Network Neutrality == End-to-End Principle?

by on February 21, 2008 · 23 comments

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a forthcoming paper on the network neutrality debate. Amanda was kind enough to review an early draft, and raised an issue I hadn’t thought of. I had proceeded on the assumption that network neutrality and the end-to-end principle were more or less synonymous. Certainly, I recognize that non-technical activists don’t always conceptualize it in those terms, but I thought that it was widely agreed that that’s more or less what the term refers to. Amanda disagrees, arguing that by treating the terms as synonymous, I’m unilaterally changing the terms of the debate.

The best example we were able to come up with of a policy that does not violate the end-to-end principle but is widely perceived as a network neutrality violation is Verizon’s broken DNS server, which Ed Felten, at least, regards as a network neutrality violation. At the time, I disagreed, arguing that because users had the option to use another DNS server if they preferred, the obnoxious behavior of Verizon’s DNS server isn’t a network neutrality issue.

What do y’all think? Is network neutrality synonymous with the end-to-end principle? Can you think of other examples of network neutrality violations that are not end-to-end violations? And if they’re not synonymous, how would you define network neutrality?

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