InterStream’s Mediated Bandwidth Agreement

I've previously described what we mean by mediation. The media industry most certainly now understands how important this is and how it is in their self-interest to make sure Internet Service Providers (ISPs) mediate their networks. Previously, we described this in the context of the "OSPA," or Open Source Peering Agreement. After several discussions with ISP partners, we decided that we didn't like the term. It really doesn't describe the nature of what the cooperation between the media and ISP industries are doing with the Internet's peering and transit agreements. So, we've decided to rename it to the "Mediated Bandwidth Agreement," or MBA.

In essence, the MBA is about enabling the ISPs to mediate their networks for both themselves and in support of the media industry's anti-piracy policies. Not only can ISPs create "diamond lane" services on their networks simply by deploying media grid engines into the core of their network, they may optionally define additional mediation policies to shunt off the traffic to "truck lanes" when their regular best-effort capacity is congested. As I described in my previous post, this is sort of like the highway transportation commission having the ability to set a minimum average speed they want to attain for their "middle of the road," or best-effort traffic. When the that average speed falls below that threshold, they can begin moving the trucks off to their respective lane until the regular traffic once again gets above that average speed. InterStream calls this a mediation policy.

nuMetra is acting as a commercial sponsor for the InterStream open source mediation system implementation in exchange for collecting the tolls from portal owners which use those highways. The following diagram should help explain the concepts behind both the MBA and the relationships that are formed between ISPs under the agreement.


The Mediated Bandwidth Agreement (MBA) will extend existing peering and transit agreements so that ISPs who are signatories under the agreement get free access to the technology to mediate their networks. They also gain the right to use the InterStreamSM service mark on their network and become an association provider by meeting minimum quality standards set by the oversight board.

The agreement will be reciprocal and transitive in nature. In other words, after the initial core ISPs are providers in the association, they can gain and offer access to premium services on one another's networks who are also participating under the agreement. An ISP gains access to premium services on all of their peers and transit customers who participate via the agreement. In addition, if a peer or transit customer of yours grants premium service to their broadband network, your network will also in turn receive that service. One of the goals of this agreement is to naturally extend and grow the premium tier of service from within the core of the network to all of the edges.

Mediation Policies

Broadband service providers may also optionally use mediation polices, as described above, to throttle heavy use traffic during periods of congestion. The InterStream wiki has a great deal of detail on what can be set with these mediation policies and where the association will likely head with these policies through the InterStream Oversight Board's guidance through the pilot. I'll dispense with the details. However, we must emphasize that for ISPs to get started with mediation policies they simply need to sign up under the MBA and deploy media grid engines nearest their peering points on the network. It is a very straightforward evolution for them to go from simple best-effort and diamond lane service to a fully mediated infrastructure.

After ISPs have gone through the first phase (which we're testing in Phase I of our pilot), they may then deploy secure mediation controllers (SMCs) in the bottlenecks of their network. ISPs will likely want to use the SMC for at least two reasons. First, the SMC technology will fix a major defect in their current infrastructure. It effectively blocks their network bottlenecks from "being gamed" by various new TCP implementations which can in effect grab premium bandwidth service for themselves at the expense of all other flows traversing those same bottlenecks. Secondly, it is an open implementation. As I discussed in my previous post, this "new math" for an Internet Erlang model needs to be available consistently and coherently across the network. For this reason, the SMC technology is being deployed in open hardware platforms (μ/A-TCA) to ensure that network equipment vendors easily support it for their ISP customers.

Through the use of mediation policies and the MBA, media companies and ISPs may neatly enable premium services on their networks while also effectively thwarting piracy through InterStream's terms of service, as we've previously written about. There isn't any new government regulation or legislation required to do this. Broadband subscribers will experience the same service quality or better and in their web surfing experience. Consumers will find a new possiblity emerging. Their ISPs will now have effective tools to measure both congestion and the level of service they're offered so that they can be guaranteed a much more consistent broadband experience. In addition, they will have the ability to objectively compare service levels from various broadband providers.

InterStream will keep you posted on the progress and nature of this agreement as we move into and through our pilot implementation. Keep sending us your feedback. The enhancement in our terminology from the OSPA to the MBA is just one example of how the community greatly assists us in the development of the InterStream model and ecosystem.

Jeff Turner


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