Network neutrality nightmare scenarios are largely hypothetical: Bad thing X could happen if a network operator did Y. Activist outrage and some media attention is one reason we’re still in the realm of conjecture. Even if network operators were minded to do Y, they'd rather not draw the spotlight. How to keep the klieg lights shining?
Since discrimination, in the neutral sense of making distinctions, can have both good and bad outcomes , regulations will also have to make subtle distinctions. It’s even harder to make law about subtle hypotheticals. I’m therefore inclined against detailed legislation in advance of facts. Legislation, if any, can lower the risk of unintended side effects by simply establishing principles that a regulatory agency can apply to alleged bad behavior. But agencies don’t have the means to gather data. Even companies with an interest in the matter operate in the dark; I’ve heard that Vonage found out about the discrimination against their VOIP service in the Madison River case only by accident. How to find bad behavior?
The answer is millions of volunteer PCs on the net sending test payloads to each other to characterize what happens to traffic on the net. This would yield an inventory of how different kinds of traffic are carried across all the different segments of the net. Software could identify potential problems, and volunteer people could scan them to identify cases that need more attention.
Anybody could download small applications that would run tests when they’re not using their machines. Just as SETI@Home uses spare CPU cycles to search radio data for the signature of extra-terrestrial intelligence, so this code would use space cycles and spare bandwidth to search for signatures of net neutrality exceptions. SETI for the net… NETI@Home: Neutrality Exception Tracking Infrastructure.
NETI@Home would use peer-to-peer technology like bittorrent; there would be no single repository of data, and no central organization directing the work. People could select the kinds of test payload they want to run; to make it easy for the majority, various recognizable organizations might recommend payload sets, or one could find popular sets on sites like digg. Volunteers would write the software, and parse the results. The tests could change quite quickly to meet changing network operator strategies, while the underlying software would change more slowly.
Citizens and regulators need good data if they’re to get the best out of the Internet. Finding the balance Jon Peha describes between allowing discrimination that benefits users, and preventing market power abuses, will be a lot easier with real-time tracking of network operator behavior.
 Jon M. Peha, “The Benefits and Risks of Mandating Network Neutrality, and the Quest for a Balanced Policy,” 34th Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, Sept. 2006, at http://web.si.umich.edu/tprc/papers/2006/574/Peha_balanced_net_neutrality_policy.pdf