Paid Peering and Net Neutrality revisited

Dr Peering

You seemed to have stirred up quite the flame war with your Paid Peering and Net Neutrality article. What’s is going on?



It appears that at least one person is under the mistaken impression that DrPeering went to the FCC to lobby for the regulation of peering, paid or otherwise. This could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, DrPeering, very publicly, raised a warning flag that section 106 of the NPRM describes a rule that appears to come strikingly close to the heart of peering.

As with all of these discussions, there are two sides to the coin. Let•s clarify and focus on the core of the issue.

Policy friends and indeed Jon Peha (Chief Technologist, FCC) is cited to have said here that sometimes these rules are intentionally vague in order to elicit comments. So since :

a) the section 106 rule appears to have the intent of disallowing access networks to charge for “enhanced” access to the eyeballs, and

b) paid peering enhances performance (lower latency to the eyeballs, more control over routing, more visibility, etc. by bypassing the transit providers route normally in the path), raising the potential regulatory threat posed here seems appropriate.

 At the heart of the discussion is the question, “Does this rule apply to peering?”

The folks who say “No” point to the FCC diagram in section 106 (see below), shown on top of an illustration we will discuss later.

The double arrowed line between the end user and the broadband service provider appears to mean that the rule is intended to limit what an access provider can do within its own network. The belief therefore is that this rule does not apply to what the access provider does at its borders where it peers.

If this is indeed the FCC’s intent, then we can all go home and sleep soundly knowing that there is no regulatory interest in peering. (The FCC would not comment on this point when the question was asked directly. Apparently this silence is a fairness issue—if they clarify for anyone, they need to clarify for everyone, which would require anew release of the NPRM... So if anyone claims the FCC has offered clarification, then let’s cite the source and be done.)

However, the decision to peer or not to peer at the access provider edge, in effect, makes a big difference to the prospective CDN, content-heavy ISP or content provider peer. As shown in the diagram below, we see what, in effect, looks like two-tiered access to the eyeballs they want to reach ; enhanced (paid peering) for those who pay the metered rate for paid peering to the access provider, or the more circuitous transit path for those who do not pay the access provider to direct peering.

So if you take the bi-directional arrow in FCC diagram above to include the path from the access network peering router all the way to the eyeballs, then paid peering is a mechanism that provides that “enhanced” access to the eyeballs. At least, that is how it looks from the outside to the content provider.

So all of this fuss is about this interpretation.... if you believe that the intent of the rule in section 106 of the NPRM is to prevent access networks from charging content companies for enhanced access to its eyeballs, one could view paid peering as precisely this --higher performance access to its eyeballs for a metered rate executed as a paid peering product, selectively sold and priced as the access provider decides.

If I am misinterpreting the intent, then we can all breathe a sigh of relief; peering is nowhere close to the regulatory scope.

If there is any correlation between the rule and paid peering we are all in for an adventure as this will affect network relationships worldwide and may invite further regulation on a country by country basis or a network by network basis or some unforeseen future consequences.

Dr Peering

DrPeering [at] DrPeering [dot] net


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