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In the context of net neutrality debates occuring around the world, a central question concerns the extent to which network operators should be free to manage certain Internet applications differently from others. Some stakeholders advocate for regulatory intervention on the basis that this sort of traffic management gives network operators too much power over which applications succeed or fail, while others argue for reliance on competition between network operators to discipline operator behavior. Yet evidence from the UK and the US suggests that the practical reality of how network operators have gone about managing traffic in the last half decade is not entirely consistent with expectations about the disciplining power of either regulatory or competitive forces in the marketplace. Understanding why Internet traffic ultimately gets managed in a particular way requires a deeper understanding of the interplay between technical, economic, political, and social dynamics confronting network operators.