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Better Than Best Efforts Routing of Mission Critical Traffic and the FCC

Rob Frieden

It appears that the FCC will permit exceptions to the standard, plain vanilla best efforts routing standard for Internet traffic, such as the paid peering arrangement recently negotiated between Comcast and Netflix. In both academic and applied papers I have supported this option, with several major conditions. See, e.g., Net Bias and the Treatment of 'Mission-Critical' Bits.

With no opposition that I have seen, companies like Akamai offer better than best efforts routing of "mission critical" traffic from content source to last mile, "retail" Internet Service Providers. This service improves the odds for congestion-free delivery of "mission critical" traffic, e.g., live video streaming. It appears that the FCC intends to permit better than best efforts routing options for retail ISPs.

I have no problem with ISPs throughout the Internet ecosystem providing different tiers of service, provided the upselling to higher QOS offers a true enhancement. Put more simply: better than best efforts should not foreclose the best efforts option, particularly for ventures and individuals whose traffic volumes have no possibility of causing congestion. Comcast and other retail ISPs should have the option of providing companies like Netflix with an insurance policy of sorts so long as all ventures and individuals do not have to follow suit. Without transparency and reporting requirements companies like Comcast can punish anyone refusing to upgrade from the old standard best efforts option by all but guaranteeing congestion and degraded service.

ISPs should have the opportunity to offer an enhanced deliver option with less latency, faster delivery speeds and improved odds for high quality of service. But the enhancement should not become necessary for any and all users.

By Rob Frieden, Pioneers Chair and Professor of Telecommunications and Law
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Agree with you Chris McElroy  –  Apr 24, 2014 5:27 AM PDT

The problem is they are not going to offer a better service for the higher tier. They'll simply offer lower quality to those that don't pay the extra fees.

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