50 Shades of Net Neutrality is Here

With President Obama wading into the fray today, the ongoing “net neutrality” wrestling match between the FCC and a growing tag-team of US broadband providers has been roiling through the media and courts, very little oxygen has been consumed to this point discussing how technology can — or should — be applied to the argument. (And there’s more than a bit of irony in that statement given that Internet technology is what everyone is fighting about in the first place.) Even John Oliver’s brilliant wide-ranging piece on the subject did not touch on how net neutrality could actually be implemented (or monitored) with oversight.

But now there’s a powerful x86-based software solution that can, quite literally, turn on and enforce completely equal bandwidth for every broadband Internet user with a simple mouse click. What’s more, because this software actually expands the total useable bandwidth in the Internet connection – by almost 50% in some cases — both sides of the argument can now “win” the Net Neutrality debate. (Or at least negotiate a more agreeable settlement.)

Why the FCC, Google, NetFlix, Amazon and Facebook Win

Saisei’s new FlowCommand™ Network Performance Enforcement software can monitor and control every flow on an Internet Service Provider’s broadband links – millions of concurrent data, voice and video sessions – in real time without impacting the performance of the network.

The “Host Equalization” tick box on the FlowCommand User Interface immediately implements this “policy,” giving every host – user – on a link exactly the same percentage of the available bandwidth that every other user has, regardless of what application(s) they may be running. So, aggressive applications, including p2p apps like BitTorrent or high volumes of YouTube traffic, that used to grab huge amounts of link bandwidth, will get the same percentage of a link’s bandwidth as every other user on the network if that link approaches congestion.

Of equal importance to the Net Neutrality debate is the fact that Saisei’s FlowCommand offers a “No Flow Left Behind” guarantee. Every user session – video, VoIP call and so on – will go through and will never crash or time out again. (Saisei’s flow engine patents eliminate queuing and random packet drops so FlowCommand literally guides every user session through the congested access links in a predictable fashion.)

Blocking is eliminated. Throttling is now unnecessary due to the increased available bandwidth in the existing links. And transparency is guaranteed with real-time analytics – and historical reporting – on over 40 L2-L7 metrics, including, user, application, geo-location, quality of experience and more.

Why Comcast, Verizon, MetroPCS et al., Win

First, by taming the rogue user/application problem via host equalization, during high traffic times every subscriber will get exactly the same percentage of the available bandwidth as his/her neighbor receives, even if a pack of gamers lives next door.

Second, by guaranteeing that every user session will go through, regardless of traffic interference, subscribers will no longer see their videos stall, will no longer hear gaps in their VoIP calls, and overall QoE satisfaction should rise significantly.

Third, by letting network links run close to 100% utilization without ever stalling a session, there is far more bandwidth available for all (as typical networks run only at 50% to 60% today).

With more bandwidth available and the problem of user session crashes put to an end, there are now reasonable grounds for a compromise on the remaining thorny issue of paid prioritization that has been driving much of the recent debate.

Within a single link, ISPs can use FlowCommand to set up one, two, three, or more “tiers” of service — the “50 Shades” reference above — that, because of the other capabilities of FlowCommand, can be implemented without noticeable impact on subscribers in other tiers. And inside every tier, subscribers will, again, receive exactly the same bandwidth allocation as other members in their tier.  (A thematically more consistent way to describe this potential debate outcome would be to call it “Net Neutrality with Benefits.”)

Full Disclosure for All

Technology is not a panacea for the Net Neutrality debate, but until now it has not even had a seat at the table.

The new capabilities presented by Saisei’s solution offer creative ways forward where everyone should be able to come out ahead. One way to assure all sides that fair treatment is finally at hand would be for ISPs to make a portal into deployed Saisei systems available to every subscriber. (Simple to do with Saisei’s REST API and Python scripting.) This way subscribers will know – exactly – what their performance is for every application they are running 24×7. (Quite a step forward from the speed gauges of old.)

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