[discuss] African take on Net Neutrality

Chip Sharp (chsharp) chsharp at cisco.com
Wed May 14 00:52:39 UTC 2014


Thank you for posting this to 1Net.  I had just read this article right before your posting.  I’ve been following manypossibilities.net for several years and find it a good resource for tracking fiber deployment in Africa (among other things).

It provides an interesting perspective from Africa, but the concepts describe could apply globally just like concepts discussed in the US.

I do have a couple of concerns about this article that it continues the expansion of what falls under the term “Net Neutrality” in its discussion of two issues:
  *  Web caching (Google Cache)
  *  Zero Rating

The discussion on Net Neutrality has already gone way beyond the original concern over blocking and degradation of traffic.

Web Caching:
The article claims that Google Cache violates net neutrality.  I’ve now seen that claim repeated on another African Internet-related mail list so people are picking up the idea.

This claim expands the concept of net neutrality from Internet access to operation of services that run over the Internet (over-the-top or edge providers).
Google Cache is just one example of web caching that has been an operational mechanism on the Internet since before Google existed (squid v1.0 was released in 1996).  It follows a basic design principle of placing content as close to the consumer as is feasible to reduce latency and cost of expensive underwater bits.  So web caching (e.g., Google Cache) is not a valid example of a good violation of Net Neutrality since it is really unrelated to Net Neutrality.

Zero Rating:
The concept of zero rating is a little more difficult.  The Net Neutrality debate has traditionally focused on blocking or degrading of traffic by an Internet access provider.  In the last few years it has been expanded to include the idea of providing enhanced service to a particular class of data.
These all had in common the manipulation of the data flow in the network.
Now is being proposed the idea that Net Neutrality includes business relationships that don’t require direct manipulation of data flow in the network.  Zero rating is one example of this, but not the only one.  

Is this is really a Net Neutrality issue or is it an example of an innovative business offering?

My view is that we still need flexibility to allow for innovation in business practices of ISPs *and* edge providers.


On May 13, 2014, at 6:48 AM, Anriette Esterhuysen <anriette at apc.org> wrote:

> This is an interesting read on network neutrality from an African internet perspective.  I would summarise it as saying the principle is critical. How regulators apply it has to be sensitive to local contexts. The writer is Steve Song.
> http://manypossibilities.net/2014/05/net-neutrality-in-africa/
> Anriette
> -- 
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> anriette esterhuysen 
> anriette at apc.org
> executive director, association for progressive communications
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> south africa
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