Cerf totes consumer SLAs

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Father of the internet and Google's chief internet evangelist, Vint Cerf has waded into the debate about how broadband carriers should manage network congestion, suggesting, in effect, data rate service level agreements (SLAs) for consumers..

Last week the US Federal Communications Commission slapped Comcast for violating net neutrality by delaying certain types of peer-to-peer traffic. Two of the Commissioners who were out-voted on the issue later posted public statements criticising the ruling.

The spat began a debate among internet experts and bloggers about how internet congestion can be avoided, given the huge increase in traffic volumes caused by the proliferation of online video.

Pitches for managing traffic included volume caps and pay-per-byte schemes, both of which Cerf argues against in Google's public policy blog.

"I suggest the introduction of transmission rate caps, which would allow users to purchase access to the internet at a given minimum data rate and be free to transfer data at least up to that rate in any way they wish," wrote Cerf.

Pay-per-byte will discourage consumers from expanding their use of internet services and make their monthly bills unpredictable, he argues.

"Clicking on a link can take you to an unexpected streaming site or a major file transfer," he said.

Carriers should prioritise traffic with low latency requirements but be blind to which application provider it comes from, Cerf writes, coming down on the side of the majority of Federal Commissioners, not the dissenters.

"Broadband carriers should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the market under the rubric of network management," warns Cerf.

Last month, market researchers at Juniper suggested a similar regime of SLAs for consumers.

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