Katti and McKeown put Internet Users in Charge of Their Own Content Delivery

September 2016

For years, the net neutrality debate has been at an impasse: either the internet is open or preferences are allowed. But professors Nick McKeown and Sachin Katti, and EE PhD Yiannis Yiakoumis ­– say their new technology, called Network Cookies, makes it possible to have preferential delivery and an open internet. Network Cookies allow users to choose which home or mobile traffic should get favored delivery, while putting network operators and content providers on a level playing field in catering to such user-signaled preferences.

"So far, net neutrality has been promoted as the best possible defense for users," Katti said. "But treating all traffic the same isn't necessarily the best way to protect users. It often restricts their options and this is why so-called exceptions from neutrality often come up. We think the best way to ensure that ISPs and content providers don't make decisions that conflict with the interests of users is to let users decide how to configure their own traffic."

McKeown said Network Cookies implement user-directed preferences in ways that are consistent with the principles of net neutrality.

"First, they're simple to use and powerful," McKeown said. "They enable you to fast-lane or zero-rate traffic from any application or website you want, not just the few, very popular applications. This is particularly important for smaller content providers – and their users – who can't afford to establish relationships with ISPs. Second, they're practical to deploy. They don't overwhelm the user or bog down user devices and network operators and they function with a variety of protocols. Finally, they can be a very practical tool for regulators, as they can help them design simple and clear policies and then audit how well different parties adhere to them."


This article is adapted from Stanford Engineering News. Read full article.