Can We Save The Public Internet?

Marjory Blumenthal, Ramesh Govindan, Ethan Katz-Bassett, Arvind Krishnamurthy, James McCauley, Nick Merrill, Tejas Narechania, Aurojit Panda, Scott Shenker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The goal of this short document is to explain why recent developments in the Internet's infrastructure are problematic. As context, we note that the Internet was originally designed to provide a simple universal service - global end-to-end packet delivery - on which a wide variety of end-user applications could be built. The early Internet supported this packet-delivery service via an interconnected collection of commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that we will refer to collectively as the “public Internet.” The Internet has fulfilled its packet-delivery mission far beyond all expectations and is now the dominant global communications infrastructure. By providing a level playing field on which new applications could be deployed, the Internet has enabled a degree of innovation that no one could have foreseen. To improve performance for some common applications, “enhancements” such as caching (as in content-delivery networks) have been gradually added to the Internet. The resulting performance improvements are so significant that such enhancements are now effectively necessary to meet current content delivery demands. Despite these tangible benefits, this document argues that the way these enhancements are currently deployed seriously undermines the sustainability of the public Internet and could lead to an Internet infrastructure that reaches fewer people and is largely concentrated among only a few large-scale providers. We wrote this document because we fear that these developments are now decidedly tipping the Internet's playing field towards those who can deploy these enhancements at massive scale, which in turn will limit the degree to which the future Internet can support unfettered innovation. This document begins by explaining our concerns but goes on to articulate how this unfortunate fate can be avoided. To provide more depth for those who seek it, we provide a separate addendum with further detail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-22
Number of pages5
JournalComputer Communication Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 20 2024


  • Internet architecture
  • Internet enhancements
  • Public Internet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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