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Should Broadband Networks Be Managed?

The recent AP story "Comcast blocks some Internet traffic" has refocused many on the real question at the core of the net neutrality debate -- "should broadband networks be managed?"

  • This is a debate we are more than happy to have because it is obvious to most all who truly think about this question that broadband networks must be managed to preserve quality of service and to protect users.  

The pro-net neutrality point of view, which the AP reporter ably represented in his article, is essentially making the standard net neutrality movement case that:

  • All Internet traffic should be treated equally, because differential treatment of traffic inherently discriminates against one application or type of content over another;
  • Any diversion of traffic from its normal Internet routed course is potentially discriminatory; 
  • Any diversion of traffic potentially could be abridging a user's freedom of speech; and 
  • Treating Internet traffic differently would create a "two tier" Internet which would be a less democratic Internet. 

Moreover, pro-net neutrality advocates like: SaveTheInternet, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the Open Internet Coalition, all claim that Comcast's and other broadband providers management of their broadband networks violates the principle of "net neutrality.". 

On the other hand, the or broadband provider point of view unabashedly believes that broadband networks must be managed to ensure quality of service and to protect users.

First, we know that broadband providers have always managed their networks and that they have done so with a miniscule number of "incidents," given the billions and billions of communications broadband providers enable every year.

Second, we know the final words of the FCC's 2005 bipartisan network neutrality principles specifically say: the net neutrality "principles we adopt are subject to reasonable network management."

Third and most importantly, we know that most every reasonable lawmaker and regulator in the nation would agree that broadband network management is necessary and beneficial to:

  • Eliminate spam, viruses, worms, malware, and denial of service attacks that are targetted at consumers;
  • Ensure consumers recieve their expected quality of service;
  • Offer a diversity of price/speed/feature offerings to meet the diverse needs, wants and means of consumer demand;
  • Ensure critical real-time applications like voice over IP are not degraded by random surges in non-real time applications like file sharing; and 
  • Prevent a few extreme bandwidth hogs from destroying the utility and responsiveness of the Internet for the overwhelming majority of Internet users. 

Lastly, if there was a fair poll that asked:

  • Do you want a one-tier neutral Internet where no broadband provider is able to treat any Internet traffic differently than any other Internet traffic in order to protect freedom of speech? or
  • Do you want broadband providers to be able to manage their networks to:
    • intercept spam, viruses and other malware;
    • offer a diversity of speed and price offerings;
    • manage Internet traffic to ensure quality of service; and
    • commit to not block a consumer's access to any of the legal Internet content of their choice?  
  • I am confident that people would say they want the protections they enjoy now, not the new "net neutrality" protections being proposed that they didn't know they needed.

Bottom line: If you cut through all the slogans and fearmongering and let people get to the crux of the network neutrality issue, "should broadband networks be managed?" -- it is obvious that broadband networks must be managed -- and it is clear that the net neutrality position of no traffic being treated differently is unreasonable, unworkable, and not what the overwhelming number of Internet users really want.