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Broadband Internet: Access, Regulation and Policy

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The internet has become so widespread that such issues as access, regulation and related policies have become major factors in the economy and social fabric of societies in every part of the world. Peoples without running water are demanding access to the internet and those without it are becoming deprived citizens. This new book examines current issues of interest to the blossoming area.

Debate has begun about what statutory and regulatory framework is most likely to foster innovation and investment both in physical broadband networks and in the applications that ride over those networks. Perhaps the most contentious element in that debate is whether competitive marketplace forces are sufficient to constrain the broadband network providers from restricting independent applications providers’ access to their networks in a fashion that would harm consumers and innovation.

The telephone and cable companies are deploying wireline broadband networks with unique architectures. For example, Verizon is deploying optical fiber all the way to the customer premise, while AT and T is deploying fiber to a node and then using DSL over existing copper lines to reach the customer premise, and Comcast and other cable companies are deploying a hybrid fiber-coaxial cable network. But in each case, their broadband networks have the same basic structure, with three primary components — the broadband “last mile” grid to end-user customers, the company’s proprietary IP network, and the company’s facilities in what has traditionally been called the internet backbone (and is often referred to as the “public internet”). This report analyzes these three components to identify the parameters that network providers have within their control (such as their choices about network architecture, overall bandwidth capacity, bandwidth reserved for their own use, traffic prioritization, the terms and rates for access to their networks and for their retail services) that can affect how end users and independent applications providers can access their networks, how those parameters contribute to the management and operation of the network, and how those parameters might be used strategically to harm competition for, and consumers of, voice over internet protocol (VoIP), video, and other applications that ride over broadband networks.
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