QoS and the Network Neutrality debate: Gaming Policymakers to Win the `Triple Play’

A refrain from the phone and cable industry, in the debate over network neutrality, is they have to manage their networks. Hence, their claim they need the authority to oversee traffic flows—such as ensuring a time-sensitive Voice over the Internet (VOIP) phone call is promptly delivered (while allowing more time, say, for an email to reach you). Such traffic management techniques are often called “Quality of Service” or QoS. Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and others suggest that they would be hamstrung by a net neutrality safeguard, because it would prevent or impede them from using QoS techniques to ensure time sensitive information is given priority.

But network neutrality proponents aren’t saying that network providers shouldn’t be able to fairly and efficiently manage the network. We are all for a digital traffic cop who works for the good of all. But phone and cable companies want a private electronic operative on the beat. They want to use QoS to give their traffic (video, data, etc.) a turbo-charged passage via fast lanes into our PCs, TV’s, and mobile devices. Why? So they can enjoy what they are calling the “triple play.” That’s the latest communications industry buzzword ((goodbye synergy!) reflecting plans to monetize as much as possible our digital lives. Triple Play means that Verizon or Time Warner will lock up customers by selling them voice, video, and data services in either or both wired and wireless formats. As part of their “Triple Play” business model, phone and cable companies want to use QoS to extract (extort) fees from content providers who also want to travel on fast lanes by getting a friendly electronic nod from the private traffic cops.

We urge you to read some of the literature illustrating how control over the network is key to AT&T and others plans to score a triple play. And then we ask—do we really want to let a few companies control the U.S. Internet’s digital destiny? Tell Senator Stevens—who doesn’t seem to really get the problem—that he should stand up for Internet freedom. (We also urge you to contact Senator Inouye and ask him to oppose any legislation that fails to protect U.S. online communications).

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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