome is definitely caused by e.g. some specific configuration, this does not prove a deliberate intention, as the result might be accidental.") This instantly blows apart most current discussions of "discrimination", which imply an intentional semantics to broadband that does not exist. It also eliminates the possibility of an oath of "do no harm", since there was not intentionality to the emergent outcome anyway.

More at


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