February 02, 2012, 1:55 PM — The big tech/social issues of 2012 so far have all focused on privacy, the ownership of content and the desire of corporations to be able to annex the private information of customers at will.
Cisco Systems is raising an older issue, however, in the process of complaining about new, even more restrictive privacy rules in the EU.
Net neutrality was a big issue last fall, when the FCC was hinting it might want to express some interest in the wired broadband networks that are one of its main regulatory charges. Carriers and networking companies who sell absurdly high capacity networking hardware to them both objected, claiming having the FCC regulate broadband Internet access – and, incidentally, impose some very weak net neutrality requirements – would raise the risk of building out giant, high-capacity fiber or other broadband networks far too high.
If cable and phone companies that now view themselves as ISPs were forced to treat customers as if they had the right to receive the Internet service they paid for – without performance and access problems caused by a service provider's refusal to give a competitor an even break – the whole cable and telecommunications industries would grind to a halt.
If Comcast, to pick one random example, were forced to treat network traffic from Netflix with exactly the same respect it treats streaming media from its own content-on-demand services, it would never be able to generate the obscene profits that might allow it to pay for expansions and upgrades to its broadband network.
In EU Privacy = Net Neutrality, Net Neutrality = No bonus for Cisco exec
In Europe, according to Chris Dedicoat, Cisco's president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, new privacy regulations and the net neutrality provisions that are implied in them but have not yet been made explicit, will rob tech companies of the motivation to build out broadband networks.
The connection between privacy and net neutrality is that sifting through data packets to decide which are non-competitive and give an incumbent carrier's services an edge in performance requires the physical invasion of data packets intended for the customer, a potentially unlimited breach of that customer's privacy.