In the arguments over net neutrality, the discussion is often around “content” vs “delivery”. The concern is that the delivery people (ISPs) might cut off or otherwise extort the content people. Eg, what if Comcast slowed down YouTube so it could push its own video?

It’s a distinction that exists only in the mind. In the real world, the boundary between content and network is both artificial and fading quickly: …if Google were an ISP it would be the third largest in the world and the fastest growing — if you are measuring the amount of traffic passed from its network to another. […]Now much of that traffic is due to YouTube, since when you measure by traffic a three-minute long video is the equivalent of thousands of pages of search results, but that’s still a staggering number for a single company.Moreover, Google has a dual strategy for moving away from paying top-level internet transit providers to serve as the middleman between its servers and the world’s consumer ISPs.Now, more than half of its transit traffic is sent to those networks via direct peering relationships, according to the data ISPs provide Arbor Networks anonymously.

This seems like a decidedly non-neutral arrangement, no? A content provider gets its bits to you with higher priority than its competitors’ bits, due to its deep pockets. This is true of any CDN, btw.

Let’s be clear: I am all for these developments. They are great for the consumer. On a truly neutral network, however, they would be illegal.

(A technical aside: I know that arguments for neutrality are usually about QoS or another prioritization system. What’s the difference between a bit that gets to you quicker because of QoS, and one that gets to you quicker because of the CDN down the street? In both cases, the content provider is buying special access.)

The point is even more academic because the delivery people have much less power than the content people, and yet the content people want neutrality legislation written in their favor. If Comcast were to cut off YouTube, they’d go out of business. If YouTube chose not to serve Comcast customers, they’d get bad press and lose exactly no money.