Catherine Rosenberg, a professor with the University of Waterloo’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has written a great synopsis of the Internet for our cousins to the North:
The founding principle of the Internet is resource sharing and hence to deliver an appropriate end-to-end service, some level of co-ordination and traffic control is needed to ensure network performance does not collapse. This is even more true now as the last few years have seen massive increases in Internet traffic due in large part to the proliferation of “bandwidth hungry” applications such as games, peer-to-peer file transfers and increasingly complex, enriched web pages. Added to this is the “all you can eat” economic model promoted by the ISPs, an approach that entices users to always consume more, and of course the fact that the number of Internet users keeps on increasing.
So what does controlling the traffic mean? It means keeping the traffic entering the network under a certain threshold to avoid performance collapses that would affect everyone. And this is what traffic shaping does, by, for example, limiting the bandwidth available for certain types of applications that are less time sensitive in order to keep more bandwidth available for other applications that are more time sensitive, and used by the greater number of subscribers.
While some would argue that this is done “naturally” with Transmission Control Protocol, the reality is that TCP alone is not enough to avoid congestion and spread the burden of congestion as fairly as possible to all those using the congested area.
It’s so refreshing to read something like this after slogging through all the nonsense that our law professors have written about the Internet for our net neutrality debate. I highly recommend you read the Whole Thing.
H/T Brett Glass.