What is “Discrimination” when it comes to Net Neutrality?

I've been pondering the implications of Kevin Martin's statements to the press yesterday. Slowing down one network application over another is the same as giving priority to one application over another. How do we distinguish the difference in these two methods when it comes to net neutrality?

Of course, the media often takes statements out of context and without explaining the bigger picture to the consumer. However, in this case, I think we have to assume that Martin had a clear agenda when it comes to net neutrality and Comcast's approach to throttling of peer-to-peer traffic. AT&T, and others are already doing the same thing but in a different way. DSL providers like these prioritize their U-Verse video over all other data traffic on their network. In effect, this means that all other data traffic including peer-to-peer and web surfing packets gets throttled at the expense of those provider's TV service. Is this fair under the FCC net neutrality guidelines? If the FCC penalizes Comcast, Cox, and other cable companies for throttling, shouldn't it apply those same principles to AT&T and Verizon?

It is becoming increasingly clear that some new bureaucracy will be established within the FCC set the rules for the different service levels ISPs can offer on their networks. I think Markey's bill in some form has a fair chance of passing once the next administration is in office. Democrats and Republicans simply won't be able to resist expanding government to regulate the Internet in one form or another. A new bureaucracy within the FCC will be responsible for setting rules about what is fair reasonable and non-discriminatory when it comes to the concept of net neutrality.

Once again I'd like to point out to them and any other thought leader contemplating net neutrality that this problem can be easily solved by simply specifying hard objective measures for download (via P2P or other technologies), web surfing, and video streaming services. We had this capability when the FCC and PUCs regulated telephony networks years ago with an Erlang model. We need to use the technology we now have at hand today to measure and insure the quality of the broadband Internet to all consumers. Without objective measures in place ISPs simply can't guarantee the quality of experience to the consumer and regulatory agencies like the FCC are shooting in the dark!

Jeff Turner


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