TechFreedom Scholar to Present Research at TPRC

WASHINGTON — Contrary to the claims of some activists, paid prioritization of Internet traffic is not a zero-sum game and could provide a net benefit to consumers, according to a paper to be presented tomorrow by TechFreedom Policy Counsel Tom Struble at the TPRC Research Conference on Communications, Information and Internet Policy.

In the 2015 Open Internet Order, the FCC banned paid prioritization, dismissing it as a per se unreasonable business practice rather than a legitimate form of network management. No exceptions are made for paid prioritization, and other forms of differential traffic management — e.g., unpaid or user-directed prioritization — are subject to strict scrutiny from the FCC.

Struble demonstrates that the benefits to user experience from prioritizing Internet services that are particularly sensitive to quality of service disruptions, such as live video or online gaming, would likely outweigh the harms caused by de-prioritizing services that are less sensitive, such as email or software updates.

The paper concludes:

It seems that, in the end, the FCC was swayed by populist rhetoric and fearmongering into adopting the precautionary principle, and banning paid prioritization agreements across the board, subject to very limited exceptions, out of an overabundance of caution and fear of the unknown. The FCC claims that it “do[es] not seek to disrupt the legitimate benefits that may accrue to edge providers that have invested in enhancing the delivery of their services to end users[,]” but its ban on paid prioritization does just that: it disrupts the ability of edge providers and ISPs to deliver high quality services to end-users.

The FCC’s blanket ban on paid prioritization created a major obstacle to innovation, and the agency failed to provide any real proof of harm as justification,” said Struble. “Restricting the ability of broadband providers to manage their networks and prioritize certain traffic flies in the face of ongoing research by the Internet Engineering Task Force, among others. In outlawing innovative new business models — both at the core and edge of the Internet — the FCC is harming consumers.”

It’s not too late for the Commission to fix this,” Struble continued. “Adopting the transparency requirement proposed by the Broadband Internet and Technical Advisory Group would help ensure that consumers are receiving the service they pay for while providing the FCC with the information it needs to address concerns on a case-by-case basis. This approach would protect consumers without needlessly hamstringing ISPs that wish to experiment with new approaches to network management.”


We can be reached for comment at See our other work on net neutrality, including:

  • Struble’s blog post responding to the Oatmeal’s hardline stance on net neutrality
  • Video from our panel discussion, Net Neutrality in Court: What’s Next?
  • Our statement on the FCC’s win in court and the need for a legislative compromise