Yoo: One Size 'Net Doesn't Fit All

Argues for Prioritization As Value Baked Into the Internet

University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Christopher Yoo says network neutrality defies definition, but says what he thinks most people advocating for it mean not favoring one content provider over another or one application over another. "They" would think that is a problem, Yoo says. Yoo is not one of "them."

In an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series, Yoo took aim at those who oppose prioritization. He says the Internet has never been neutral, and that when you look at the "guts" of the net, you find the type of service flag in the IPTV4 header, which flags different classes of service--high bandwidth, low latency services-- that are different forms of prioritization designed into the Internet from the outset.

Some argue that is an "old artifact," of the 'net. But he says when the Internet was redesigned for IPTV6 after they started out running out of Internet addresses, they not only kept that field, but included a second field for other quality of service prioritization.

He says prioritization was a designed feature of the network and that is how it is used today. Voice services, for example, over LTE all use prioritization.

Yoo put in a plug for flexibility in Internet offerings pointing out that not everybody uses the 'net in the same way. He also talked about "zero rating programs" like Facebook Zero, where you get a basic phone and Facebook as a homepage, and, if you keep Facebook as a home page, the data usage does not count against a monthly data cap. "And there is Twitter Zero and Wikipedia Zero," he said, and other similar products. He said there are some who believe those are network neutrality violations. But he says that when he talks to nations like India or China or Africa, they say that is how you are going to get the next 4 billion people connected because it makes those connections cheaper. [The ITU has just announced a 2020 agenda that makes those boosting those global broadband connections a priority.]

He says there is too much talk in the "neutrality" debate about one size having to fit everyone.

Yoo was asked to respond to a comment by Netflix founder Reed Hastings that he should not have to pay for a network if an ISP doesn't pay for content.

Yoo said that, one way or the other, the consumer is going to pay for getting Netflix delivered to them, with the real fight over how that payment is going to be structured. ISPs have argued that Netflix is trying to shift their interconnection costs onto the network.

Yoo said in a world in which Netflix pays nothing to Comcast for interconnection--and Netflix is the third of the Internet and still growing--and Comcast has to expand its capacity, both for Netflix and because other bandwidth demands, Comcast is going to have to charge every one of their users for that increased capacity, whether they are Netflix users or not.

Yoo said he liked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's initial commercial reasonableness standard for acceptable discrimination, saying it is more likely to pass legal review, and will allow innovation, then evalutation by a case-by-case basis.

He said the Title II forbearance process will be a procedural hindrance to innovation and those who come up with "strange ideas." He quoted an innovator saying that if he has to go to the FCC to get permission, he will still dream, he will just do it somewhere else.