Thursday, June 12, 2014

Do we really need prioritized packets?

In reading the discussion to my blog, "Moving the fight over net neutrality", and other threads, I noticed a discussion of classification and priority. Classification and priority refer to classifying the types of information being sent and how to set priorities for those types of information. For example, we might want to set a higher priority for voice and video than for P2P file transfers. This makes sense.

But it is also a slippery slope, especially for ISPs with a vested interest in extracting maximum cash from their monopoly. If we're talking about a competitive market, then classification and priority is fine because consumers would have a choice. Consumers could choose an ISP that has no service that competes with Netflix. Comcast has video services that competes with Netflix. Even Comcast will admit that watching Comcast sourced video will not be counted against the same data cap they impose on Netflix data. See what I mean?

Another facet of the argument that is not getting any notice is this: Netflix didn't make any deals with last-mile service providers in other countries. They also didn't make any deals with community broadband providers, at least not that I'm aware of. So far, Netflix has only made deals with Comcast and Verizon because, as John Oliver has shown, both of those incumbent providers are not shy about slowing down Netflix traffic to make more money at the expense of Netflix customers.

I believe that the classification and priority arguments are tenuous arguments at best, designed to keep a foot in the door for the incumbent providers to continue to extract more money from their direct competition for entertainment, nothing more. Netflix is sort of a canary in a coal mine, and they are showing us who has an interest in slowing them down. We just need to keep an eye on that canary.

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