About Network Neutrality And Walled Gardens

The network neutrality debate is an exceedingly complex one. At its heart, network neutrality aims to ensure that all services are treated neutrally on a network, which is a noble-enough aim, but one that is not realistic if you know how the internet functions in the real world.

Behind the scenes, on any network, connecting from point A to point B is never as simple as finding the shortest route between the two. Depending on a number of factors, even machines on the same network may or may not take an entire roundtrip around the globe to get talking to each other.

This, by itself, renders half of the network neutrality argument pointless: the network has never been neutral, nor will it ever be due to a variety of factors.

Where network neutrality does have a role to play is in terms of exclusion than differently priced service levels.

If an open network (like a DSL connection) can ensure that all services are available on it on a best-effort basis on it at a baseline level, it can be deemed neutral.

There should not be a problem if the ISP should choose to negotiate peering with a content company that allows it faster delivery/access from point A to point B.

The crucial difference is that the companies are allowed the freedom to negotiate a premium service level between themselves, while allowing the baseline to continue as it is for everyone.

If the ISP were to degrade baseline services based on a lack of payment between the ISP and a service provider, that would mean that network is no longer neutral to all players.

This post was largely prompted by the recent bits of news about Airtel's promotion of YouTube's IPL stream to a 2mbit link and the walled garden internet access on the MTN mobile network.

Walled gardens don't really get into the entire network neutrally debate as long as they are not promoted as an open network. If you do advertise connectivity only to a certain bunch of products, it is fine by me.

You get what you pay for. As it has been the case with Airtel Live so far. What I would have a problem with is if they advertise an open network and deny access to other sites.