For the ReArch 2010 workshop at the ACM Conext in Philadelphia, we (that’s me and my Hungarian colleague Gergely Biczok) presented first thoughts on the issue of price differentiation in a Future Internet.
We argue that the current Internet experience (from a pricing perspective) is that of separately paying the truck driver when you buy goods in a supermarket. Price differentiation, however, is quite commonplace in other industries. You pay differently for flights, depending on time of booking and class, obviously. The same goes for train tickets, discounts in supermarkets (buy one, get one free). But why is it not commonplace in the Internet?
In the paper, we argue that the resource sharing paradigm of the current Internet with its opaque bit transfer service largely stands in the way of differentiating product offerings. If wanted, it requires rather expensive out-of-band signalling frameworks, which are often only implemented for premium services (if at all).
How does this relate to the information-centric work we are doing in PURSUIT? We argue in the paper that an architecture similar to that of PURSUIT would allow for an in-band solution for price differentiation – the labels for information literally become price labels. The scoping concept of PURSUIT provides an additional powerful tool to aggregate pricing and tie the information concepts (reflected in the scoping and labeling structure being used for a particular application or area) to appropriate pricing concepts associated to the products being offered.
This is a bold argument and we openly admit (in the paper and here) that much is to be done in this space. Scalability and performance are obvious issues. How to do an efficient clearinghouse is certainly an interesting question. But the socio-economic issues are equally important and interesting. The obvious one is how this relates to the infamous network neutrality debate. What is the role of regulation to provide a common basis of openness while not standing in the way of differentiating offerings through more flexible pricing schemes?
All of these are interesting directions of research, some of which we will address in PURSUIT, others which we will seek collaboration with external experts.
In case you are interested in the paper itself, you can find it here.