Dictionary of Net Neutrality

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Backbone
The backbone refers to the main trunk lines of the internet that route traffic across continents and overseas. They are a combination of academic and commercial lines that collect traffic from ISPs. Most of the Canadian backbone is owned by Bell Canada.

"Best effort delivery"
Best effort delivery describes a network service in which the network does not provide any guarantees that data is delivered or that a user given a guaranteed quality of service level or a certain priority. In a best effort network all users obtain best effort service, meaning that they obtain unspecified variable bit rate and delivery time, depending on the current traffic load.

The postal service delivers letters using a best effort delivery approach. The delivery of a certain letter is not scheduled in advance - no resources are preallocated in the post office. The mailman will make his "best effort" to try to deliver a message, but the delivery may be delayed if too many letters all of a sudden arrives in a postal office.

Broadband
Broadband internet access refers to a high speed internet connection. It is often not defined, but only used in comparaison with slower dialup internet access. Broadband is provided using digital subscriber lines (DSL or ADSL) or fibre-optic cable. The FCC definition of broadband is 200 kbit/s in one direction, and advanced broadband is at least 200 kbit/s in both directions. The OECD has defined broadband as 256 kbit/s in at least one direction.

Cablecos
Cablecos are companies that operate cable television service. They provide broadband internet service using the fibre optic cable that also provides cable television. Cablecos and telcos are providers of Internet service in Canada. Canadian cablecos include
Videotron, Rogers, Shaw, and Cogeco.

Common Carrier
Common carriage is a network principle that requires the operators of networks to transfer or transport information or material without prioritizing any of it, as long as the people using the carrier's service have paid a fair or reasonable price. This prevents different materials or information being transported from being charged different prices. Historical examples of common carriers are canals, telephone lines, and the Trans-Canada Highway.

CRTC
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission is Canada's broadcast and telecommunications regulator. Since the division of the Communications Department, the CRTC reports to both Industry Canada (responsible for telecommunications) and Heritage Canada (responsible for broadcasting). The CRTC is in charge of distributing licenses for broadcast undertakings, as well as monitoring compliance of license holders with the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act. In telecommunications, the primary responsibilities of the Commission are to regulate common carriers providing telecommunications services.

Deep Packet inspection
Deep packet inspection involves examining the data in a packet to determine if it fits certain criteria. The packet will then be blocked, tagged, rerouted, or reported. Deep packet inspection looks at the content of the data in the packet instead of the headers that indicate where it has come from and where it is going. This allows network managers to prioritize a packet's delivery based on its content.

Dial-up
Dial-up internet is provided using telephone lines. In the 1990s most Canadians received internet delivered over telephone lines. Traffic on telephone lines is subject to common carriage regulations that require all telephone traffic regardless of source or destination. This meant that companies could sell dial-up internet without owning the telephone lines. Third-party ISPs still fulfil this function but common carriage rules do not apply on cable lines.

Industry Canada
This Cabinet-level department is mandated to help Canada succeed in today's economy. This means supporting the growth of small and medium-sized businesses, encouraging investment by international corporations, and ensuring a competitive marketplace for Canadian consumers. Industry Canada also operates the Competition Bureau.

Internet 101
When you click on a link in your web browser, your computer sends a message requesting a certain web page (packet's content) with name of that server (packet's final destination address). The router of your ISP receives this message and looks at the address on it. It forwards it on to the next router. It will go from router to router until it gets to the computer or server which is it's final destination. Then that (and only that) webserver (in this example) will look at the content of the packet and respond to that message. Your request for a webpage will be sent back to you in a series of packets. When your computer has received all of the packets, your web browser will reassemble all of them and display the webpage to you.

ISPs
Internet service providers. In Canada, either telcos, cablecos, or Third-party ISPs. While the large cable and telephone companies often own their own networks and thus operate as ISPs as well as network operators, third-party ISPs only re-sell access to these networks.

Market Forces
The phrase 'market forces' is shorthand for a free market with little or no regulation. When a decision is left to market forces, it usually signifies letting businesses operate freely, and relying on competition to keep service and prices fair.

Network Congestion
Network congestion in a packet based network means that there are more packets being sent than can be handled by the routes available through the network Network operators try to deal with congestion through traffic engineering, sometimes including packet or traffic shaping, or the institution of Quality of Service for applications that depend on reliable data delivered to the receiver.

Network Operators
Network operators are the companies that own the routers that make up the connections between computers that are the internet. These companies, usually cable or telephone companies, have laid the fiber that connects these routers to build out the internet.

