The concept of strict net neutrality has been under pressure for some time now. Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge different amounts for each user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. According to Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, a public information network will end up being most useful if all content, sites, and platforms are treated equally.
Technologies such as traffic shaping enable carriers, Internet providers, content distributors, governments and the like to discriminate and prioritize data traffic for reasons of Quality of Service, revenues, favoring private networks and political policies.
The general public relies on Internet as a basic necessity of life. This has led many governments to regulate broadband internet services as a public utility, similar to energy and water supply. Commercial parties and some governments on the other hand prefer to discriminate the provision of Internet for all sorts of different reasons: additional earnings or mind control for example.
The European Parliament has passed network neutrality regulation recently, enshrining the concept in law continent-wide. But, quite a few loopholes have been introduced as well.
Under the legislation, you cannot pay for prioritization of your packets, unless they are for a specialized service. Blocking or throttling of traffic under the umbrella of reasonable network management will be allowed to combat not just congestion, but the category of “impending” congestion. Handling data from various applications differently is fine as long as it is based on technical reasons and not on commercial reasons. Nevertheless, the new regulatory regime has offered network operators what appears to be a significant regulatory victory over content providers and consumers.
And that’s where the conflict arises. Net neutrality postulates some sort of neutral balanced content distribution and exchange between content providers and carriers. “I transmit your data when you transmit my data. If there is a difference in volume between the both of us, one of us will pay the other to compensate.” This model has proven to be effective until now. The conflict between Netflix and Comcast shows that the commercial interests at stake now endanger strict net neutrality. Netflix accounts for thirty per cent of all internet traffic and is a near-monopolist. Comcast users experience slow delivery of Netflix service. They accuse Comcast of slowing down Netflix traffic and by doing so impairing net neutrality. In the end, it is a matter of money. It seems that there is an unbalanced cost and benefit equation between the two of them. Netflix could pay more for its bandwidth consuming service in order to solve the problem.
The revolution happening in media and content distribution at companies such as Netflix is forcing the Telco/ISPs to reinvent themselves again and find solid revenue streams to support that.
At Custom Connect, we believe that strict net neutrality must be maintained. We support professor Wu’s vision that only an open, neutral and “dumb piped” infrastructure brings the best value to all of us, consumers, business and governments alike. The pressure from miscellaneous lobbies to affect neutrality is intense. We must all remain vigilant.
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