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The term "dumb pipes" is analogous to water pipes used in a city water supply system; in theory, these pipes provide a steady supply of water to all users, regardless of the identity of the user or the users' activities with the water. The principle states that, whenever possible, communications protocol operations should be defined to occur at the end-points of a communications system, or as close as possible to the resources being controlled.In a "dumb network", the endpoints are thought to be where the intelligence lies, and as such, proponents argue that the network should leave the management and operation of communications and data transfer to the end users, not a government bureau or Internet company. According to the end-to-end principle, protocol features are only justified in the lower layers of a system if they are a performance optimization; hence, TCP retransmission for reliability is still justified, but efforts to improve TCP reliability should stop after peak performance has been reached.This leads to the model of a minimal dumb network with smart terminals, a completely different model from the previous paradigm of the smart network with dumb terminals.

Access and use of any application or service on the Internet is permitted by all MEO Internet access offers, and it is not necessary to adhere to specific packages in order to enjoy certain applications.

The Smart Net offerings correspond only to additional traffic ceilings for certain thematic sets of applications that are no more than the reflection of Portuguese consumer preferences.

Applicable concepts include: net neutrality, open standards, transparency, lack of Internet censorship, and low barriers to entry.

The concept of the open Internet is sometimes expressed as an expectation of decentralized technological power, and is seen by some observers as closely related to open-source software, a type of software program whose maker allows users access to the code that runs the program, so that users can improve the software or fix bugs.

The end-to-end principle is closely related, and sometimes seen as a direct precursor to the principle of net neutrality.