Network Congestion occurs when a network node carries more data packets then it can handle. This can result in packet loss, delays in service or a complete blockade of new connections. Congestion degrades end user QOS (quality of service) and also negatively impacts application performance.
Artificial Network Congestion
Network congestion is a natural by-product of network traffic and the current routing protocols of the internet. However there are some documented cases where large Internet service providers (ISPs) have been blamed as the architects of artificial network congestion. Online service providers claim that large ISPs intentionally create congestion in some network nodes to charge service provider’s premium rates for non-congested paths. Basically what they do is create a lesser version of the internet to be able to charge bigger bucks for the internet as usual.
The issue of artificial network congestion being blamed on large ISPs also ties into net neutrality. Net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers should provide access to all content and applications regardless of the content, destination or source and without favor.
The issues behind net neutrality can be understood by looking at the process of peering. Peering is a process where ISPs exchange data directly between each other rather than over the internet. Peering is done in two ways: settlement free peering and paid peering.
Settlement free peering agreements are arrangements between ISPs where they agree to exchange traffic directly without any money changing hands. Settlement free agreements are usually made between ISPs who see each other as equal in size, value and traffic. Paid peers, on the other hand, are smaller players who have to pay to exchange traffic directly.
How ISPs use Artificial Network Congestion to violate Net Neutrality
One way large ISPs violate the principle of Net neutrality is by creating artificial congestion. ISPs do this by not upgrading their interconnection capacity and quality at their network entrance points, for settlement-free peers. Essentially these ISPs stop upgrading their connections for service providers who do not have a paid agreement with them, at the same time providing better performing network connections to paid peers. Traffic for paying peers is prioritized thereby providing them a better Quality of service and a competitive advantage. Settlement free peers including CDNs, content providers and online service providers are usually the ones who suffer the consequences and are forced into paid peering agreements to remain competitive.
The fact that the internet service provider landscape is dominated by a small number of very large companies further complicates matters and makes it easier for ISPs to get away with discrimination against service providers. This is where Datapath.io comes in.
At Datapath.io we believe in democratizing the internet backbone. We believe that service providers have the right to get through to consumers over equally well-performing internet routes. That is why we provide a platform where service providers are given the ability to choose their own routes over the internet based on their performance requirements. Datapath.io provides network administrators end to end visibility into their networks and its performance attributes and the ability to compare and choose different network routes based on performance metrics like latency, bandwidth, transit cost and packet loss.
In today’s highly charged net neutrality and artificially created network congestion debate the absence of any meaningful debate around tools that can work around these issues is surprising. Solutions based on political or organizational agreements midwifed by government bodies are being debated hotly, however what is being ignored is the technological dimension of the debate where tools like datapath.io can turn the debate on its head and provide a long lasting solution.