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paid prioritization

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Paid prioritization, on the internet, is the optimization of data transfer rates for edge providers in exchange for payment. Paid prioritization creates the possibility of "fast lanes" for big media sites and service providers like Facebook, Google and Netflix. The practice is also known as vertical prioritization.

The question of whether or not it is fair for certain types of internet traffic to be prioritized is an important aspect of the Net Neutrality debate. Some critics of Net Neutrality believe that bandwidth-hogging media giants like Netflix should have to pay extra for the heavy burden they place on broadband networks. Some proponents of net neutrality argue that a fast lane for one site would necessarily slow down other, potentially competing sites.

Google and Netflix are two major critics of paid prioritization. They, and other edge providers, claim that fast lanes would make internet service providers (ISPs) gatekeepers and give them the power to influence free market activities. Smaller edge providers fear that once an established site has been prioritized, it will dominate competition and stifle innovation. In 2010, a bright line rule in the Open Internet Order approved by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) specifically bans paid prioritization.

This was last updated in April 2017

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