Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why Not Let Users Decide if Some Apps Need, and Should Get, Delivery Priority?

One objection some have to strong versions of network neutrality is that some applications, especially VoIP and video (either conferencing or entertainment) are sensitive to jitter and delay that typically get worse when access networks get congested.

Some argue that more bandwidth fixes these problems, but some engineers would disagree.

It doesn’t make sense, one might argue, to deny end users the right to choose some apps that get priority, either all the time, or under conditions of congestion. Among the classic examples is when a user is on a VoIP call.

At such times, higher quality of experience results when email, website or software updates get delayed, or at least get a lower priority, than the more mission-critical voice or video-enabled communication sessions.

Under one proposal, AT&T U-verse and business customers might choose which sites they want to designate for expedited packet delivery, a way of allowing end users to decide when expedited packet delivery has value, and avoiding the need for strict “best effort only” Internet access that can pose issues for services such as voice and video.

An AT&T customer might choose to prioritize latency-sensitive and jitter-sensitive apps such as VoIP or video conferencing, for example.

Under the AT&T concept, AT&T and other ISPs would honor those end-user designations over that customer's "last mile" Internet facilities.

“There is no conceivable reason that such services, demanded and used widely by business customers today, should be foreclosed by regulatory fiat,” AT&T argues.

That solution avoids the charge that an Internet service provider is picking winners and losers, provides better user experience and remains under the customer’s control.

It is well worth considering.

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