Friday, February 19, 2010

NARUC Calls for Controls on "Unreasonable" Packet Discrimination, Not "All" Packet Discrimination

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners has called for protecting “the right of all Internet users, including broadband wireline, wireless, cable modem, and application-based users, to have access to and the use of the Internet that is unrestricted as to viewpoint and that is provided without unreasonable discrimination as to lawful choice of content.”

The key language there is "unreasonable" discrimination. NARUC is not calling for network neutrality rules that ban "all" packet discrimination.  The problem is that some traffic types are  "latency sensitive" and can suffer at times unless packet discrimination mechanisms are used. Applications such as video, gaming and VoIP would suffer, at times of peak congestion, without priority mechanisms that users themselves may wish to have in place.

NARUC therefore has asked that policymakers and regulators keep in mind that "unreasonable restrictions or unreasonable discrimination" be areas of protection, not "all" forms of packet discrimination.

NARUC also asks for rules and regulations that will give providers incentive for continual innovation and a fair return on their investment, without jeopardizing consumer access to, and use of, affordable and reliable broadband services.

Discrimination that is solely, or primarily intended,  to protect business advantages, is an area of valid concern for policymarkers. But the Internet has changed. It is a network increasingly used to support isochronous applications (real-time applications) that are highly susceptible to degradation from latency, for example.
NARUC's position will seem to many a well-reasoned and balanced approach.

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