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See my post at High Tech Forum, A Question of Priorities on a discussion Jerry Brito of Mercatus started yesterday:

A very interesting part of Jerry’s argument is that as the Internet is a best-efforts network, it must be impossible to prioritize across it. That leads to this speculation about changing the “dozens or hundreds of networks a packet traverses in its travels from sender to recipient.” In fact, the typical Internet packet crosses about 18 hops between source and destination, but only three or four networks on average.

A lot of people have the idea that the Internet is some sort of warm and fuzzy cloud of altruism in which people carry packets as a public service; Jonathan Zittrain promotes the idea that it’s like passing hot dogs down the line at a baseball game. According to this notion, when a Verizon customer in Boston sends a packet to an AT&T customer in California, a completely unrelated group of organizations carry the packet without any economic interest in it. So the prioritization scheme would need to be endorsed by all of them or it wouldn’t work.

This is wrong, actually.

That’s clear enough, isn’t it?

3 thoughts on “Premium Services”

  1. If people are thinking of warm and fuzzy public service clouds, they’re just reminscing about Usenet.

    Not that I’m opposed to altruism or even warm and fuzzy feelings.

  2. Yeah, that must be where the idea comes from. I’d forgotten all about it, but JZ goes back to that era, he used to be a sysadmin on Compuserve and relates all networking to it.

  3. Richard, be fair. JZ is no fool, and his material shows he is well aware of the economics of ISPs. I strongly suspect he’d agree with you that prioritization is very possible.

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