back to article America may end up with paid-for 5G fast lanes under net neutrality anyway

A law professor is warning a proposed reintroduction of net neutrality in the US will allow cellular networks to create “fast lanes” for some applications, and that this undermines the entire net neutrality principle. The FCC is set to vote on restoring net neutrality next week, after the Trump administration overturned Obama- …

  1. Michael

    it is a great feature

    I looked into this in around 2008 as the 5g standards were being finalised using a very early licence and hardware and it was a great feature. Guaranteeing voice or emergency service access and performance is one of the better use cases. It makes a lot of sense.

    I think it is less likely in the current form to be used for applications fast lanes. Equally, I can see the attraction for those that can't wait 30ms longer for data to pay more for a faster connection or need to download/upload their 100 GB file as fast as possible. I think if reasonable minimum performance were to be guaranteed for everyone else fast lanes could be a valid way for mobile networks to fleece the terminally stupid.

    Ultimately all mobile data is going to become data packets. Be that voice or normal TCP traffic. Personally I'd prefer my 999 call to be guaranteed a perfect connection over your random YouTube video. Equally I don't need my text messages to be received in 100ms. I can wait so shove them in the slow lane.

    I see the issue more one of piss poor regulation than net neutrality being the best thing we can aim for. Guaranteeing better performance to someone who will pay more may or may not work for a company. However, the regulator should be ensuring that everyone else has an acceptable performance.

    Why shouldn't a company or individual be able to choose to pay a lot more money to guarantee performance. We do it with fibre and other pretend broadband connections.

    What we need is sane regulations for minimum performance for the majority that increase over time at a sane rate.

    As this won't happen. Keep net neutrality and go after the bastards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it is a great feature

      I think it’s a specious argument as most Emergency Services, Military comms have their own network infra specifically to stay off public networks for reliability and traffic priorities….

      Unless if it is ever delivered the much written about by El Reg UK ESN (Airwave replacement) is a dud are you could do the same thing theoretically with 5G network slicing .. as an example.

      * well no hope of getting 5G here anyway or any out of big cities..

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: it is a great feature

        >most Emergency Services... have their own network

        As has routinely been "discovered" every. single. time there's a network hiccup, this is not the case.

        Australia recently had nearly half its phones unable to contact 000 for nearly 24hrs, for example. Optus outage. UK's is even more fragile, IIRC: they went full IP, no backup at all.

        1. sev.monster

          Re: it is a great feature

          Don't forget too that every doctor, nurse, paramedic, first responder, police officer, soldier, MP, and everyone else owns a mobile phone and uses it in their day-to-day work, regardless of whether they are discouraged or even disallowed to do so. Having these important peoples on their own network slice would be a great benefit for public safety, and would also serve as a perk for being on the job.

  2. AustinTX
    Facepalm

    "Fast Lanes?"

    It blows my mind how nobody can understand that they're not building "faster lanes" for people who pay more.

    They're slowing everyone's speeds down unless they pay more! It requires resources to impose the throttling!

    And still ISPs operate at a 95% profit margin and yet whine that they must raise fees to keep up with expenses!

    1. sev.monster

      Re: "Fast Lanes?"

      The way the spec is written, you are essentially segmenting bandwidth at runtime to create a more streamlined, less busy, and lower latency channel for important data. With the massive scale of resources and the high performance 5G already operates at, your connection speed and latency are unlikely to be or even won't at all be practically affected. Of course, you will see a slower connection if the cell tower is very congested, but in that case your connection is going to be slower anyway regardless of slicing being used or not.

  3. Richard Bennett
    WTF?

    BVS still doesn't understand network performance

    The big tell that NN bigots don't understand networking is their obsession with "speed" (bandwidth or throughput as I understand it) to the exclusion of latency, consistency, and reliability. It's legal for my ISP to offer me a 250 Mbps plan and a 1000 Mbps plan, at my discretion. For some apps I'd rather have 250 with low latency and high latency consistency (AKA "low jitter") and for others I want the high throughput with wildly varying latency.

    Why can't my ISP and I agree on more than one service level per account?

    My router is happy to mark QoS for me, all I need is for the ISP to honor my markings.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

      Your ISP already knows what you need low latency for, they can recognize VOIP or gaming packets without needing QoS to tell them. They'd rather manage things that way because there will inevitably be people posting on Facebook "here's how you can speed your internet" and give people instructions to set the highest QoS level for every packet on their router.

