Hidden-action in network routing

Michal Feldman, John Chuang, Ion Stoica, Scott Shenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In communication networks, such as the Internet or mobile ad-hoc networks, the actions taken by intermediate nodes or links are typically hidden from the communicating endpoints; all the endpoints can observe is whether or not the end-to-end transmission was successful. Therefore, in the absence of incentives to the contrary, rational (i.e., selfish) intermediaries may choose to forward messages at a low priority or simply not forward messages at all. Using a principal-agent model, we show how the hidden-action problem can be overcome through appropriate design of contracts in both the direct (the endpoints contract with each individual router directly) and the recursive (each router contracts with the next downstream router) cases. We further show that, depending on the network topology, perhop or per-path monitoring may not necessarily improve the utility of the principal or the social welfare of the system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1161-1172
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Contract
  • Economics
  • Game theory
  • Hidden action
  • Mechanism design
  • Moral hazard
  • Principal-agent
  • Routing


Dive into the research topics of 'Hidden-action in network routing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this