Don’t Ban Paid Prioritization, New Report Argues; Allowing It Would Improve Broadband Performance Without Harming Openness

July 30, 2018

WASHINGTON—Congress should not ban paid prioritization, argues a new report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s top-ranked think tank for science and technology policy. The report explains why paid prioritization would improve broadband and expand innovation in real-time services, without impinging the Internet’s openness. The report outlines the case for traffic differentiation and offers recommendations to ensure proper oversight, so prioritization can’t be abused to hurt consumers or competition.

“While many applications, such as email, operate just fine over a neutral network, some real-time services like telehealth require priority to work reliably,” said Doug Brake, ITIF director of broadband and spectrum policy and author of the report. “Given the wide diversity of applications that broadband networks must support, prioritization is the only economical way to radically improve performance.”

According to the report, paid prioritization or other forms of traffic differentiation can optimize Internet Protocolbased networks for different purposes and enable real-time applications with strict performance requirements. Prioritization allows networks to intelligently trade off the technical criteria of different applications such that the perceived quality for some applications is greatly improved and no end user is made worse off.

To constrain the potential for abuse, the report suggests the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversee prioritization arrangements. Congress should ensure traffic differentiation deals are not exclusive and that prioritization is offered on similar terms for similar users.

“It’s possible to protect the Internet’s characteristic openness while allowing for much needed traffic differentiation,” said Brake. “With simple governance and oversight, there is no reason differential treatment of data traffic cannot safely improve the Internet and encourage further innovation.”

Read the report.