Comments on purported Chinese Internet Metering Plan

Olivier of ISOC-England writes:

Very interesting article on the BBC:

My own views on this article is that there appears to be a gross misunderstanding by many people of how the Internet works, and I am trying to find out in this instance, who’s more guilty of this misunderstanding, whether it is “China”, the gentleman from the European Commission, the ITU, or the BBC.

Yes, in some cases, the Internet works with peering agreements allowing for flow of traffic from backbone provider to backbone provider. But this is not the case for every Internet Service Provider out there.
“Pendants”, ie. networks connected to the rest of the network through a single link, sometimes pay to get connected to the Internet backbone, with no “discount” whatsoever. This has always been the case, and it is therefore entirely possible that an end user gets charged according to the amount of traffic they send and receive. The great thing about the Internet is that charging models at the edge of the network (customer access points etc.) can be whatever you design them to be. Of course, you can’t charge on a per destination basis, but that’s the whole point of the Internet.

The use of the word “Borders” in the article is even more confusing: “China wants to meter all internet traffic that passes through its borders”, ie. into/out of the country, and there is allusion to the “Border Gateway Protocol – BGP”. What an amalgamation! These two, I’m afraid, are completely unrelated.

Also, the paragraph “It would allow countries which currently receive no payment for use of their lines to generate income.” is completely misleading too. Short of a few insane volunteers like us lot, I have never heard of an actual “country”, (1) being in the business of owning and running telecommunications lines, and (2) doing it for free.

Finally, I find it… amusing, for lack of better fitting word, to see that the ITU, an organisation which has brilliantly excelled in its absence of involvement in the development of the Internet, is purported as being “the UN body in charge of internet standards”.

Is the ITU trying to introduce a PSTN-era monopoly telecom control? Shall we all turn back our clocks 30 years?

Red herring or serious political move? I wonder if any of you have sources which could validate this article, and whether the perceived threat is real or grossly inflated?
Bonus question: if metering Internet access in this way, how will economic growth be impacted in Western Economies when their digital economy plans collapse?

Warmest regards,


Olivier MJ Crépin-Leblond, PhD