      Cellular companies already have some priority levels. For example Verizon has one priority level for its postpaid customers, and its prepaid customers under the Visible brand are either at the same priority for Visible+ or at a lower priority for the cheaper Visible (non plus) service. Basically that means that if a cell is congested all the postpaid and Visible+ customers get priority over Visible customers, so you may effectively have no service if you are a Visible customer on a congested cell (this is just for data, you can still place calls even though calls are technically "data" these days) AFAIK all Verizon MVNOs are on the same lower level as standard Visible. I expect other carriers do something similar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

        Who calls anyone these days ;-)

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

          Elderly parents, mostly...

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

        Your ISP already knows what you need low latency for, they can recognize VOIP or gaming packets without needing QoS to tell them.

        How exactly would they do this?

        and give people instructions to set the highest QoS level for every packet on their router.

        MS once did this for all their packets. But QoS/CoS are the way to do this so the ISP just has to forward based on the lable, and not have to waste time/money/cycles looking deeper into the packet. But that's always been the real challenge with 'net neutrality, not the fantasy stuff the nutty professor reeled off. If ISPs (or apps) use CoS in an abusive manner, regulators can slap them with huge fines. If they just assign say, 128Kbps for EF with the intent it's used for voice, all is well.

        1. DS999 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

          Clearly you are out of the networking loop for the past 20 years if you don't know what deep packet inspection is.

          1. sev.monster

            Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

            You don't even need the deep part. Tracking large, consistent incoming packets and assuming it's some kind of large download, then cross-referencing where it's coming from to assume what kind of download, is no more difficult than guessing the sky is blue while looking at it. That was all possible 20 years ago.

          2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

            Clearly you are out of the networking loop for the past 20 years if you don't know what deep packet inspection is.

            No, I know exactly what deep packet inspection is. I'm more curious why you'd want to do it, and as a bonus thought for you, if it would be legal to perform DPI on every packet?

            The alternative is far, far simpler and simply looking at the ToS bit on a lable, or if you absolutely have to, a packet header.

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

              Got news for you, big ISPs are already doing DPI on every packet. The high end routers do that without any performance penalty, even if they aren't using that for operational decisions like routing they gather data off it for metrics about who is doing what on their networks.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

                Got news for you, big ISPs are already doing DPI on every packet.

                Got news for you. Big ISPs do lables, not packets. Switching > routing. Real TE is about CoS. CoS doesn't need more than the ToS bits, and arguably it should be kept that way because it's one way to prevent a lot of the abuses the nutty proffessor was ranting about.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: BVS still doesn't understand network performance

                  Why can't ISPs do DPI and "lables" based routing at the same time?

                  Routing or switching is one thing. Priority based scheduling is another one. And priority is not only about CoS/ToS. It's way more complex than that. You need DPI in all cases. For priority and many other things. So, it's not an either/or.

  4. Tubz Silver badge

    I have no issues with fast lanes, if an app/service provider wants to pay for it, like a bank or streamer, so long as a customer gets his connection they are paying for with a guaranteed QOS, i.e no throttling when fast lanes require speed bumps, in speed or response times.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How is this any different from 'Lexus lanes' on the freeway which states go gaga over because $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. It's just because the boot is on someone else's foot.

  6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    market forces will smooth out any injustices

    See subject. Yeah, because unregulated "market forces" always work out so well for everyone!

    I wonder how many of those claiming "market forces" will be happy to see their own business go under because a "bigger boy" came along and took their market share from them?

  7. Mostly Irrelevant

    This technology is more about creating slow lanes for less important traffic (whatever they consider less important), so that more important traffic will be transferred faster or with better latency. But I guess slow lanes isn't good marketing.

  8. aerogems Silver badge

    Show me someone who says, "market forces will correct <issue>" and I will show you someone who doesn't know WTF they're talking about.

    That said, what we need is a national public broadband service which will abide by the letter and spirit of net neutrality. Outside of congestion control, no prioritization of anything over another, and the whole thing is funded through taxes so anyone can use it. ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are then free to flog their networks to businesses, or even individuals, and are not bound by net neutrality. If Google wants to pay for a large amount of bandwidth allocation for its use, they can do so with any of the private ISPs. Anyone who doesn't like it can move to the public network.

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