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One key aspect of the debate over network neutrality has been whether and how network neutrality should apply to wireless networks. The existing commentary has focused on the economics of wireless network neutrality, but to date a detailed analysis of how the technical aspects of wireless networks affect the implementation of network neutrality has yet to appear in the literature. As an initial matter, bad handoffs, local congestion, and the physics of wave propagation make wireless broadband networks significantly less reliable than fixed broadband networks. These technical differences require the network to manage dropped packets and congestion in a way that contradicts some of the basic principles underlying the Internet. Wireless devices also tend to be more heterogeneous and more tightly integrated into the network than fixed-line devices, which can lead wireless networks to incorporate principles that differ from the traditional Internet architecture. Mobility also makes routing and security much harder to manage, and many of the solutions create inefficiencies. These differences underscore the need for a regulatory regime that permits that gives wireless networks the flexibility to deviate from the existing architecture in ways, even when those deviations exist in uneasy tension with network neutrality.


Communications law, regulation, wireless broadband service, bandwidth constraints, congestion management, error correction, absence of per-flow state, prioritization, net neutrality, FCC, rule against unreasonable discrimination, Open Internet Order, routing architecture and addressing space

Publication Title

Berkeley Technology Law Journal

Publication Citation

31 Berkeley Tech. L. J. 1409 (2016)