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In FCC Filing, AT&T Proposes Self-Directed Discrimination

WASHINGTON — In a blog posting last week, Federal Communications Commission Wireline Bureau chief Julie Veach talked about the “rainbow” of options the agency is now considering as it decides how to reinstate new network-neutrality rules.

One of those, she suggested, was a proposal by AT&T that could allow for self-directed discrimination, which would allow Web users to decide what content they wanted to get priority treatment, such as a Netflix subscriber who wants the service to be faster than a streaming service he or she doesn’t subscribe to or who wants to prioritize lightning-fast gaming. (To be fair, Veach emphasized AT&T’s suggestion it could live with a presumption against ISP-directed discrimination.) Actually, the telco is reviving that suggestion from 2010 and noted that “user-driven” discrimination has a number of backers.

The idea would be for the FCC to presumptively prohibit ISP-directed discrimination, though AT&T said concerns about that are overblown, but allow for users to decide what they wanted to prioritize.

“User-driven prioritization can enhance consumer welfare and should be permissible,” AT&T again told the FCC last week. “In fact, there are myriad reasons consumers might want to prioritize certain Internet traffic and just as many benefits that could fl ow from such user-directed prioritization. For this reason, the Commission should not categorically foreclose such consumerdriven choices.”

Technology and policy blogger Scott Cleland wrote of the proposal: “The logical and best policy answer here is simple. Empower users to decide what’s best for their circumstance, not empower the FCC to guess that everyone needs one speed — neither fast nor slow, but the same average speed. If the FCC indeed works for the American consumer, [it] should explore and encourage innovation to empower user-directed prioritization.”