Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

63 Federal Communications Law Journal 445 (2011)


Symposium: Rough Consensus and Running Code: Integrating Engineering Principles into Internet Policy Debates, held at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Technology Innovation and Competition on May 6-7, 2010.

This Article first addresses congestion and congestion control in the Internet. It shows how congestion control has always depended upon altruistic behavior by end users. Equipment failures, malicious acts, or abandonment of altruistic behavior can lead to severe congestion within the Internet. Consumers benefit when network operators are able to control such congestion. One tool for controlling such congestion is giving higher priority to some applications, such as telephone calls, and giving lower priority or blocking other applications, such as file sharing. The Article then turns to wireless networks and shows that in addition to congestion issues, priority routing in wireless can make available capacity that would otherwise go unused. Wireless systems that are aware of the application being carried in each packet can deliver more value to consumers than can dumb networks that treat all packets identically. Handsets are both complements to and substitutes for the network infrastructure of wireless networks and any analysis of handset bundling should consider this complementarity. Next, the Article reviews analogous issues in electrical power and satellite communications and shows how various forms of priority are used to increase the total value delivered to consumers by these systems. Finally, the Article observes that regulations that prohibit priority routing of packets and flows on the Internet will create incentives to operate multiple networks.