Akamai Does Not Violate Network Neutrality

from the end-to-end-vs-end-to-middle dept

Many supporters of AT&T's plans to double dip in internet charges by ending neutrality claim that the internet has never been neutral, and point to systems like Akamai as an example of this. However, as we've explained in the past, this is simply untrue. It's purposely stretching the definition of network neutrality to make a point that isn't supported by the facts. Services like Akamai help make the internet faster for everyone. It doesn't discriminate. It holds to the "end-to-end" principle that a connection you buy to the internet entitles you to reach any content across that entire network. That's not what AT&T is looking to do. It's claiming that you really only have access to the cloud in the middle, and someone needs to pay for the second half of that connection from the middle out to the server you're accessing.

Tim Lee (who, like me, does not support net neutrality legislation) has ripped apart a paper that claims that Akamai is an example of why the internet is not neutral. Lee notes that the author of the paper doesn't even seem to understand how Akamai works, and provides a nice (more technology focused) explanation for why content caching systems have little to do with the network neutrality discussion: "A network is neutral if it faithfully transmits information from one end of the network to the other and doesn't discriminate among packets based on their contents. Neutrality is, in other words, about the behavior of the routers that move packets around the network. It has nothing to do with the behavior of servers at the edges of the network because they don't route anyone's packets."
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Filed Under: cdn, end to end, net neutrality
Companies: akamai


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  1. identicon
    chad, 18 Jan 2008 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Overcast

    "I don't use Akamai... I found a nice little host file that blocks them along with doubleclick.net."

    Are you sure you know what you are talking about? Akamai is a caching service. They have servers physically located in many colos around the world, at major hubs, etc. When you request something, say www.yahoo.com what happens is your computer is sent to not yahoo but Akamai. Akamai chooses the machine that is closest to you and serves the data from it's cache. If the data is not in the cache it fetches it from yahoo, stores it and serves it to you.

    Akamai is not an advertising company, though they are likely hired by advertisers. Akamai does not initiate any connection to your computer. If you see a connection from netstat, it is some program (malicious or not) that is running on your computer, and what it is transferring is sped up by Akamai.

    Here's a hint to find out who originated a connection, in your netstat output the column that lists a known service port is not the initiator, for example:
    TCP cube:1817 media.xfire.com:http ESTABLISHED
    this says that my computer ('cube') connected to media.xfire.com over http. The port on cube is 1817, which is randomly selected, the port on media.xfire.com is http (80) a known port.

    Lastly, since Akamai has millions of computers caching things around the world it is unlikely that you can have a host file that "blocks" them, plus if you did there would be many sites that would be inaccessible to you, yahoo being just one.

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