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Yet Another Argument for True Net Neutrality

The long-running net neutrality debate can be summarized into two stances: “application and content providers” want a level playing field that ensures equal access for all. On the other hand, network operators are pushing for a scheme that allows them to “discriminate” against certain kinds of network traffic.

Benoit Felten, a telco consultant, understands the rationale behind the latter stance. Under a traffic discrimination scheme, operators would be able to “extract revenues” (“in effect... a toll”) from services responsible for a lot of bandwidth usage (like YouTube, Facebook, etc.). They would use the additional capital and expand their infrastructure, providing better connectivity to their customers.

Yet Felton argues that such a scheme is dangerous not only for the customer and online providers, but for the operators themselves. Access to the internet is a commodity, as Felton says. “I don't buy my broadband because of the Orange, AT&T or Singtel brands, I buy it because I want Facebook, Youtube and the thousands of other cool services available online.”

In other words, operators who insist on applying a toll may kill their business. Popular services like Google retaliate by saying “your loss” and cut off access to the operator’s customers—who may end up with competitors that offer unfettered access.

Felton also writes that despite these “economic” realities, operators are unlikely to change their position. “Inside these organisations this stance works as an ideology and that no factual information can displace this belief that a net-discriminated internet would allow them to solve their perceived revenue issues.”

Source (Image by Derrick Coetzee on Flickr)