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Posts Tagged ‘Net neutrality’

A Two-Tier Internet? First you need to see what people are doing…

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

Recent remarks from Cap Gemini, quoted in Total Telecom this week seem to suggest that a two-tier internet is an inevitability. This is very much in keeping with other news regarding the end of all-you-can-eat data pricing bundles and differentiated charging policies, so it’s not news per se. But, it’s still unusual to hear the problem articulated in this frank way.

Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was full of discussion regarding policies and charging for mobile data users. The motivation behind all of these initiatives is to earn more return from network investments, but the upshot will be that there will actually be a multi-tiered internet, populated by users paying different rates for different levels of access and services. Two-tier is just the beginning!

But, for this to emerge and for service providers to be able to offer packages that deliver on their promises, they must take steps to address visibility of user demands from handsets, dongles and other mobile devices. Without this level of visibility, a multi-tier internet will be flawed and the emerging business models will be shaky at best and, at worst, doomed to failure. It’s one thing to have a multi-tier internet, but even though users will accept different rates of access for different fees, it must be supported by an infrastructure that achieves this fairly. In other words, if users pay for something, they will expect to receive it.

Net Neutrality and Service Differentiation

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

We wrote about Net Neutrality in a previous post, but this is a big topic worthy of further discussion. Part of the heat in the debate comes from an identification of “equal treatment of all packets” with “equal opportunity for all providers”. The assumption is that a uniform best-effort service empowers “the little guy” to compete with industry titans, and so encourages innovation. On the other hand, a draconian interpretation of “neutrality” discourages innovation by network service providers, which isn’t in the best interests of end users either.

Is there a way out of this impasse? Well, let’s think about a situation in which the NSP offers a differentiated service to end users in which it’s up to the users to decide what they do with it. Suppose a user pays for a service from ABC Telco where 100kbps of their bandwidth is guaranteed to have low latency (or at least lower latency than the rest). They could then subscribe to a VoIP service provider, who sends packets to them with an appropriate priority marking. ABC Telco delivers them with priority treatment, provided their bandwidth doesn’t exceed 100kbps (if it does, ABC discards the excess; this discourages abuse of the service). The user can switch NSP and VSP independently, and choose large or small providers without prejudice.

This may not be the only way to solve the problem, but it shows that it needn’t be insoluble if we have a rational debate about what kind of “neutrality” or “fairness” we actually want. Undifferentiated best effort service means being equally unfair to everybody, and it’s time we started doing better: giving packet streams differential treatment has the potential to spur a new wave of services that wouldn’t work well over best effort.

Peter Thompson, Chief Scientist