Does Net-non-Neutrality Already Exist?

Net-Neutrality is without a doubt the biggest techno-political debate of the year. The entire issue has spun out of control since mid-2006, and here on the eve of 2007 it has yet to be resolved. The only question is, has net-neutrality already been destroyed and hacked-to-pieces to a greater extent than anyone thought already existed?

Earlier today, Slashdot featured a story on EarthLink’s “random” dropping of email messages. We just concluded a test of our own, and we find the results may not be as random as they seem. In fact, the results point directly to a big spider of sorts, sitting in the middle of all the tubes and picking what goes through and what doesn’t.

According to EarthLink themselves, “EarthLink’s mail system has been so overloaded that some users have been missing up to 90 percent of their incoming e-mail.” But what they don’t mention is, it isn’t random. As a matter of fact, our tests lead us to believe that EarthLink is indeed prioritizing not only message delivery time but also whether the messages ever get there or not.

We sent out 20 email messages from a EarthLink account, and discovered that 100% of them reached an @Gmail.com email, 30% reached a no-name domain, and 100% of them reached an @Yahoo.com email. This could of course be a coincidence, but at a time like this, we don’t think so.

When a system is under load, generally speaking it (attempts to) deliver messages in the order they were received, and they either go through or they don’t. What makes EarthLink’s results a bit more interesting is, the messages that went through and those that didn’t have absolutely nothing to do with the physical network routes:

EarthLink’s mail servers are hosted in New York; Gmail’s are hosted in Mountain View, CA; Yahoo’s servers are in Redwood City, CA; and our no-name servers are in Chicago. Technically speaking, packets sent from New York should arrive in Chicago before they do all the way on the other end of the continent. But of course, our no-name server isn’t on any high-politics list, nor is it loaded with money.

If “dumb” networks existed, then the packets would have most certainly made it to our server before they reached Gmail’s or Yahoo’s all the way in California. Unless, of course, net-neutrality is no longer just a concept or idea for the future, but something applicable in the here-and-now. If the big names in computing are prioritizing one-another’s networks to such an extent, we’re in trouble.

3 thoughts on “Does Net-non-Neutrality Already Exist?

  1. That so isn’t good news!

    I mean, really, if net-non-neutrality (you guys need to think up of a better name for that!) is so that not only do we receive our data packets after the big guys with money, but that we don’t even receive them at all, we’re severely screwed!

  2. Net non-neutrality doesn’t exist, which I’ve seen firsthand in even small networks that aren’t at 95% saturation. There seems to be a split in network owners over why they censor or block parts of the Internet, while other owners have a much better view of what the consumer is buying.

     

    Blockers:
    1. It’s my network I’ll do what I want.
    2. I pay the bills and it’s gotta make money (network’s not saturated or qos’d it’s just blocked)
    3. Nobody’s complained about the port throttling affecting anything yet so I’ll deal with it then

    Allowers:
    1. The customer is paying for Internet
    2. I’m paying for two T1’s it better be used
    3. I’m not going to throttle something and wait for complaints, by then it’s too late.

    This is from a small town ISP/WISP perspective from two very different viewpoints, one is a very fast growing WISP that gets tons of referrals and lots of word of mouth, the other has a website block list of over 20 sites and wide swaths of port throttling that could block MSN file transfers among other things.

    There is a good chance now that competing wireless, cable or DSL sites will be slowed down or blocked, and I brought up possible neutrality laws. One side would rather close down, claim they are a ‘club’ or anything else to get out of the control of the government. The other is happy as pie since they do nothing that could violate other than a clamp on the total speed of the customers connection.

    I can boil down net neutrality violaters to three camps:

    1. Business owners (CTO, CEO) trying to block communication in an attempt to save money from wrong place.
    2. Filters and throttles being used in place of re-investing in bandwidth.
    3. Being afraid of competition.

  3. Hi phreaki, interesting points you raise there. Quick question, do you mean “Net neutrality doesn’t exist” or do really mean that net-neutrality does indeed exist?

    The bulk of your statement points to net-neutrality’s non-existence (hence the existence of net-non-neutrality) – but your first statement seems to contradict that..

    I want to kill whoever coined up that term, it’s difficult to clearly negate! Probably part of the plan, to stop us from actually doing anything about it! :@

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