Speaking the Language of Net Neutrality
10:25 AM --
Some language in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's recently crafted Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the topic of network neutrality appears to suggest a blanket mandate that would prohibit ISPs from prioritizing access to content and applications. (See FCC Sets Sail on Internet Rulemaking .)
Digital Society, a think tank, recently highlighted its concern that the NPRM prohibits good network management, specifically pointing to paragraph 106 of the proposal:
We understand the term (nondiscriminatory) to mean that a broadband Internet access service provider may not charge a content, application, or service provider for enhanced or prioritized access to the subscribers of the broadband Internet access service provider, as illustrated in the diagram below. We propose that this rule would not prevent a broadband Internet access service provider from charging subscribers different prices for different services. We seek comment on each of these proposals. We also seek comment on whether the specific language of this draft rule best serves the public interest.
The crux of the debate seems to be how such a ban on prioritization might be interpreted.
With the wide range of content flowing through broadband networks, those networks can't be rendered "dumb." ISPs must be allowed to apply network management techniques in order to handle the constantly changing requirements of Internet users. This is not a linear format with constant speeds and demands.
The network must constantly adjust to those varying needs, which may require one user to demand more capacity than others at unique times. This management need not degrade the network for other users. It is a matter of choosing one higher demand over a lower demand without degrading the service for both. The idea is to manage the requirements of each individual user.
But ISPs should know their responsibilities regarding consumer and commercial traffic, and how to manage prioritizations fairly. Obviously, paid peering is needed for those whose products depend on increased speed and bandwidth for business survival. Consumers want a good experience whether they are streaming movies, downloading PDF files, or just sending email attachments.
It comes down to understanding how the Internet works and how network management can be used across a wide variety of circumstances and geographical locations. In essence, what will it take for both large and small ISPs to handle the varying traffic over their networks and upgrade to a standard that reasonably doesn’t degrade the user experience?
The FCC should revisit NPRM Paragraph 106 and make sure proposed net neutrality rules do not discriminate against one party in favor of another.
— Leonard Grace, a cable industry vet, is a telecom strategist and blogger. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to