Dave Siegel posted a challenge to my Tariff Rebate Passthrough net neutrality proposal, claiming that technical implementation would be unduly burdensome, and also touching on the fact that consumers generally prefer flat-rate to metered pricing. I think the best response would be to spell out, in a little more detail, how it would work. Along the way, I think I can answer Dave’s (and anybody else’s) concerns.
- The ISP would implement a few levels of QOS, and an assignment scheme that would by default assign each kind of traffic to a certain QOS level. Nothing hard there; they just have to buy the proper equipment, and if they don’t do that this whole discussion is moot.
- Information providers could contract with individual ISPs to subsidize the tariff on behalf of consumers. Naturally, the level the information provider pays for is the QOS level that would be assigned.
- Since the information provider’s only choice is to pay the ISP’s price or not, implementing the payment/contracting scheme would actually be pretty easy. Somebody will make good money creating connectivity and a clearing house for these highly-automated deals, presumably on a SaaS basis. Basically, if you own a website you can hook up to the exchange and pick a price you’re willing to subsidize. Price variability by region, etc. can be built in pretty straightforwardly. This application software is NOT going to be what makes the system fail.
- On computers and other GUI devices, there would be a small pop-up window showing “the meter running.” This should give the opportunity to change the QOS so that the cost is zero (base-level QOS won’t be metered). If the cost is zero, either for subsidy or because only base-level QOS is being delivered, the meter by default won’t appear. Devices that can’t provide that meter will generally be the same kinds of small, mobile devices that are expensive to use on a per-minute or per-message basis already.
- As a practical matter, most web sites would remain unmetered. Most websites would be unmetered to the consumer, either because they don’t need above-minimum QOS, or because the owner has an actual business model (advertising or subscription) and can subsidize the QOS. That would put competitive pressure on the others to follow suit.
- Telephony might well be metered. So what? It is today.
I continue to think that Tariff Rebate Passthrough is a compromise that meets pretty much everybody’s legitimate needs, and a reasonable fraction of everybody else’s other desires to boot.