The head of the internet’s leading standards body said Sept. 2 that it is “misleading” for AT&T to claim that its push to charge customers for high-priority service is technically justified, CNET reports. Internet Engineering Task Force chairman Russ Housley told CNET that AT&T’s arguments to federal regulators, which cited networking standards to justify “paid prioritization” of network traffic, were invalid. “AT&T in their letter [to the Federal Communications Commission] says the IETF envisioned this,” Housley said. “That’s not my view.” This particular debate began earlier this week, when AT&T sent the FCC a letter arguing that telecommunications providers need the ability to set different prices for different forms of internet service. Paid prioritization, AT&T said, was a form of network management that was “fully contemplated by the IETF” more than a decade ago. Everyone agrees that, in the late 1990s, the IETF revised its networking standards to allow network operators to assign up to 64 different traffic “classes,” meaning priority levels. That concept of “differentiated services” is referred to today as DiffServ, which allows high-priority communications like videoconferencing to be labeled with a higher priority than bulk file-transfer protocols that aren’t as sensitive to brief slowdowns. The disagreement arises from what happens if Video Site No. 1 and Video Site No. 2 both mark their streams as high priority. “If two sources of video are marking their stuff the same, then that’s where the ugliness of this debate begins,” Housley says. “The [IETF standard] doesn’t talk about that. … If they put the same tags, they’d expect the same service from the same provider.”
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