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Contentonomics: Network Neutrality Foes Should Target 'Joe Six-Byte'

Everyday computer users may not fully understand that the rules allow bandwidth hogs to clog up the Internet at their expense, experts said.
A panel of industry insiders said Internet service providers, content distributors, and others who are concerned that the explosion of video file-sharing sites is clogging up the Internet need to do a better job of informing everyday Web users about the downsides of network neutrality rules -- which prohibit ISPs from giving online traffic from some sources priority over traffic from others.

"There is a perception that network neutrality is democratic," said Andreas Koch, director of service provider strategy and planning at Juniper Networks. But the flip side, said Koch, is that network neutrality rules protect "bandwidth hogs" at the expense of Internet users with average usage patterns.

Koch was speaking on a panel called "End-to-End Quality for Internet Video Distribution" at Contentinople.com's Contentonomics conference in Los Angeles.

Panel moderator Aditya Kishore, senior analyst at telecom research organization Heavy Reading, said network operators who oppose network neutrality -- a concept that's favored by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama -- would do well to steal a page from Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's playbook and tailor their message toward "Joe Six-Byte."

The problem: Peer-to-peer services and other sites that regularly send massive files back and forth across the Internet are causing performance degradations that penalize consumers who only use the Web for e-mail and occasional browsing. Advocates of network neutrality argue, on the other hand, that the rules prevent large companies from dominating the Internet by paying ISPs to give their sites priority on the digital traffic lanes.

The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the nation's telecommunications infrastructure, earlier this year scolded ISP and cable TV operator Comcast for blocking traffic from the peer-to-peer site BitTorrent.

But panelists at Contentonomics pointed out that it's no longer just file-sharing sites that are causing congestion on the Internet. John Dillon, chief marketing officer at private network operator Velocix, noted that the BBC's posting of TV episodes on its Web site has created a huge traffic burden for ISPs.

"Network neutrality a year ago was all about peer to peer. Today it's about legitimate services," said Dillon. "ISPs have to take steps to deal with what's happening."

To read more about Contentonomics, go to Contentinople.com.