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Vishal Misra – The Network Neutrality Debate: An Engineering Perspective

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

Streaming Live:

Food and discussion begin at 12:30pm. Open to current Princeton faculty, staff, and students. Open to members of the public by invitation only. Please contact Laura Cummings-Abdo at if you are interested in attending a particular lunch.

The issue of Network Neutrality has ignited considerable public debate recently. While the term and much of the discussion originated in the legal community, we started looking at it from an engineering and networking perspective a few years ago. We employed the lens of cooperative game theory and a careful modeling of the Internet including the topology, peering relationships and protocols used on the Internet. Our primary conclusion is that Network Neutrality as an issue is secondary to that of the real problem, that of lack of market competition amongst broadband providers. We present some of our results including our prediction back in 2008 of a rise in paid peering (this year Netflix signed paid peering arrangements with all 4 of the top broadband providers in the US), the inadequacies of strict Network Neutrality regulation when competition exists and our proposal of a Public Option ISP that solves the problems of a “non neutral network” without needing any regulatory support. We also discuss some open issues regarding Network Neutrality in the wireless context.


Vishal Misra is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University. He is credited with inventing live-microblogging at Cricinfo, a company he co-founded while a graduate student at UMass Amherst, thus predating Twitter by 10 years. Cricinfo was later acquired by ESPN and is still the world’s most popular sports portal.

Dr. Misra has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a Department of Energy CAREER Award, and Google and IBM Faculty Awards. His research emphasis is on mathematical modeling of networking systems, bridging the gap between practice and analysis. He served as the Vice-Chair of the Computer Science Department at Columbia University from 2009 to 2011, and in 2011 he spun out Infinio, a company in the area of datacenter storage. After raising $24 million from top-tier venture capital firms and recruiting a professional executive team, he has transitioned to the role of Chief Scientist of the company. Infinio is based in Boston and employs over 50 people. Misra received his B. Tech. from IIT Bombay (1992) and an MS (1996) and PhD (2000) from UMass Amherst, which just awarded him a Junior Alumni Award for extraordinary effort and notable early-career success.

He has been interested in net neutrality for several years. In 2008, he coauthored On Cooperative Settlement Between Content, Transit and Eyeball Internet Service Providers, which predicted the rise of paid peering by looking at the profit-motivated decisions of the ISPs. In 2012, he and Richard T. B. Ma authored The Public Option: A Non-regulatory Alternative to Network Neutrality to understand how the introduction of a public-option ISP would affect change in the behaviors of ISPs.

Misra also sometimes blogs on the subject at Peer unreviewed and tweets about it at @vishalmisra. For more information, see his Columbia website. He also maintains a personal blog, A little corner of a foreign field, where the subject is often cricket.