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Feb 14, 2017 - 2 minute read - Comments - review

Flow Rate Fairness: Dismantling a Religion

Paper Title

Flow Rate Fairness: Dismantling a Religion


Bob Briscoe


March 2007. ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, Volume 37 Issue 2.

Novel Idea / Main Result(s)

The main claim of the paper is that flow rate as a metric for fairness is completely bogus and a better metric for the same should be the cost.


Not completely sure how fairness criterion has/has not changed in the past 10 years since this paper was published. But my takeaway from this paper is that long-established norms should not be taken for granted and there is value in evaluating the truth for each established view from time to time.

It’s fair to say though that I did not find any rebuttal paper in the defense of flow rate fairness as the author of this paper demands. However, RFC 5290 presents some alternate views on the topic.


I did not find the argument very convincing given the lack of analytical or empirical analysis. The reasoning is based on arguments from philosophy, social science and “real life” for a more accurate definition of fairness.


No, the description is not sufficient to reproduce the work.


I was reminded of thinking about the Internet as a utility (from the net neutrality debate outside of this paper) and how another utility – electricity – is well distributed across the grid system fairly. I wonder if there are lessons to be learned from this analogy given the complexities and non-uniform nature of the global Internet.


My main concern with this paper is that it tries to make such a big claim about the futility of a fairness metric that has been working for a couple of decades but fails to provide enough persuasive evidence to substantiate the claims.

Ideas for further work

See the Question section above.

Review Template Credits: Prof. Rodrigo Fonseca