All bits running over the Internet are not equal and should not be treated that way by broadband providers, despite Net neutrality advocates' calls for traffic neutral regulations, Cisco Systems said.
A huge number of Internet-connected devices with a wide variety of traffic requirements, including billions of machine-to-machine connections, will come online over the next four years, Cisco predicted in its Visual Networking Index Global Forecast and Service Adoption, released Tuesday.
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"What we're seeing is a wide range and a very diverse range of devices, applications and requirements that results in a much greater complexity of the networks," said Robert Pepper, Cisco's vice president for global technology policy. "The Internet of everything is here, it's real, and it's growing."
Some Web-based applications, including rapidly growing video services, home health monitoring and public safety apps, will demand priority access to the network, while others, like most Web browsing and email, may live with slight delays, said Jeff Campbell, Cisco's vice president for government and community relations.
"We really have a multiplicity of applications and services that are now running across the network, some of which require dramatically different treatment than others," he said.
Some Net neutrality advocates have objected to U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed rules that would allow broadband providers to engage in "commercially reasonable" traffic management.
Cisco has long called on the FCC to allow broadband providers to manage their traffic. "It's going to be more and more important to manage the traffic on the network in a way that does not treat all bits the same," Campbell said. "Different bits do matter differently. We need to ensure that we have a system that allows this to occur."
It's important that the FCC ensure an open Internet, but it's also important that "we have a robust network," Campbell said. The FCC should allow broadband providers to maintain quality of service "to ensure that some applications will run properly and effectively on the Internet," Campbell said. "That means using the intelligence of the network to ensure that those bits receive the quality of service they need."
In addition to a rapidly expanding number of devices connected to the Internet, peak time traffic will increase faster than average network traffic, putting a strain on broadband providers and driving demand for traffic management, Cisco said.
Matt Wood, policy director at digital rights group Free Press, questioned Cisco's conclusions about Net neutrality. In some cases, applications needing priority traffic may not run on the public Internet, where Net neutrality rules would apply, he said. For example, many machine-to-machine applications may run on spectrum set aside for them, he said.