Overview[edit | edit source]

Internet traffic management (also called network management or bandwidth managaement) is the process of measuring and controlling the communications (traffic, packets) on a network link, to avoid filling the link to capacity or overfilling the link, which would result in network congestion and poor performance.

Internet traffic management is necessary for networks to function effectively. For example, in order for voice conversations to occur over the Internet, the data packets encoding the communications must arrive in rapid sequence. Long delays between the arrival of voice data packets would make voice conversations over the Internet impossible to conduct. Prioritization of voice data packets over other packets traveling simultaneously over the same network ensures clear voice transmissions, while minimally delaying other network traffic.

Potential problems[edit | edit source]

Logically, if network managers have the power to prioritize data packets, they also have the power to subordinate them. This means network managers have the power to render the applications that depend on packet-prioritization (like voice or video applications) useless. Accordingly, there must be a line between network management that is necessary for the Internet to provide quality service to users, and network management that is anti-competitive or otherwise harmful to the free exchange of information. Questions have arisen regarding where that line is and who has the ability to draw it.

Government regulation[edit | edit source]

In an attempt to separate the unnecessary network management practices from the necessary, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an Internet Policy Statement. The Internet Policy Statement endeavored to ensure that broadband consumers would have access to all lawful content on the Internet and that all lawful applications could be used on networks. These rights may be limited by the needs of broadband access providers to reasonably manage their networks. The Internet Policy Statement was not a regulation carrying the force of law; therefore, violation of the Internet Policy Statement presumably would not result in liability.

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