Wired has a half-good article on Internet regulation today, Neutral Net? Who Are You Kidding?
“Net neutrality” has many meanings, but in the broadest sense refers to a cooperative principle whereby everyone on the net is supposed to make the same effort to help deliver everyone else’s traffic. In fact, pushing bits through the network-of-networks that makes up the internet is an anarchic business and frequently an ugly one. ISPs must often fight to get their data carried on neighboring networks, and those who are willing to pay extra reap immediate benefits in the form of faster and better service. Vast amounts of traffic are rerouted and blocked every day. The system, while successful overall, seems to ride on the very edge of chaos, insiders say.
They ultimately get around to discussing the priority thing, but they more or less mangle it, so here we go again:
A truly neutral network provides each application with the type of service it requires, which is low latency for voice, low jitter for video, and high throughput for the downloads/file transfers/web browsing. The Internet can only accomplish this by assigning priorities to these different traffic types. These priority assignments don’t have the effect of making some web sites faster than others, as all web traffic has the same priority.
This does not have anything to do with blocking or degrading specific web sites, really it don’t, and it’s quite consistent with the meaning of “net neutrality” orginally used by Prof. Tim Wu in the paper cited below.
Priority traffic is not the end of the world, in fact it’s a step toward a more application-neutral Intenet.