It continually surprises some of us that content blocking and traffic shaping, or quality of service issues, are conflated. The latest example is the European Telecoms Single Market proposal recently adopted by the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament.
“Internet providers should no longer be able to block or slow down internet services provided by their competitors,” the European Parliament says. Few would disagree with that statement.
The problem is that content blocking is not synonymous with quality of service mechanisms or traffic shaping, particularly when applied to types of apps that benefit from prioritization at times of network congestion.
Then, because of linguistic confusion, “no blocking” of apps is used to justify something else, notably a restriction of Internet access to “best effort only” quality of service, something business grade services generally are allowed to provide.
The Connected Continent legislation, containing provisions related to simpler and reduced regulation, more coordination of spectrum allocation, standardized wholesale products, net neutrality, an end to roaming fees and consumer protection measures, has been approved
Internet service providers predictably oppose the restrictions on offering any levels of service aside from, “best effort.” Critics also say the exemptions for “specialized” services, including IPTV, are ambiguous about what other managed services can be created.
Granted, policymakers are right to support measures that prohibit any Internet service provider from “slowing down” or otherwise impairing the performance of any application or service that competes with an owned app or service that competes with a third party.
But quality of service mechanisms and traffic shaping can be applied in a neutral way, allowing all video entertainment, gaming or business apps to perform better. The problem with conflating “blocking” and quality of service is that end users are denied the opportunity for better experience of some apps that really do benefit from assured packet delivery mechanisms.
Unfortunately, legislators have the precedent in Europe of some ISPs having in the past actually blocked lawful apps such as Skype. But the logical approach would be to pass laws that make content blocking unlawful.
Instead, net neutrality makes traffic prioritization unlawful. They aren’t the same things.
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