Net Neutrality and the Open Internet
At its simplest, network neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. According to Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu: "Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally".
The idea of an open internet is the idea that the full resources of the internet and means to operate on it are easily accessible to all individuals and companies. This often includes ideas such as net neutrality, open standards, transparency, lack of internet censorship, and low barriers to entry. The concept of the open internet is sometimes expressed as an expectation of decentralized technological power, and is seen by some as closely related to open-source software.
In common law countries, common carrier is a legal classification for a person or company which transports goods and is legally prohibited from discriminating or refusing service based on the customer or nature of the goods. The common carrier framework is often used to classify public utilities, such as electricity or water, and public transport. In the United States, there has been intense debate between some advocates of net neutrality, who believe internet providers should be legally designated common carriers, and some internet service providers, who believe the common carrier designation would be a heavy regulatory burden.
The concept of a "dumb network" made up of "dumb pipes", has been around since at least the early 1990s. The idea of a dumb network is that the endpoints of a network are generally where the intelligence lies, and that the network itself generally leaves the management and operation of communication to the end users.
The end-to-end principle is a principle of network design, first laid out explicitly in the 1981 conference paper End-to-end arguments in system design by Jerome H. Saltzer, David P. Reed, and David D. Clark. The principle states that, whenever possible, communications protocol operations should be defined to occur at the end-points of a communications system, or as close as possible to the resource being controlled. According to the end-to-end principle, protocol features are only justified in the lower layers of a system if they are a performance optimization, hence, TCP retransmission for reliability is still justified, but efforts to improve TCP reliability should stop after peak performance has been reached.
They argued that reliable systems tend to require end-to-end processing to operate correctly, in addition to any processing in the intermediate system. They pointed out that most features in the lowest level of a communications system have costs for all higher-layer clients, even if those clients do not need the features, and are redundant if the clients have to re-implement the features on an end-to-end basis. This leads to the model of a "dumb, minimal network" with smart terminals, a completely different model from the previous paradigm of the smart network with dumb terminals.
Because the end-to-end principle is one of the central design principles of the Internet, and because the practical means for implementing data discrimination violate the end-to-end principle, the principle often enters discussions about net neutrality. The end-to-end principle is closely related, and sometimes seen as a direct precursor to the principle of net neutrality.