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Net Neutrality’s Increasingly Complex Debate

in Expert Opinion/Net Neutrality by
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At issue, the language the FCC crafted in its proposed rule making, specifically FCC NPRM Paragraph 106 as implicated by Digital Society. (see FCC NPRM prohibits good network management)

“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 for those seeing paid-peering-agreements as essential to increased participation by innovative content, application, or service providers, whether they be start-ups or seasoned, seem to be an open ended interpretation which would ban prioritization. See (What is true neutrality in the network?)

With the wide range of content flowing through the pipelines, and increasing at a rapid pace, the network cannot become a (dumb pipeline). Network management seems to be an essential characteristic needed to handle the flexibility of constantly differing requirements from 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 will not degrade the network for other users. It is a matter of choosing one higher demand over a lower demand without degrading the demand for both. It manages the requirements of each user.

As private networks, ISP's should know their responsibilities regarding consumer and commercial traffic, and the management issues of prioritizing. Obviously, paid peering is needed for those whose products depend on increased speed and bandwidth for business survival. The consumer wants the same whether they are streaming movies, or downloading PDF's or just sending e-mail attachments.

It comes down to understanding how the Internet works regarding network access management capabilities across a wide variety of circumstances and geographical locations. In essence, what will it take for both large and small ISP's to handle the varying traffic over their networks and upgrading to a standard that reasonably doesn’t degrade the user experience?

Hence, the NCTA’s recent reference to First Amendment issues in discriminating against ISP providers in Paid-Peering Agreements. The FCC should revisit NPRM Paragraph 106 and make sure proposed Net Neutrality rules do not discriminate against one party in favor of another.

Len Grace is a technology industry veteran with over 18 years experience with Comcast Corporation. His insights into pertinent and relevant issues within the Broadband/Telecom/Cable/Wireless and Mobile sectors both inform and enlighten readers on current industry trends, analysis, business strategy, competitive landscape and legislative agendas. Len is the founder & editor of The Cable Pipeline, a technology blog who contributes to various technology websites including Light Reading, (Expert Opinion), SiliconAngle, Cisco Community: Service Provider Mobility, Amdocs: InTouch Community Portal, Bloomberg's bx Business Exchange, CircleID, and Sys-Con Media/Utilizer. Also see his reporting.

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