Net neutrality has been back in the news again with the recent Federal Communication Commission (FCC) decision in the USA coming down in favour of supporting the concept of net neutrality – much to the anger of the network providers.
But I wonder if much of this noise in the media is just a red herring? Has anything really changed?
For example, in the UK customers can use BT as their ISP and there are already a range of packages available that vary based on the speed of broadband offered and the amount of data upload and download allowed.
BT cannot start charging Netflix more for generating such a large amount of online traffic, but they are already charging customers variable amounts based on what they use.
Even if ISPs don’t get the revenue they need to provide a great network service from the companies creating heavy network use, will they not eventually get the money from the end customer anyway? I haven’t heard of any outcry over Virgin’s Big Kahuna package or BT’s best Infinity package –all of which offer consumers more speed for better service. And rightly so. Customers have the right to pay more to expect more.
The reality is that someone has to pay for the network and if Netflix start offering even higher resolution movies that eat up even more bandwidth, the customers will rush to order a more expensive service direct from the ISP.
I think that there is an additional risk in all the debate over net neutrality in that the regulation may prevent network investment. Virgin Media has recently announced Project Lightning, which will introduce thousands of new connections in areas yet to be confirmed, but if NN does create an additional layer of regulation then rolling out new connections in this way might become more restricted with policy dictating what is provided where. It’s a slippery slope.
What do you think? Will the market decide how to pay for network bandwidth or should the heavy users like Netflix be charged extra? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simon_dillsworth.
Photo by Gregg Jaden licensed under Creative Commons