Posted on Tue 16 June 2020

the internet is railways, not highways

Internet Fast Lanes: Every time somebody says “Fast Lane” in this argument, I get a little more upset. The Internet doesn’t have fast lanes and slow lanes.

The Internet is not a highway.

The Internet is a railway system.

The Internet is made up of train tracks and switches. Every train travels at the same speed along a given track. If you want to increase the traffic, you can raise the speed on the whole section of track, or you can lay down another track next to it.

When you pay for Internet service, you pay for a section of track (two, actually, one in each direction) between your house and the nearest train station owned by your ISP. You will never receive more trains than can fit down the track you paid for, and you will never be able to send more trains than can fit on the outbound track.

As long as a given track is being used less than 100% (nose-to-tail trains), all traffic will flow perfectly. Tracks cannot be used at more than 100%, because you can’t fit another train on. If the local station master wants to put another train on, some train waiting to go out must be delayed. Only a few trains can fit on the siding, and if more come in than can be handled, some trains will be disintegrated.

The decisions that an ISP can make are:

  • increase the speed of a track

  • increase the number of tracks between two points.

  • decide which trains waiting on the siding get to go through, and which ones are disintegrated.

" Fast Lane" means they want an extra fee to not disintegrate your trains so often.

“Net Neutrality” means that they aren’t allowed to look at your train’s origin, destination and manifest before deciding to disintegrate it or not.

Therefore: if your tracks are not utilized 100%, no trains need to be disintegrated. The disintegration is a system of last resort, which you turn to only in extreme circumstances, because you could not build capacity to keep up with demand. “Fast Lane” is a sign of a broken system, which can be fixed by managing your systems properly and predicting demand.


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