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End to End Principle, Net Neutrality and the Three Strikes policy

Another interesting discussion started by one of the participants of the IGCBP - Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme group Americas J was on the "end to end principle":

How can we understand the so-called End-to-End principle in the context of the Net-neutrality issue, where ISP discriminate between the information packages, and in the context of the "Three Strikes" policy that requires ISP control and supervise their subscribers in order to guarantee copyright enforcement?

One colleague reacted to this question with the following points of view:

These two situations might be interpreted differently depending on one's notion of the e2e and net-neutrality principles. As I read [your] comment I realized I wasn't entirely sure whether these two principles mean the same thing or are just similar. A good source of enlightenment I found was the link bellow. Of course it did not vanquish my doubts completely (or those of the people who made comments to the post at the website)... Maybe the best definition, especially for people who aren't computer scientists or engineers to work with is a broad one, that encompasses and forbids any kind of content discrimination made by companies handling the net's infrastructure (the middle) and ISP's (last mile). What do you think??

A different participant agreed that the end to end principle was at stake in the cases of net neutrality elimination and also in the case of the three strikes policy:

My answer [...] would be that going against net neutrality or imposing "three strikes" policy (or similar regulation) implies going against the "end to end" principle as well. Ivar, thanks for the link, those are very interesting definitions! They provide a lot of texture to the idea of net neutrality. I see the "end to end" principle as a more technical and general idea; net neutrality would probably be a subset of that principle (larger or smaller, depending on how we define net neutrality: the first definition in your link would probably be as big as e2e, the others would be smaller subsets). As for your definition, I'm not an expert on this, but I've heard people (who defend some kind of net neutrality) claiming that *some* processing of packages in the middle is necessary for what is usually called QoS (quality of service). That is, streaming packages should have priority in comparison to e-mail or webpage packages; for example, I guess most of us would be willing to have e-mails slightly delayed (for something like 0,5s) if it allowed us to have good quality VoIP. That is a sort of discrimination, but I wouldn't say it violates net neutrality (or at least I wouldn't oppose this kind of discrimination); your definition probably would say it does. A very different thing would be to simply block or put a general speed limit on, say, BitTorrent traffic, not in order to guarantee QoS, but in order to make the use of such a protocol impossible or discouraged. (A problem, though, is that ISPs will probably always claim they're doing it for QoS reasons...) Another different thing would be to slow down packages (regardless of protocol) based on the website they come from, and in whether this website pays some kind of "priority fee". I'd say these two cases are violations of net neutrality (and here I'm in perfect agreement with your definition).

These exchanges continued with more points of view added on the distinctions and similarities of the end to end principle and net neutrality:

You raised a very good point here. The way I understand it, end-to-end is a description of how technical infrastructure of the Internet works, which means that under normal circumstances, the net is “dumb”, because all “intelligence” to process the information is located at the computer terminals, or at the “end”. Net neutrality is not a description of how the Internet works, but it is a normative perception of how the Internet should work. Net neutrality can only be guaranteed (or not) by human intervention, by policy or regulation. Both concepts are deeply intertwined, but e2e is an objective and descriptive concept of a technical aspect, while NN is fluid, depends on social (policy or legal) definition, and is projected to the future (prescriptive)

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