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Net Neutrality and Quality of Services Divisive Topics at FCC Workshop

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WASHINGTON, December 9, 2009 - The importance of quality of service and the divisive effect of Net neutrality rules were key topics at the Federal Communication Commission’s Technical Advisory Process Workshop on Tuesday.

“The fundamental issue,” said Paul Sanchirico of Cisco Systems, “is ‘is my behavior affecting your experience?’ When it’s congested, I want to make sure I’m protecting everyone’s experience. There’s a greater good.”

Sanchirico suggested methods for improving network performance. Fundamental to maintaining quality of service (QoS) is establishing the prioritization of information packets.

By marking the packets and then queuing them in certain parts of the bandwidth – based upon their priority – performance can be improved, Sanchirico said. The risk associated with this method, however, is that elimination of queued packets will be concurrent across the network, and create dangerous instability.

He discussed a system, called Weighted Random Early Detection, that helps resolve this problem by dropping packets, again based upon their priority level, before destabilizing waves of network traffic appear.

WRED itself did not produce disagreement, although the principles behind it certainly did.

Other panelists were quick to question the assumptions of packet queuing, stating that weighted fair queuing assumes the existence of different levels of traffic.

Sanchirico explained the classification system used and then acknowledging the unspoken concern of privacy he added, “It’s about understanding the type, not the content of traffic.”

Professor Scott Jordan of the University of California at Irvine acknowledged packet queuing, but focused on internet architecture and how keeping traffic in certain layers can help promote competition.

Ultimately, said Jordan, the coordination of networks would be the key to maintaining QoS.

“If you go through five networks and you want a quality of service guarantee, then quality of service agreements are important,” stated Jordan. “I think enabling competition is the way to do it.”

K.C. Claffy of University of California at San Diego agreed that competition was essential, adding that, “The key is going to be transparency.”

“We’ve heard discussion about inter-domain service,” said Sanchirico acknowledging comments made by the other speakers. “Cisco’s providing the tools that can allow that to happen.”

Sanchirico’s role at Cisco forces him to deal with the practicalities of QoS. With that background, he strongly supported prioritization of packets.

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