"The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation."
The 'Net is made up of independent providers with private peering contracts between them. This is one of the details in the "debate" about "Net Neutrality" that tends to get lost.
Update: Wired Magazine agrees with me.
Update: The bureaucrats have finally gotten their way, and put the 'Net back under their chains. February 26, 2015
Update: One more, from the Mises Institute.
Internet Service Provider for service. That service is some circuit, capable of carrying a quantity of data to and from my systems. That service includes one or more "Internet Addresses" from which I can send data to anywhere in the world, and anyone anywhere can send data to me.
This is accomplished by a function called "Peering". My ISP and your ISP either have a direct agreement to reach each other's customers, or we each have an agreement with some other ISP, and that ISP has an agreement with another ISP, and so on, such that our systems can exchange data.
All this talk about "Tiered Service" misses the simple and obvious fact that tiered service already exists and has always existed. There. Was that loudly enough? Do I need to repeat it?
So why talk about these "internet fast lanes" and other idiotic terms meant to obfuscate the issue? Because ISPs over-subscribe their networks, exactly like airlines oversell their flights. In order to make money, they sell their customers faster circuits at the edge than they can handle through the middle, and when everyone shows up at the same time and tries to use the service that they pay for, they can't all fit.
It's a traffic jam.
Bandwidth isn't being overused, it's being oversold.
Netflix, Google, Yahoo, all the big service providers, already pay for the bandwidth they use. It's the ISP consumer-grade customer who has been paying for a false expectation of service. Go read your service provider's "fine print", it's in there.
broadband", enjoy monopoly status in states, counties, or municipalities. Those grants of legal monopoly prevent competition, and foster attitudes like, "We can charge extra for YouTube".
When competition is open, ISPs focus on what they do best, serving their own customers, and they let peering do what that does best: connect everyone to everyone else.
These monopoly grants must be abolished, or they will prevent the very competition which drives innovation and reduces prices.
Update 20150226: The FCC has granted itself the power to "regulate" Internet service providers. Jeffrey Tucker at Liberty.me has an excellent article on the matter, and there's no reason for me to repeat his words.
Update 20150226: The Mises Institute has an article on the issue as well.