Overselling
Overselling is a common industry practice where ISP's sell more service to users than they currently have. An example is an ISP selling 1000 customers connections of 1mpbs when they only have a total connection to the internet of 300mbps. All network operators engage in this practice of selling more access on their networks than they can physically support. Before broadband internet, ISP's offered service using telephone lines and reduced their costs by only paying for 100 phone lines even though they had 1000 users. When too many users called they would be get a busy signal. Now operators sell bandwidth to their customers assuming that each subscriber will not use their whole capacity at the same time.

Packet
When it is sent, internet traffic is separated into small chunks of information called packets. Each of these chunks is routed separately across the network and all the packets are reassembled when at their destination. If there is a lot of network traffic, sometimes packets are dropped, or lost in transit. Some types of internet applications, like voice or video traffic, are sensitive to dropped packets. These are called "low latency" applications.

Packet shaping / Traffic shaping
Packet shaping or traffic shaping is an attempt to control the flow of information over a network, by priortizing the content or the transfer of some packets over others. This means inspecting traffic in order to optimize or guarantee performance, or to ensure that there will not be packet loss. Most packet shaping technologies only examine packet headers, not their content.

Peer to peer (P2P)
Peer to peer computer networks are based on transferring information between computers rather than on downloading from a central server. Filesharing applications are a kind of P2P networks. They require participants to both upload and download information. People's increasing use of P2P networks to share larger files of audio and video have resulted in network congestion. This problem is made worse by network operators overselling their network capacity.

Port blocking
Port blocking refers to limiting the sending or receiving of information using certain communication ports. This is usually done to reduce spam but can also limit the ability to send email, use voice over IP phones, or access other services.

Quality of Service (QoS)
QoS refers to control mechanisms that can provide different priority to different users or pieces of data, or guarantee a certain level of performance to a data flow in accordance with requests from the application program. Quality of Service guarantees are important if the network capacity is limited, especially for real-time streaming multimedia applications, for example voice over IP and IP-TV, since these may be sensitive to the delay of pieces of data.

Regulation/Deregulation
These terms refer to government oversight of industry activities in the public interest. Regulation means the use of legislation and policies to control and delimit the rights of corporations and the rights of citizens. "Regulation" often refers to the placement of limits on the operation of a free market in a given sector. "Deregulation" as a term usually refers to the removal of legislative and policy barriers to complete free market operation. See also "market forces."

Spam
a) Spam is unsolicited email, often sent in bulk. Some network scientists estimate that 90% of internet traffic is now spam.
b) A very good reason to violate net neutrality. Blocking communication ports used for spam is a common form of network management. ISPs can also block or filter communications sent from ports used for spam.

Telecommunications Act
The Canadian Telecommunications Act has two specific provisions that relate to network neutrality:

  • “No Canadian carrier shall, in relation to the provision of a telecommunications service or the charging of a rate for it, unjustly discriminate or give an undue or unreasonable preference toward any person, including itself, or subject any person to an undue or unreasonable disadvantage” (S 27.2).
  • “Except where the Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public” (S 36).
  • Telecommunications Policy Review Panel (TPRP)
    The TPRP was created in 2005 by the previous Liberal government. Its three members, Dr. Gerri Sinclair, Hank Intven and André Tremblay, solicited input from concerned citizens, industry representatives and public interest groups, and formulated a final report on how to move Canada's telecommunications policy forward.

    Telcos
    Telcos is short for "telecommunications companies". These companies provide local and long distance telephone service. When internet service began being delivered by telephone, they then entered the dial-up internet market and now provide broadband service using fibre optics. Although most of them started off as crown corporations (owned by the government), they were privatized in the 80's. They have a history of being regulated in Canada to ensure common carriageLINK. Examples include Bell Canada, (Central Canada), MTS (Manitoba) Telus (Western Canada), Aliant (Atlantic), SaskTel (Saskatchewan).

    Third-Party ISPs
    These are the companies that sell internet service over the local phone or cable infrastructure owned by telcos and cablecos. They range from the small "mom and pop" ISP's to international companies like AOL and Compuserve. In the 90's, most Canadians bought their internet access from these independent ISP's. Now, most Canadians buy their connections to the internet from the owners of the infrastructure, cablecos and the telcos.

    VoIP
    Voice over Internet Protocol, also called VoIP, IP Telephony, Internet telephony, Broadband telephony, Broadband Phone and Voice over Broadband is the routing of voice conversations over the Internet or through any other IP-based network.
    VoIP traffic is time-sensitive (you can't have gaps in your conversation and still understand it). Thus it depends on the rapid arrival at the destination of all of the packets of data sent.