Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

End to End E2E

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

- Layered Model
- Definitions
- Internet
- Broadband
- Network Neutrality
- Blocking
- NATs

- - Communications Act
- - Telecom Act
- - Hush a Phone
- - Computer Inquiries
- - Digital Tornado 1997
- - Steven Report 1998
- - Broadband
- - Universal Service
- - VoIP
- - Mergers
- - Network Neutrality

Technological Design Becomes Policy Design

Reverberating Lessig's message from CODE, two branches of literature emerged arguing that network design principles necessitate network policy principles: End-to-end and the Layered Model. “What is” became “what ought to be.” [See David Hume]

End to End - A Network Principle

In 1981, Jerry Saltzer, David Reed, and David Clark published End-to-End Arguments in System Design, describing the end-to-end argument:

The function in question can completely and correctly be implemented only with the knowledge and help of the application standing at the end points of the communication system. Therefore, providing that questioned function as a feature of the communication system itself is not possible.

The authors posited the following choice: in order to gain a successful file transfer, the system designer can build a robust and secure network that anticipates every risk scenario and successfully delivers the file, or the system designer can leave the determination of a successful file transfer to the ends.  With the latter, the file transfer programs at the ends engage in a verification of successful transmission through the use of a checksum; either the file was successfully transferred, or the file is transferred again.  Given the low occurrence of failed file transfer, and given the difficulty of anticipating every threat to a successful file transfer, it is therefore appropriate to leave verification of successful file transfer to the end applications. According to the end-to-end principle, the network should be as minimal as possible, simply transmitting the data, while processing occurs at the end. Further, given the wide variety of applications (either in existence or as of yet unanticipated), it is preferable that the network not design in features for specific applications, thereby optimizing the network for specific functions, but at the cost of reducing transmission speeds or reducing functionality for other applications. 

End to End - A Policy Principle

In 2001, Mark A. Lemley and Lawrence Lessig released The End of End-to-End: Preserving the Architecture of the Internet in the Broadband Era. They moved the focus of the end-to-end discussion from applications the network itself. In the context of the open access debate that was transpiring before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Lemley and Lessig argued that permitting network operators to use their networks to muck around with network transmissions threatened the characteristic of the network that was so vital to its success. Citing Saltzar, Reed, and Clark, the law professors argued,

By its design, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary creativity precisely because it has pushed creativity to the ends of the network. Rather than relying upon the creativity of a small group of innovators who work for the companies that control the network, the e2e design enables anyone with an Internet connection to design and implement a better way to use the Internet. By designing the network to be neutral among uses, the Internet has created a competitive environment where innovators know that their inventions will be used if useful. By keeping the cost of innovation low, it has encouraged an extraordinary amount of innovation in many different contexts. By keeping the network simple, and its interaction general, the Internet has facilitated the design of applications that could not have originally been envisioned.
. . .

[W]e think the history of the Internet to date compellingly demonstrates the wisdom of letting a myriad of possible improvers work free of the constraints of a central authority, public or private. Compromising e2e will tend to undermine innovation by putting one or a few companies “in charge” of controlling it.

[Lemley and Lessig, p. 9.]

End-to-End design as a policy objective will be adopted in the FCC's Open Internet Order.


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