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Could Google Live with Bit Priorities for Real-Time Services?

Political rationality not being economic rationality, one has to parse many things said in the regulatory realm, and that is not different at all in discussions of network neutrality.
Still, there have been some helpful signs that key participants are beginning to find some areas of common ground that are helpful.
It isn’t completely clear that firms such as AT&T and Verizon (News - Alert), and firms such as Google, might be groping towards some common understanding of what bit prioritization might mean, and how it might work.
That isn’t a certainty, as there is much room to parse the actual language and all the subtending definitions that must be put into place to flesh out high-level principles.
But Google CEO Eric Schmidt (News - Alert) might be signaling a middle ground that mobile operators and Google could live with. It might be a verbal head fake, but Schmidt seemed to say, in his speech at Mobile World Congress, that bit prioritization is acceptable to Google (News - Alert).
That might seem shocking, given Google’s recent insistence that such practices be barred.
Operators have every right to distinguish amongst categories of content, such as real-time services and best-effort data, Schmidt seemed to suggest.
Google supports that right, so long as there was no discrimination between providers within any given category. What Schmidt probably means is that Verizon or AT&T (News - Alert) can only provide quality of service mechanisms to its own video or voice packets so long as it also applies those same mechanisms to Google’s packets of similar type.
In truth, that likely remains the heart of the matter. No application provider should rationally prefer a possible new cost element--fees to add real-time prioritization mechanisms to some services. No rational access provider should rationally prefer giving up the opportunity to provide a value-added service that provides incremental revenue.
So the positions might not be in as much alignment as some might hope for. Still, agreement that quality of experience is enhanced, for real-time services, when prioritization mechanisms are used, would be an important area of potential agreement.

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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