How Can an ISP Create a "Fast Lane" if the Internet Already is Dark?

With the anticipated and breathless worries about the coming of “internet fast lanes” if common carrier regulation of internet access services are removed, it might be helpful to remember that the technical ability to create quality of service tiers of service, (the dreaded internet fast lanes) extending all the way to end users, might not actually exist.

The reason is encryption. To do anything on a selective basis to a packet, an ISP essentially needs the ability to identify the owner of a packet and the media type of a packet.

With so much traffic already encrypted, that is impossible at least 70 percent of the time, already. According to Openwave Mobility, about 75 percent of traffic already is encrypted.  

By perhaps 2018, 90 percent or more of all packets will be encrypted, Openwave predicts.

Google QUIC and Facebook Zero Protocol (0-RTT), for example,  represent 27 percent of the traffic in mobile data networks already.

Additionally, new protocols such as Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC) intrinsically include security protection equivalent to TLS/SSL, along with reduced connection, transport latency and bandwidth estimation in each direction to avoid congestion.

QUIC also provides mechanisms for congestion avoidance algorithms, putting control into application space at both endpoints. In other words, the app provider can supply its own congestion control, and does not need to rely on a transport or access provider to do so, to obtain the benefits of congestion control.

The ability to create “internet fast lanes” requires visibility at the packet level, a condition that largely does not exist. So when the consumer internet already has “gone dark,” ISP fiddling with packets is not possible.

Therefore, no ability to create a new consumer quality of service tier actually exists, no matter what many argue is the new danger if common carrier regulation of internet access is dropped.


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