Traffic Management and Net Neutrality in Wireless Networks

CTN Issue: June 2014

This paper looks at the issue of NetNeutrality in mobile/wireless networks where there is a unique network resource constrain - the radio spectrum – which could require special treatment from the NetNeutrality point of view. Specifically the paper examines whether wireless Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be able to control/limit applications. After describing how wired and wireless networks differ with respect to traffic management, it concludes that wireless networks often require stronger traffic management than wired networks at and below the network layer.

The paper proposes dual goals of providing a level playing field between applications offered by ISPs and those offered by competing application providers, and guaranteeing wireless ISPs the ability to reasonably manage wireless network resources. It presents three scenarios for how applications may be restricted on wireless networks, but finds that none achieves both goals. The paper presents a set of regulations based on network architecture and communication law that limits an ISP’s ability to restrict applications by requiring an open interface between network and transport layers, it also illustrates how ISPs may deploy Quality of Service (QoS) within such a regulatory framework. And this regulatory framework, i.e. communications law guides what types of network management and traffic discrimination should be allowed or prohibited.

The paper also proposes a set of policies and regulations that limit a wireless ISP’s ability to restrict applications. The new policy is based on the layered structure of wireless networks and on present communications laws. Since the differences between wired and wireless networks lie in lower layers, NetNeutrality in both wired and wireless networks can be effectively accomplished by requiring an open interface between network and transport layers, and that such a layer interface is consistent with current law: It illustrates how ISPs may deploy QoS within such a regulatory framework, and how pricing can be used to define a contract with users removing the need for network control over user applications.

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