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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Traffic Management and Net Neutrality in Wireless Networks

  • Author(s): Jordan, Scott
  • et al.

Many wireless ISPs limit the applications that may be used on wireless devices. In the United States, Congress is debating whether wireless network subscribers should have the right to use applications of their choice. We examine whether wireless ISPs should be able to limit applications. We address how wired and wireless networks differ with respect to traffic management, and conclude that wireless networks often require stronger traffic management than wired networks at and below the network layer. We propose dual goals of providing a level playing field between applications offered by ISPs and those offered by competing application providers and guaranteeing wireless ISPs the ability to reasonably manage wireless network resources. We consider three scenarios for how applications may be restricted on wireless networks, and find that none achieves both goals. We review United States communications law, and conclude that ISPs should be prohibited from giving themselves an unfair competitive edge by blocking applications or by denying QoS to competing application providers. We propose a set of regulations based on network architecture and communication law that limits an ISP's ability to restrict applications by requiring an open interface between network and transport layers. We illustrate how ISPs may deploy QoS within such a regulatory framework, and how this proposed policy can achieve our goals.

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