Net Neutrality - Will the FCC Get It Right? - Page 2

Sep 2, 2010

Pam Baker

Quality of service

When it comes to other aspects of Net neutrality, things get a bit fuzzier; especially when it comes down to quality of service.

"For example, should the internet provider be able to slow peer-to-peer or gaming traffic in order to maintain what it believes to be a fair allocation of bandwidth?," asked Griffin. "After all, if the people playing the game are paying the same monthly fees as the people who are just surfing the Web, or watching a video, isn't it their right that their application can function optimally?"

The rub is in who decides what fair allocation of bandwidth is -- the provider, the application developer, the companies that build networking equipment? "And, finally, how do you implement bandwidth allocation guarantees and limits -- that's more complicated than it sounds," he said.

But Net neutrality, as currently proposed, will disallow packet delivery prioritization rendering that question moot but raising another.

"If a business is disrupted because someone else in that same geographic area is downloading tons of porn, how is that fair or desirable? The failure of this aspect of Net neutrality is inevitable," said Griffin.

However, disrupted is perhaps too strong a word for the actual impact. In reality, a business would not be disrupted, but files may download slower because of a neighboring porn enthusiast. Considering broadband speeds are subpar already, it's questionable how noticeable the impact would actually be - if it ever happened at all. In fact, ISPs would likely feel pressured to build up their networks to handle the load. That might not be such a bad thing, other than driving up broadband costs of course.

If broadband service overall is not improved in the U.S., the impact on business will eventually be severe and highly noticeable. This is undisputed among Net neutrality supporters and dissenters alike. The fear is that Net neutrality rules will discourage ISPs from investing further and that no one else will step forward with the money. The argument is that ISPs will invest more if they are granted control over their investments. The other side offers the counter-argument that the Internet will decrease in value because of increased ISP control and subsequent anti-competitive or profit protective maneuvers.

So, is enterprise and IT better off with or without Net neutrality regulations?

"In the short term, Net neutrality would create a new regulatory regime that would need to be sorted out by providers and users," said Mark McCarty, partner in Alston & Bird's Technology Group. "In some instances, that process could include litigation over the nuts and bolts of how Net neutrality should be applied to specific situations. In addition, Net neutrality has the potential to force broadband providers to build in more excess capacity to manage high usage periods and that could increase costs, but the true long-term impact is difficult to predict."

One thing is certain, the free market has so far failed to improve broadband rates and speeds in the U.S. and there is little evidence to point to any real change to come in the foreseeable future. The industry is stagnant at best. To allow it to affix a chokehold on all American businesses in a purely self-serving effort to protect its own bottom-line is unacceptable. A free market is not free if it is controlled by a single industry.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine,, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making.

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